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7 Tips to Navigating the Health Department

7 Tips to Navigating the Health Department

7 Tips to Navigating the Health Department

When first getting into the business of food and beverage, it can be somewhat intimidating when you think about dealing with the health department. The good news is that the health department is usually pretty helpful and will either answer your questions or point you in the right direction to utilize resources that will help you find the answers you are looking for. Even after opening your juice businesses, communicating with the health department will be a regular activity, so it’s best to start off with the right mind set and commit to working with them and educating yourself as much as possible. Here are my seven tips to navigating the health department:

Pro tip: If all of this seems intimidating, please contact us and we can help you through the process as part of a juice business consulting package.

  1. Meet with the local health authority. 
    Set up a quick meeting if possible and get the regulations in your area based off your plans to produce and distribute juice. Regulations might vary from county to county, typically they want the same thing your operation wants – to put out the safest product possible for the consumer.
  2. During any health department meeting be sure to take thorough notes or ask if you can record the meeting.
    Typically you will go over a lot of information and it is always a good idea to record the info, as it might help to go back over the information a couple times to make sure you don’t miss anything critical.
  3. Take extra classes if you have the time and further educate yourself and your staff. 
    When it comes to health department regulations, they are constantly getting reviewed and updated, and the best way to stay on top of these regulations is to become active in attending meetings the health department might hold or taking online or in person classes, for example like the ones offered through ServSafe.
  4. Not sure about something? Research then ask. 
    It is always better to try to find the answer first, then confirm with the health department. It is important not to put off questions you have regarding health department regulations – if you are unsure, your employees might be as well.
  5. Educate your employees.  Provide your employees with the tools necessary to educate themselves and execute production properly. Encourage questions from your staff – they are typically the ones executing the day to day sanitation process, and the more comfortable they are with the entire process, the better.
  6. Create good habits and checklists.
    The one constant in a kitchen is that every day is different. You typically never know how busy or how slow business might be. What you should know is that every day you need to inspect the production, check coolers, and document logs. The best way to make sure you are filling out all the correct paperwork in a timely manner is to sit down and make a daily checklist that you will fill out every day. On this checklist, you should put items such as cooling logs, refrigeration temperature checks, sanitation concentration checks, and employee personal hygiene/health card checks. You can also set timers on you cell phones or clocks as a reminder as well. Developing good sanitation habits are a must.
  7. Read the FDA food code or your local equivalent.
    This is typically updated or revised every four years. All regulations will typically be found in here, and education is key to running the safest production possible. The better you understand health regulation, the more comfortable you will be. It is important to not only know what needs to be done, but also why.

Health Department Industry Links

  • ServSafe –  A food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the National Restaurant Association. The program is accredited by ANSI and the Conference for Food Protection. Sanitation certification is required by most restaurants as a basic credential for their management staff.
  • US Restaurant Associations – Access restaurant association information based on your state.
  • The Safe Path To Success –  A National Restaurant Association whitepaper on Food Safety
  • FDA Food Code – The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes the Food Code, a model that assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry.
  • SSOP: Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures – Comply with local health department requirements. Let us help you create individual SSOP that might be needed for your operation and guide them to prevent hair loss problem.(e.g., cold holding log, cold storing log, equipment cleaning log, etc.)
  • HACCP Plan – Develop consistency through production to reduce risk of contamination. We can work together to create custom HACCP plan for your operation.
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About The Author

Ari Sexner is a classically trained chef who has worked at some of the finest dining restaurants in America, and eventually made his way into cold-pressed juice, developing the first USDA Certified Organic juice program on the Las Vegas strip for Bellagio Hotel. He currently works as a full time consultant, guiding new cold-pressed juice companies through kitchen planning, operations, recipe creation, food costing, sourcing ingredients, HACCP and SSOP programs, USDA Organic Certification, and more.

2 Responses

  1. I’d like to get my juicery USDA organic certified. I also am competing approval with a HACCP Plan at our Health Dept. Do you have a 5-log reduction example?

    Any informative resources available would be great!

    Thanks!
    Amanda Blake

    Reply

    1. Hello Amanda, We have a sample plan on this blog post here
      As for the 5-log reduction that would need to have specific details on your process whether you are HPP, HTST, raw etc. You can reach me directly at [email protected] and I can go over more specifics if you would like. Thanks

      Reply

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