Retail Food Safety in South Carolina
DHEC inspects approximately 22,000 retail food establishments statewide and issues permits to new facilities prior to opening. Retail food establishments include operations such as restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks, schools, and other institutions. Risk-based inspections are conducted at each establishment in the state annually or quarterly, based on an establishment's food processes and their compliance history.
DHEC also regulates food safety for dairy and manufactured food operations as well as shellfish harvesting areas to ensure that oysters, clams, and mussels are safe for human consumption. The agency provides a wide variety of information and resources to help protect the public from potential food safety hazards while eating out.
What facilities are permitted under Regulation 61-25?
Restaurants, delis, school cafeterias, grocery stores, retail meat markets, bakeries, seafood markets, convenience stores, and most instances where a member of the public can enter an establishment and order food. There are situations where a facility does not require a permit to serve food; they are laid out in the Permit Exemptions Fact Sheet.
What is a Risk-Based Inspection?
A Risk-Based Inspection is an unannounced inspection that judges how a retail food establishment handles the five major risk factors most frequently identified as a cause of foodborne illness.
These five major risk factors are:
- Food Holding Temperatures - Were the foods maintained at safe hot or cold holding temperatures?
- Cooking Temperatures - Are foods being cooked or heated to temperatures within a safe range?
- Food Contact Equipment Cleanliness - Did the inspector see build up on equipment that comes into contact with food?
- Food Sources - Can the facility prove where all foods are coming from and are they coming from approved sources (an exception would be raw, unprocessed produce from small farms, produce stands, or farmers markets)?
- Employee Health - Does the facility have a plan in place to require employees who are sick to stay home?
What types of Risk-Based Inspections does DHEC conduct?
There are 5 types of Risk-Based Inspections that DHEC conducts at Retail Food Establishments:
- Permit Inspections – Conducted prior to a facility opening to the public.
- Routine Inspections – Unannounced and conducted on a frequency determined by the facility’s Risk Category on a frequency of one to four times a year.
- Follow-up Inspections – Conducted within ten days of a Routine Inspection that requires follow-up verification.
- Food Safety Checks – Conducted as a response to a declared state of emergency event such as a hurricane or pandemic. Also conducted as a compliance assistance tool for operators who request a non-graded food safety check between regulatory visits.
- Limited Scope Food Safety Inspections – Conducted as part of the response to or recovery from a long lasting declared emergency event such as a pandemic. May also be used as a tool for validating active managerial control by the facility between graded routine inspections.
What do the grades mean?
Risk-Based Inspections are scored based on a 100 point scale. At the completion of the inspection, a letter grade is posted at each facility based on the calculated numerical score and the facility's past compliance history. There are circumstances and conditions outlined in 8-403.10 (G) under which the letter grade posted at a facility may differ from the numerical score of the most recent inspection.
Grade A - The retail food establishment earned more than 87 points. Food safety practices appeared to meet the requirements of Regulation 61-25.
Grade B - The retail food establishment earned 78-87 points. Food safety practices need improvement.
Grade C - The retail food establishment earned less than 78 points. Food safety practices need significant improvement.