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Reasons for Failed Health Inspections

It’s becoming more common for municipalities to make health inspection results widely available to the public, detailing when restaurants have been inspected, how many infractions were found, what those infractions were, and what action the health inspector has taken.
This means that in order to maintain a positive reputation with potential customers, restaurant owners need to ensure that future health inspections are consistently successful and without infractions. Owners can develop strategies to ensure that future inspections are successful by recognizing some of the most common reasons for failed health inspections.

Not taking the temperature danger zone seriously

Time and temperature are two of the most important factors to take into account when working with food, and is one of the biggest reasons why restaurants fail health inspections. Food kept in the temperature danger zone (between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F)) is at high risk of rapid bacterial growth that can lead to serious foodborne illness. Food can’t be safely kept at the temperature danger zone for any longer than four hours. In order to pass your next inspection, this time and temperature range must be taken seriously by all food handlers.

Bad food storage practices

Having poor food storage practices is another major reason for health inspection failure, as it dramatically increases the risk of food becoming contaminated. There are a number of reasons why a restaurant can be failed because of food storage, including improper temperatures in refrigerators and freezers, failure to properly organize and rotate food products, and having a poor shelving hierarchy. Reorganizing and ensuring proper temperature calibration in your restaurant’s cold and dry storage can go a long way in ensuring successful health inspections.

Poor employee hygiene

Poor employee hygiene is one of the easiest infractions for health inspectors to spot; poor or no handwashing, dirty or unkempt uniforms, no hats or hair nets, long or dirty nails, and employees working while sick will be immediately spotted by any experienced inspector. All food handlers should receive food safety training to ensure that they understand the importance of personal hygiene, and know how to follow hygiene guidelines. Having food safety infographics featured around your workplace is another great way to remind employees of proper hygiene, especially if you have staff who do not speak English as a first language.


Cross-contamination is a major cause of foodborne illness outbreaks and serious allergic reactions, often caused by lack of food safety training, carelessness, or employees who are simply in too big of a rush. Utensils must be cleaned and sanitized before they can be used with other food products, surfaces must be sanitized, and cooked and raw food must be kept separated. Another major source of cross-contamination incidents stems from ice machines - scoops used to collect ice must be stored outside of the ice machine and regularly cleaned. In order to successfully pass health inspections and avoid catastrophic foodborne illness outbreaks or allergic reactions, food handlers must be aware of the dangers of cross-contamination and take the proper precautions when preparing food.

Not properly using food thermometers

Food thermometers are the only accurate way to measure the internal temperature of meat products - without using a food thermometer, food handlers can’t accurately know whether food is safe to be served to customers. This is another major infraction often noted by health inspectors, as it carries major risk of serving customers undercooked meat and subsequently causing serious foodborne illness like salmonella. It’s important that food handlers receive food safety training that details when to use food thermometers, which thermometers are appropriate to use for certain foods, and how to properly calibrate thermometers for accurate readings.

Other common reasons for failed inspections often include:

  • Not keeping food preparation stations clean and tidy
  • Filthy dumpster areas
  • Pest infestations
  • Dirty food preparation equipment
  • Broken equipment
  • Food preparation stations too close to garbages or sanitation stations