Food Safety Program
The mission of Harris County’s food inspection program is to prevent foodborne illness and injury from occurring at retail food establishments in the areas of Harris County outside of the city limits of Houston. This web portal provides the opportunity to share information that may assist you in your decision making regarding your food service choices.
Harris County permits and inspects all retail food establishments in the unincorporated areas of Harris County including 21 small cities incorporated within Harris County. Retail food establishments are facilities that prepare, process, serve, and/or sell food and/or drink to the consumer. All retail food facilities inspected by Harris County must meet food safety and sanitation requirements to obtain an annual food establishment permit.
Specific physical facilities and equipment and food safety procedures are needed to insure safe and sanitary food to the public. HCPHES inspects and permits retail food operations for compliance with physical requirements and food safety and sanitation practices. Preparing any kind of food (desserts, candy, appetizers, etc.) in the home for sale is illegal. Residential homes are not inspected by regulatory authorities to insure safe food handling practices. Use the inspection results webpage to determine whether an establishment located within the unincorporated areas of Harris County or one of the cities listed below is inspected and permitted by HCPHES. Call (713) 274-6300 to report suspected illegal sales of food.
All unincorporated (not in a city) areas of the county as well as the cities of
Areas that do not have a Houston mailing address, but are not incorporated as a city such as Cypress and Spring are also inspected by Harris County.
Food establishment inspections occur from one to twelve times per year, depending upon factors such as the type of food prepared, the method of preparation, the establishment’s violation history, and the amount of control the manager has over food operations. A bar that does not prepare food will be inspected once a year while a full service restaurant with a good food safety and sanitation history will receive three or four inspections per year.
Inspections and investigations are grouped into different types:
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What are critical and non-critical violations?
Critical violations are violations that, if left uncorrected, are more likely than other violations to contribute to food contamination, illness, or an environmental public health hazard. Examples of critical violations include improper cooking, cooling, or reheating of foods. Ideally, an establishment should have no critical violations. Establishments that are repeatedly and significantly out of compliance are given an inspection to issue a hearing notice for permit denial or revocation.
Non-critical violations are not directly related to the cause of food contamination, illness or environmental hazards, but if left uncorrected, could lead to critical violations. Examples of non-critical violations include burned out light bulbs, damaged ceiling tiles, and dirty floors. Although non-critical violations must be corrected, the inspectors focus on the correction of critical violations.
Emphasis during routine inspections is placed on the establishment’s active managerial control over the five risk factors. Active managerial control refers to basic management principles that should be used in day to day operations. Examples of active managerial control are: monitoring procedures, record keeping, an employee health policy restricting or excluding ill employees, and manager and employee training.
More information regarding the foodborne illness risk factors may be found at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodborneIllnessandRiskFactorReduction/ucm122832.htm All critical violations are assigned a demerit value of 3, 4, or 5 points. Each critical violation is marked only once although there may be multiple instances of the same item. The demerits are totaled for a final score. A perfect score is 0 while a score of 15 or higher automatically requires a follow-up inspection and a citation. Non-critical violations are documented on the report, but are not assigned a demerit value.
It is important to read the violation descriptions to understand the conditions seen by the inspector during the time of the inspection. The total score alone may not provide sufficient information. For example, failure to cook meat to the proper temperature (5 demerits) and failure to wash hands properly (4 demerits), two violations that are considered major risk factors for foodborne illness, will yield a score of 9 demerits. However, three violations not considered major foodborne illness risk factors, such as failure to renew a food establishment permit (3 demerits), failure to calibrate a thermometer (3 demerits), and failure to label a chemical spray bottle (3 demerits) will also yield a total score of 9 demerits.
A violation that is marked as COS (corrected on site) is a violation that has been corrected during the inspection. Inspectors urge food establishment operators to correct as many violations during the inspection as possible. Violations that are corrected on site are still given a demerit value and are factored into the total score.
Harris County requires a manager trained in food safety to be on duty during all hours of operation. Establishments that do not prepare or package food and handle only prepackaged food are exempt from this requirement. State law also exempts day care centers from the trained food manager requirement. City of Houston training and training approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services is also accepted.
For more information on approved classes may be found at: http://www.hcphes.org/eph/certreqsweb.htm
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Please help us keep retail food establishments in unincorporated Harris County clean and safe.
Most food establishments realize that it is in their best interest to provide safe and sanitary food to the consumer. Our food inspectors’ job is to make sure that the food safety regulations are followed by the establishment. But our inspectors cannot be at a food establishment all the time. Therefore, if you have a concern regarding a food establishment’s operations or believe you and/or others have become ill from eating food obtained at an establishment or at an event, please contact us. By investigating your concerns, Harris County may be able to prevent future outbreaks of foodborne illness. If you need to contact a physician, please do so before calling us.If you believe you have become ill from ingesting food from an establishment in unincorporated Harris County or in a city inspected by Harris County, please file a complaint at HCPHES Environmental Health Services Division or call us at (713) 274-6300.
If you are concerned about a food establishment’s operations such as cleanliness, food handling procedures, etc., please file a complaint at Environmental Public Health Home or contact us at (713) 274-6300.
If you have a foodborne illness complaint or other complaint regarding a food establishment located outside Harris County or if the establishment is located in a city not inspected by Harris County, please contact the local health department in that location.
How do I view inspection results for a particular establishment under Harris County’s jurisdiction?
This website provides food inspection information for all establishments that are currently open and operating under Harris County’s jurisdiction. The food inspection information provided on the website reflects the information that is captured in a database. To view an inspection report, please call (713) 274-6300 for information on filing an Open Records Request.Harris County Food Safety Program Inspection Results
Last updated: June 20, 2013