Inspection & Regulations
Food Safety Rules
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts out a model Food Code every four years. The Food Code provides food safety guidance based on current scientific data. States can choose to adopt these rules, wholly or partially. Montana has adopted the 2013 Food Code with a few modifications. Sanitarians license and inspect Retail Food Establishments based on these rules.
Retail Food Establishments (RFE) in Cascade County are generally inspected 1 to 2 times per year. Low risk facilities usually have one routine inspection, while high risk facilities usually have two. Risk categories are based on the types of food served, the types of cooking processes, the clients served, and inspection history. For example, a convenience store that only sells commercially prepared packaged foods would be low risk, while a full-service restaurant that prepares raw animal foods using complex cooking processes would be high risk.
During an Inspection
During an inspection, Sanitarians take food temperatures, test sanitizer concentrations, observe handwashing, review illness policies, verify food-contact surfaces are properly cleaned and sanitized, make sure food is properly stored and handled to prevent cross contamination (especially when they handle raw animal products), determine if there is a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) and inspect dozens of other aspects of the facility. Observations and violations are recorded in an inspection report and provided to the manager or person in charge.
Risk Factors are high risk items that can directly cause a foodborne illness or outbreak, such as not adequately cooking chicken or not cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards when switching from raw meat to vegetables. Risk Factor violations must be immediately corrected to ensure food being served is safe. Good Retail Practices are lower risk items that are less likely to cause a foodborne illness, such as equipment maintenance and damaged flooring. More time is allowed to fix these items, as they should not be an immediate health hazard.
Follow-up Inspections are done when violations can't be corrected during the inspection. Sanitarians typically follow up in 3 to 10 days, depending on the violation. Imminent health hazards, such as a foodborne illness outbreaks, may require a facility to discontinue operation. The health hazard must be resolved to the satisfaction of the health department before a facility may operate again.
Food Safety Rules
Wholesale Food Establishments (WFE) have similar rules to Retail Food Establishments (RFE) and incorporate the 2013 Food Code. As wholesale foods can be sold within Montana, nationally, or internationally, some WFE must meet the requirements of the Federal Code of Regulations (CFR). Registered Enviornmental Health Specialists (REHS) from CCHD inspect these facilities, but they may also be inspected by FDA inspectors or other state inspectors form different agencies.
Wholesale establishments can operate under one or more jurisdictions; Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), Montanan Department of Agriculture (MDA), or Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). DOL regulates meat and dairy products. MDA regulates unprocessed produce. DPHHS regulates food manufacturing and warehouses.