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

  • Georgia
  • Virginia
  • Maryland

2 local agencies

  • Southern Nevada
  • Riverside County, California

All five agencies inspect both food and recreational water facilities.

Food Inspections

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

Food contamination

Improper holding time and temperature

Improper cooking temperatures or methods

Recreational water inspections focus on three areas.

Imminent health hazards

Facility safety

Water chemistry

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

More Information