Food Safety & COVID-19

Palmetto Priority

Palmetto Priority has been developed in collaboration with South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (SCRLA) and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism to recognize the restaurants that fully commit to and follow the SCRLA re-opening guidance which was developed as part of Governor McMaster's accelerateSC taskforce. Palmetto Priority will be overseen by the SCRLA. Patrons are asked to take a quick online survey of their experience and to provide feedback. Read more about the program and its requirements on the Palmetto Priority web site.

Virtual Preoperational Inspection

With COVID-19 impacting how we conduct normal operations, DHEC’s Food Team has been working to develop innovative ways to continue to serve our community, while still ensuring public health protection. DHEC's restaurant inspection team has developed and implemented a method for preoperational inspections to be conducted virtually for new restaurants looking to open. This compliance assistance tool is allowing new businesses to open while we practice proper social distancing.

Click here to see an example.

Limited Scope Inspections

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DHEC developed a procedure for conducting virtual food safety checks. In July of 2020, these food safety checks transitioned into virtual “Limited Scope Inspections” and are conducted on a pass/fail basis and focus on the critical risk factors that are most likely to cause a foodborne illness. They have a section devoted to observations related to the COVID-19 guidance that is used as part of the Palmetto Priority program verification. We have found these virtual inspections to be a highly effective method of validating food safety in permitted facilities.

Our virtual inspection process will continue to be our primary food safety validation while SC is considered to be at high risk for the spread of COVID-19. This is for the safety of the employees of the retail food establishment and our DHEC staff as social distancing is very difficult to obtain in most retail food establishment kitchens. We are, however, beginning to transition to in-person inspections which will start with those facilities where social distancing and other COVID-19 recommended safety precautions can be met. Facilities that do not have the capability to conduct virtual inspections will also be included in this phase. These “On-Site Limited Scope Inspections” are identical to our virtual “Limited Scope Inspections.”

Click here to view a blank Limited Scope Inspection Report.

All Limited Scope Inspection Reports are being sent to SCRLA as part of the Palmetto Priority program. If you are interested in the Palmetto Priority program, please visit the Palmetto Priority web site.

Click here to watch an example virtual food safety check, or click here to see a complete list of all establishments that have undergone a virtual food safety inspection.

Video conferencing services including Microsoft Teams, Apple Facetime, Skype for Business, and Android Video Call are utilized during Limited Scope Inspections. This virtual visit will allow us to protect our team, your team, and the public by providing social distancing while we conduct these important food safety inspections. Please contact your local office to schedule your inspection.

Food workers should never work when sick or touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands. They should carefully wash their hands with warm water and soap often.


Other steps you can take to help South Carolinians stay healthy include:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Appropriately dispose of tissues and other items you’ve coughed and sneezed into
  • Ensure routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as tabletops, countertops, doorknobs, etc.
  • Be prepared and informed

As part of our ongoing communications efforts, you may find the following materials and information helpful.


If you have questions about the restrictions on service, food sanitation or hygiene practices, please give us a call 803-896-0640 or email us.

Outreach Materials


Retail Food Service Statewide