Inspection & Regulations

  1. Retail Food Establishments
  2. Wholesale Food Establishments

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.

2013 FDA Food Code

Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) 

Montana Codes Annotated (MCA) 

Inspection Frequency

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.   

Sample RFE Inspection Report


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.