Food and recreational water inspections
Learn from five agencies about their food and recreational water inspections, processes, and challenges.
Collection of standardized data from collection to storage can facilitate data sharing across agencies and jurisdictions. In 2019, CDC partnered with the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) to better understand how environmental health programs collect and share data.
Staff members from five agencies provided insight for possible recommendations on key practices for standardizing environmental health data. Environmental health programs can consider this information when creating or improving their processes. It may be beneficial for jurisdictions digitizing and standardizing their food and water inspection data to partner with a jurisdiction that is well advanced in this process. A larger environmental scan would more fully describe challenges faced by these programs and could lead to broad recommendations for programs and jurisdictions.
PHII surveyed personnel to assess business processes associated with their food and recreational water inspections.
3 state agencies
2 local agencies
- Southern Nevada
- Riverside County, California
All five agencies inspect both food and recreational water facilities.
Number of facilities: 1,100–36,000
Inspections per year: 1,600–80,000
Recreational Water Inspections
Number of facilities: 80–8,500
Inspections per year: 600–9,700
The public can access data from these inspections via a web portal, through a mobile application, or on request.
All five agencies use an electronic system to record inspection data.
Data collection is a mix of paper-based and field data. Inspectors enter inspection data for their jurisdictions.
Risk-based food inspections focus on the five risk factors for foodborne illness.
Poor personal hygiene
Food from unsafe sources
Improper holding time and temperature
Improper cooking temperatures or methods
Recreational water inspections focus on three areas.
Imminent health hazards
Internet issues, weather, and other challenges affect collection of electronic data in the field.
Poor connectivity and internet issues
Devices overheating in warmer months
Sunlight affecting screen visibility (outdoor recreational water inspections)
Other inspection challenges include the following:
Distance to travel to inspection
Lack of standardized process
Inspections in high-traffic areas
Quality and timeliness of data entry at office
Outdated point of contact
The COVID-19 pandemic brought unique challenges to EH programs.
Food and recreational water inspection challenges faced by key informants included the following:
Loss of revenue from inspection and violation fees
Enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines
Loss of staff
Difficulty capturing electronic signatures
Difficulty conducting inspections virtually
Changes causing additional guidance and training
- Read more about this project.
- Explore the final project report. [PDF – 1.7 MB]
- Learn more about the Public Health Informatics Institute.
- Learn about our efforts to improve environmental health practice through modernizing environmental health data.
- Learn how restaurant inspection practices are linked with foodborne outbreaks.