Inspections and Enforcement Actions

What to Expect from a Food Inspection

Picture of Health Department vehicle Food inspections are conducted by Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) who are trained public health professionals with science-based college degrees. The purpose of these inspections is to enforce county, state and federal laws, codes and regulations and to issue health permits.

  • During the inspection, the EHS evaluates the manager's control over food-borne illness risk factors including food preparation, temperature of food during cooking, holding and storage, food handling practices and employee health and hygiene.
  • The EHS also evaluates good retail practices including the condition of equipment and the physical facilities.
  • The EHS then formulates corrective plans and implements interventions in non-compliance situations through education and enforcement.

The Fairfax County Health Department inspects about 3,300 regulated food service establishments in Fairfax County and the Cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. View food establishment inspection reports.

Frequently Asked Questions About Inspections

  1. How often are food service establishments inspected?
    Food establishments are inspected using a risk-based inspection system. Based on the complexity of the food preparation and the history of compliance, an establishment may be routinely inspected from one to three times per 12 month period. Other inspections may be conducted as needed.
  2. Are the inspections announced (scheduled)?
    No. Virtually all inspections (except for pre-opening inspections and training) are conducted on an unannounced basis.
  3. What is a critical violation?
    A "critical item" means a provision of the Code, that, if in non-compliance, is more likely than other violations to contribute to food contamination, illness, or environmental health hazard.

Type of Inspections

Essentially, six types of inspections may be performed:

  • ROUTINE: A comprehensive, unannounced inspection during which the EHS will evaluate foodborne illness risk factors, public health interventions and good retail practices to determine compliance with regulations.
  • RISK FACTOR ASSESSMENT INSPECTION: A specialized, unannounced inspection during which the EHS will evaluate foodborne illness risk factors and public health interventions to determine compliance with specific critical and non-critical sections of the regulations.
  • COMPLAINT INSPECTION: An inspection conducted in response to a complaint received by the Health Department. The specifics of the complaint will be evaluated and discussed with the person in charge. The results of the inspection are also discussed with the complaintant, when possible. Complaints may be reported to the Health Department from the Community Complaint page or by calling 703-246-2444, TTY 771, during business hours, 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • FOLLOW-UP INSPECTION: An inspection conducted for the specific purpose of re-inspecting items that were not in compliance at the time of the routine, risk factor assessment, or complaint inspection.
  • TRAINING INSPECTION: A scheduled inspection during which the EHS provides formal food safety training to the foodservice employees. Training inspections can be initiated by the Health Department or at the request of the foodservice operator.
  • PRE-OPENING INSPECTION: A scheduled inspection conducted to approve the construction of a new or remodeled establishment (or installation of new equipment) or to evaluate an establishment prior to a change of ownership at the establishment.
  • FOODBORNE ILLNESS INVESTIGATION: An inspection conducted in response to a report of a possible foodborne illness. A risk factor assessment inspection is always conducted in conjunction with a foodborne illness investigation.

Enforcement Actions

The Health Department imposes the following types of enforcement actions:

  • Suspension of Permit to Operate for Imminent Health Hazard: The permit is suspended and a directive is given to cease and desist using unsafe portions of the facility or the entire facility to ensure public health. A hearing is not required to suspend a permit, but the opportunity must be given for a hearing after the suspension is in effect. Grounds for closure due to imminent public health risks may include but are not limited to:
    • No water
    • Sewage backups or overflows
    • No utilities
    • Fire
    • Pest infestation
    • Contaminated food
    • Foodborne illness outbreak
    • Inadequate refrigeration
    • Flood
  • Revocation of Permit to Operate: Food establishment permits may be revoked due to serious or repeated violations of any of the requirements of the Food and Food Handling Code of Fairfax County, Virginia. Prior to revocation of the permit, the permit holder will be afforded an opportunity to appeal the Health Department's decision. Whenever a revocation has become final, the holder of the revoked permit may submit an application for a new permit. However, prior to the issuance of a new permit the food establishment must meet all applicable provisions of the Fairfax County Food and Food Handling Code pdf icon.

Contact Us

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  • 10777 Main Street, Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Main Phone: 703-246-2444
  • Fax: 703-653-9448
  • Send an Email

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