Environmental Health sanitarians inspect restaurants, grocery stores and other food service operations to ensure that food is being handled, stored and cooked properly. At home, you can use many of the same safety tips to ensure the food you prepare is safe for your family to eat. You can view our food service inspection reports online here.
We were #1 in North America!
Our Environmental Health Division received the 2013 Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award. This prestigious award is given annually to local environmental health jurisdictions that demonstrate unsurpassed achievement in providing outstanding food protection services to their communities. Read our press release here. Watch the video on our YouTube page.
Common Food Safety Mistakes
- Countertop thawing
- Leftovers left out too long
- Unclean cutting boards
- Room-temperature marinating
- Store-to-refrigerator lag time
- BBQ blunder: same platter for raw & grilled meats
- Restaurant “doggie-bag” delay
- Stirring & tasting spoon
- Shared knife for trimming raw meat & chopping vegetables
- Hide and eat Easter eggs
Planning a Fish Fry?
It’s important to take all steps necessary to serve food that is safe for consumption. Review guidelines here.
Cooking, Cooling and Reheating
- Never defrost food at room temperature. Cook food immediately after thawing.
- Do not partially cook, stop, then finish later. Remember to keep food out of The Danger Zone (most food should either be kept colder than 41 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter than 135º F).
- Place in refrigerator. Permit 24 hours per five pounds to thaw.
- Run under cold water. Permit 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Allow food particles to run off surface.
- Defrost in microwave. Thaw and transfer immediately to a preheated oven.
- Cook to thaw. Increase time and cook to recommended temperature.
- Use plastic/non-porous cutting boards. If using wood cutting boards, make sure they are made from a hard wood.
- Cook food to proper temperature.
165º F chicken, leftovers
155º F hamburger
145º F pork, whole steaks, fish, eggs
135º F vegetables
- Test internal cooking temperatures with food thermometer.
- Sanitize thermometer before testing on different food.
- Hold cooked foods at 135º F.
- Heat food quickly and thoroughly to 165º F.
- Bring leftover sauces, soups and gravy to a boil.
- Microwave leftovers carefully. Bacteria can survive in cold spots. Heat food evenly by covering, stirring, rotating and leaving covered two minutes before serving.
- Do not cool food on stove/counter before refrigerating.
- Refrigerate/freeze leftovers within two hours.
- Cool large amounts of leftovers in shallow pans/containers.
- Insert containers with cooked foods in ice baths.
- Add ice to foods not affected by additional water (soup/chili).
- Avoid packing the refrigerator. Circulating cool air keeps food safe.
Whether you purchase your produce from the local grocery, a road side stand or grow it yourself, be sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before adding them to your favorite soups, salads or eating raw. Produce often has been exposed to fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and dirt.
- Always wash hands before handling produce.
- Clean sinks, strainers, scrub brushes and utensils before and after washing produce.
- Remove bad spots or blemishes that can contain bacteria/germs.
- Eliminate visible dirt with a scrub brush and running water, including cantaloupe and watermelons. Do not scrub delicate produce – grapes, strawberries, certain tomatoes. Rinse them longer and more thoroughly.
- Clean sinks, strainers, scrub brushes and utensils.
- Remove and discard outer layer of leafy vegetables (lettuce and cabbage). Rinse remaining leaves, individually under cool, running water.
- Peel skins, such as carrots and potatoes, then rinse.
- Never put produce in a bowl to soak. Soaking can allow contaminants to spread through food. Clean food under running water.
- Never return cleaned produce to its original container.
Cross Contamination and Preparation
Cross contamination occurs when contaminants from a food item, utensil, plate or food handler are transferred to another food or surface. You can prevent cross contamination by:
- Washing hands before handling foods; after each new activity in or away from the kitchen; and after touching hair, face or clothing.
- Storing raw foods below prepared foods in refrigerator/freezer.
- Sanitizing cutting boards, counters and utensils after contact with raw foods. An item/surface free of visible dirt may not be sanitary.
- Storing chemicals/cleaners away from food.
Washing hands frequently and properly can reduce the risk of getting colds and communicable diseases. Wash hands after using the bathroom, playing with animals, sneezing or coughing, touching objects used by others, or exposure to a sick person. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash in warm water, as warm as is comfortable.
- Use soap and lather well.
- Scrub hands thoroughly for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday”), including wrists, back of hands, between fingers, under/around fingernails and rings.
- Rinse hands well; downward, from wrists to fingertips.
- Dry hands with a clean, dry towel or paper towel.
- Use towel to turn off faucet and open door.
Sanitize Utensils and Workplaces
Sanitizing cutting boards, counters and utensils after contact with raw foods. An item/surface free of visible dirt may not be sanitary. Sanitizing utensils and work surfaces can prevent cross contamination and food borne illness.
- Wipe away visible dirt.
- Clean surface/utensil with sanitizing solution (warm, soapy water, or one cap 5.25 percent chlorine bleach per gallon of water).
- Air dry or use clean, dry towel/paper towel.
- Handle clean dishes and utensils by edge/handle only.
