A health inspector goes through a kitchen. (Ken Stevens | MLive.com file photo)
Inspections are conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, or by some cities’ health bureaus. An inspector will go into a restaurant looking at retail practices like food storage, and risk factors for foodborne illness, like preparation and cleanliness. Any violations, no matter how minor, are noted on a report made publicly available on the Agriculture Department’s website.
The inspector will go through the facility with the owner or manager and usually have them correct things as they go. A restaurant is said to be out of compliance when any issues found require a repeat visit by the inspector, Powers said. Problems that can’t be immediately fixed will be given a deadline, usually a month or two, in which a surprise follow-up inspection will be conducted.
Inspections in the Lehigh Valley’s two counties had a compliance rate of more than 93 percent in 2018, according to department statistics.
It is rare that health inspectors will immediately close a restaurant; that requires “an imminent risk to human health” like vermin or a sewer backup, Powers said. As of mid-January, there were only five restaurants closed statewide due to health issues, she said. None of them were in the Lehigh Valley.