About Restaurant Inspections



Food facility inspections in the County of Santa Cruz are conducted in accordance with and under the authority of the California Retail Food Code. Registered Environmental Health Specialists conduct frequent inspections (two – four times per year depending on the type of facility) for compliance with the Food Code.

Violations are categorized as either critical or general. Critical violations are those that create or have the potential to create an imminent risk to public health. The Food Code requires that critical violations be further listed as either major or minor with regard to their degree of risk. Utilizing guidelines established by the State Department of Health Services, field inspectors classify critical violations as either major or minor. For example, the requirement for a 41degree F. holding temperature would be a major violation at a temperature reading above 50 degrees F. and minor between 42- and 50-degrees F. Considering all conditions relevant to a critical violation, action taken by the inspector could be different in each case and may include closure of the facility, embargo/voluntary destruction of food or simply requiring prompt adjustment/servicing of a refrigeration unit. Major critical violations do require either closure or immediate correction with a timely follow up inspection to ensure compliance.

Critical violations are assigned to one of seven classifications reflecting areas of concern in prevention of a food borne illness. The following code letters have been assigned to each specific classification (with example Major Violations shown):

FT Improper Food Holding/Processing Temperatures

  • Potentially hazardous foods held at temperatures greater than 50 degrees F. and less than 125 degrees F.
  • Failure to meet the minimum required cooking temperatures for specific foods such as port, poultry, eggs, and comminuted meat products.

FP Improper Food Preparation/Handling Procedures

  • Direct cross contamination of ready to eat foods with raw foods or unclean equipment or utensils.
  • improper thawing where potentially hazardous foods are above 50 degrees F. and are beginning to approximate room temperature.
  • Improper cooling where potentially hazardous foods are below 125 degrees F. and are beginning to approximate room temperature.
  • Handling or processing food in an area where there is surfacing sewage.

FS Unapproved Food Source, Contaminated/Adulterated Food

  • Food offered for sale that was prepared in a private home, or other unapproved locations.
  • Meat offered for sale that was slaughtered or prepared in an unapproved location.
  • Food items that show obvious signs of spoilage or that are adulterated with foreign material that may pose a safety or heath threat to consumers.

VI Vermin Infestation (rodent or insect)

  • Active signs of a heavy rodent or insect infestation or food contaminated by rodents or insects.

WS Inadequate Utensil/Equipment Washing or Sanitizing

  • Failure to adequately wash and sanitize utensils or equipment by inattention to prescribed chemical or temperature requirements.
  • No hot water supply for the facility.
  • Water supply for the facility is not potable.

EH Employee Hygiene & Training

  • Employee(s) working around food with open cuts or sores, or while ill with a communicable disease that can cause a food borne illness; or while suffering from symptoms associated with acute gastrointestinal illness.
  • Failure to restrict the duties of or exclude any employee from a food facility when notified that the employee has a communicable illness that is transmissible through food.
  • Lack of adequate food safety knowledge, as related to the food employee's assigned duties. Failure of a permit-holder to obtain or maintain a valid food safety training certificate for the facility within 60 days of notification.

HW Inadequate Hand Washing Procedure  

  • Failure to wash hands or wear gloves as required.
  • Failure to maintain handwashing facilities functional and accessible at all times for use by food employees.
  • Failure to provide warm water (100 degrees F. minimum) for employee hand washing.

Please contact Environmental Health with questions or comments at Env.Hlth@co.santa-cruz.ca.us.