The Health Department. Dum dum dum...
Those three words send chills down the spine business owners in the food industry, but we are here to help put your fears to rest.
We want to help other food business owners feel like the health department is an intricate part of their business team. Keep reading to learn why you should love your health inspector.
The health department is there to ensure the safety of food for the community and as a business owner, we are here to ensure the safety of our food products for our customers in the community. Together we have the common goal of providing the sad test foods to our customers and community.
One of our biggest tips for a new food business is to 1) take your Servsafe food handlers test and 2) meet and get to know your local health inspector and local food department.
Let me give you an example of how we worked closely with the local health department for an event. Our collaboration allowed us to have a successful activity for kids at an event while keeping our food safe for consumption.
At our latest event, we wanted to do a decorate your own cupcake. We knew we would hit roadblocks for health reasons when creating this activity. Instead of playing a guessing game and running the risk of getting our booth shut down, we picked up the phone and had a conversation with the local health inspector.
We explained to her what we would like to do. She did have some concerns about safety, but together we created a plan to allow the kids to enjoy a decorate your own cupcake while keeping safe food handling at the forefront. We agreed to pre-package all cupcakes with icing. Each person who purchased a decorate your own cupcake would get a pre-packaged cup of sprinkles, mini M&Ms, and mini marshmallows. Our sauces were in squeeze bottles that had to be sanitized every 4 hours. The health inspector gave us a list of items to bring including sanitizer, spray bottles for the sanitizer, and reminded us to bring our sanitation test strips. I am not sure if we would have thought about each of those items had she not told us.
The best part about this conversation was that it was easy to incorporate the local health inspector into our safety plan. It just took a 30-minute phone call and one follow up email to ensure we were following all health and food safety guidelines.
Can you imagine what would have happened had we not had the conversation? I know what would have happened. We would have been ready to start the event. The health inspector would have shown up and asked to see our sanitization supplies, and we most likely would not have had a specific part (most likely the strips because it was the last thing on our minds). This could have caused us to be temporarily shut down until deficiencies were addressed. Have you ever tried to leave and run errands during an event? I have not either (mainly because we use this event packing list here), but I can imagine that it is not fun. Plus, it does not sit well with customers if the health department will not let you operate because of deficiencies.
Luckily for us, we had the conversation ahead of time so that on the day of the event, the health inspector stopped by our booth and did a quick pursue. She saw that we followed all her recommendations, and we quickly passed our inspection for the event. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.
We have actually been to events where the booths next to us spent all day trying to get their items into time and temp requirements. We have even seen booths be shut down all together at events and told to leave. Don’t waste your time and money like that. Take the few extra steps to contact the local health inspector to ensure you will meet all the guidelines.
The health department is not here to destroy you. They are here to help you successfully serve food to your customers and community. Do your business this favor and stop feeling intimidated by the local health department. Instead, start viewing them as a vital part of your team and business growth.
Want to learn more about planning for your first food event? Check out these different posts to help guide you at your next food event.