Councilman Mike Elam's Blog

Jul 25

[ARCHIVED] Understanding Food Inspections

The original item was published from July 25, 2017 10:40 AM to July 25, 2017 10:41 AM


Restaurants, markets and other food service providers can be sources for dangerous illnesses when food safety is not practiced. Thousands of people are at risk over a short period if proper production and sanitation procedures are not followed. Professionals within the Division of Environmental Health and Protection ensure that these businesses function in a manner that protects the health of consumers.

St. Charles County’s food safety program includes:
  • Enforcing the County’s Food Code.
  • Issuing licenses to food service providers.
  • Conducting plan reviews for new and remodeled facilities.
  • Perfoming routine and follow-up establishment inspections throughout the year.
  • Investigating complaints and suspected food-borne illness cases.
  • Implementing food recalls.
  • Educating employees through regular food safety and sanitation certification classes.

Types of Food Service Licenses
Environmental Public Health Specialists conduct periodic regulatory inspections that include educating operators on the importance of food safety practices. They inspect all licensed food establishments within St. Charles County — except those within the city limits of St. Peters, which conducts its own permitting and investigations. Currently, there are more than 1,300 licensed food facilities inspected by the Division of Environmental Health and Protection throughout the year. These are both permanent and temporary establishments.
Restaurant Inspection Clip
The division issues permanent food service licenses for the calendar year (January 1 through December 31) to facilities that operate at a fixed location for longer than 14 days. A permanent establishment is an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves or vends (either sells or gives away) food products directly to a consumer through a fixed location. These permanent facilities include, but are not limited to, restaurants, markets, bakeries, cafeterias, nursing homes, liquor stores, correctional institutions, theaters, and bars or lounges.

Temporary food establishments must obtain licenses and be inspected as well. A temporary facility is one that operates for a period of no more than 14 consecutive days, in conjunction with a single event. Examples of these facilities include vendors at area fairs and festivals, food trucks, hot dog carts and selected merchants at farmers’ markets. 

Food Establishment Inspections
Routine inspections by division staff reveal the need for improvements or operational changes. You may be familiar with these inspections, as they result in “scores” shared by the establishment and the division. To o
ur department, these scores demonstrate the vigilance that establishments practice to protect their customers and to ensure safe food storage, production and distribution.

Based on a 100 point scale, with points deducted for various infractions, the inspections are helpful in establishing a common method to evaluate providers. Although the scale can be useful in tracking safety and sanitation over continuous inspection periods, it would be inappropriate to assume that it is not safe to patronize establishments with lower scores.Food Inspection CDC
  • First, the St. Charles County Food Code includes provisions covering any food provider that would pose an immediate threat to consumer health. Establishments are required to correct identified problems quickly, and sometimes immediately. No provider is allowed to operate unless a potential threat to consumer safety is eliminated.
  • Second, violations are weighted according to the level of importance. Depending on the significance, violations may result in the deduction of a high or small amount of points on the 100 point scale. One inspection may uncover a number of “minor” violations that result in a lower overall score than another inspection that generates one or two “critical” violations.

St. Charles County enjoys a great working relationship between the Division
of Environmental Health and Protection, food establishment providers and consumers. All licensed establishments within our county meet necessary requirements to protect their customers, and a great number of them far exceed these standards. Through this collaboration, consumers can rest assured of the high quality of food service in our county.

To view recent inspections for your favorite establishments, please visit the KNOW THE SCORE section of our website.

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