Food Safety Logs
- Cold Holding Log
- Cooking Log
- Cooling Log
- Equipment Temperature Log
- Food Delivery Log
- Hot Holding Log
- Receiving Temperature Log
- Reheating Log
- Sanitizer Log
Food Safety During Power Outages
At home – Do not open refrigerator(s) or freezer(s). Without power, a combination refrigerator/freezer will keep food cool for short lengths of time, if left closed. Upright or chest freezers will keep food frozen for one to two days, depending on how full.
At a restaurant, market, or other food service facility – stop serving food and close the facility. Call your local health department. Do not open refrigerator or freezer holding units. When power returns, check all food temperatures. If cold foods are above 41º F, or hot foods are below 135º F, discard immediately.
Food Safety Training
Hamilton County Public Health is pleased to offer two levels of food safety training for food service and retail food operators. The trainings are available for anyone who wishes to learn proper food safety. Food Safety Application Registration and download a Spanish registration form here.
Level 1 Course: The level 1 course, which is about 2.5 hours in length, is designed to cover the basic aspects of food safety including food sources, personal hygiene, and proper cooking and holding temperatures for food. The level 1 course is required for all new operations. All food service operations and retail food establishments, that opened after March 1, 2010, must have at least one person per shift that has attended the level one course or equivalent.
Level 2 Course: The level 2 course is more extensive and encompasses two full days of training. The course offers food protection manager certification covering, in detail, microbiological concepts, HACCP, employee health, among other topics. All course materials are covered by registration costs.
Please contact the Division of Environmental Health at 513-946-7800 if you have any questions regarding these opportunities. We are pleased to continue to serve the public through education of food workers throughout Hamilton County.
Beginning in 2019, Level 1 Food Handler courses are on the first Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. or the third Thursday of each month at 1 p.m.
Level 2 ServSafe courses are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on their scheduled days with the test in the afternoon on the second day of the course.
|Course||Length of Course||Sample of Topics Covered||Cost|
(Food Handler Training)
|2.5 hours||Hygiene, cross contamination, proper cooling, cooking and holding of foods||$20|
|16 hours||Food borne illness, microbiology, food sources, pest prevention, HACCP||$150|
(Serv Safe – TEST ONLY)
|2 hours||Test Only Dates||$50|
Before grilling, take time to review a few safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to protect yourself and your guests from a fire or burn injuries:
- Only use your grill outside;
- Keep it away from siding and deck rails;
- Keep a 3-foot safe zone around your grill to keep kids and pets safe;
- Clean your grill after each use to remove grease, which can start a fire;
- Place the coals from your grill in a metal can with a lid once they have cooled;
- Open your gas grill before lighting; and
- Keep an eye on your grill fire pit or patio torches.
Before you fire up your grill, check out USFA’s animation on grilling safety.
Restaurant managers: Talk to your employees about their symptoms and diagnoses so you can make sure sick workers don’t spread foodborne illness.
- Nearly half of restaurant-related outbreaks are caused by sick food workers.
- Managers need to know if their workers are sick so they can decide if they should handle food.
Three Things To Know
1. The Food Code encourages employee and manager conversations about foodborne illness.
- The Food Code is a science-based model code published by the Food and Drug Administration that states can use to develop or update their food safety rules to help prevent illness and outbreaks.
- It says that employees should tell their managers about possible foodborne illness symptoms and that it is the manager’s responsibility to ensure employees are aware of these reporting requirements.
- All state and local food codes in the United States are modeled on the FDA Food Code.
2. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) does not prevent restaurant managers from asking employees about foodborne illness symptoms and diagnoses.
- HIPAA sets privacy standards for protected health information.
- HIPAA does prevent a health care provider from sharing health information about an employee with that employee’s manager but it does not prevent a restaurant manager from asking an employee about their illness symptoms.
3. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) does not prevent managers from asking employees about foodborne illness symptoms and diagnoses.
- Most foodborne illnesses are mild and short-term and are not considered disabilities under ADA.
- If an employee does not have an ADA disability, the manager can follow the Food Code’s guidance without considering the ADA. And in the rare event that an employee does have a foodborne illness that is considered a disability, employers would consider both ADA and the Food Code.
Restaurant managers and employees can work together to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.
Learn More About Restaurant Food Safety
Food Code (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Food Safety Resources for Environmental Health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers(U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
- Clean Kitchen Award
- Fight Bac! (Food safety)
- Food Recall Alerts
- Food rules, Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code 3717-1
- Food Safety Brochures
- Food Safety Quiz
- Food Service Inspection Results Online
- Get or Renew a Food Service License
- Government Food Safety Gateway
- Food_Safety_Application_Registration also available in Spanish
- Food Safety During Power Outages Fact Sheet
- Food Safety When Eating Out Fact Sheet
- Information for Food Service Operators
- National Coalition for Food Safe Schools
- Restaurant Inspection Reports
- Vacuum Sealing Brochure
- Wash Your Hands Sign
- When to Save and When to Throw It Out – Guide to Food Safety in an Emergency