Common violations in food inspections

View issues that are considered food safety violations when the City inspects a food facility.

What we check

Environmental Health inspectors check every facility that serves food to the public in San Francisco.

After an inspection, we will give the facility a green, yellow, or red poster based on different levels of food safety violations we may have seen. They need to display this where you can see it.

If there are major violations, restaurants need to close or fix the issue right away.

Common risks to food safety

Sick food workers ("communicable disease")

People who are sick (with a spreadable, or "communicable" illness) should stay home. They should not be at the food facility or involved in the making of food while ill.

If someone has cuts or rashes, they should wear gloves.

Nobody should do anything that would make any food or utensils dirty or contaminated.

Not washing hands

Employees must wash their hands often, especially when:

  • starting work
  • switching tasks (including between raw and ready-to-eat food)
  • before handling utensils or equipment
  • after using the restroom
  • during food prep and food washing
  • after touching their face or other parts of the body

Improper hot and cold holding temperatures

Food must be held or stored at temperature that keeps that specific item safe.

Not following "time" as a public health control

Rules about how long food can be at certain temperatures and methods to maintain these "time controls" must be known and followed by staff.

Improper food cooling methods

All potentially hazardous food must be rapidly cooled from 135 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within 2 hours. Then, from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 41 degrees Fahrenheit within 4 hours.

Food can be cooled by one or more of the following methods:

  • in shallow containers
  • separating food into smaller portions
  • adding ice as an ingredient
  • using an ice bath, stirring frequently
  • using rapid cooling equipment
  • using containers that facilitate heat transfer

Improperly cooked food

Food must be cooked to temperatures required by the California Health and Safety Code.

Meat that is "comminuted" (pulvirized or powdered), or any food containing comminuted meat, must be heated to 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eggs and foods containing raw eggs, and single pieces of meat (including beef, veal, lamb, pork and approved game meat) must be heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Poultry, comminuted poultry, stuffed fish, and stuffed meat or poultry must be heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Improperly reheating food

Food needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit if it is:

  • heated again for hot holding
  • served after being cooked and cooled

Unsafe or bad food

Any food that has or has gotten mixed with substances that could poison or harm someone is considered "adulterated."

It must be thrown out.


Regularly clean and sanitize any utensils or surfaces that touch food.

A sanitizer must:

  • be provided in the 3-compartment sink at the food facility, or
  • with a final rinse of the dishwasher.

Unapproved food sources

All the food used in the facility should come from safe and approved sources.

Risky foods for sensitive populations

In places like schools and health care facilities, you can't serve food that poses a health risk, such as raw or under-cooked items like unpasteurized juice or under-cooked meat.

No water or no hot water

A food facility need to have both hot (at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold water available.

The water supply must be adequate, protected, pressurized, and potable.

Sewage and wastewater issues

If there's a problem with the sewage system, you can't operate.

This includes if sewage backs up into the facility, if a grease trap overflows or clogs, or when there are no working toilets.

All liquid waste must drain to an approved fully functioning sewage disposal system.


Food locations should be free from pests like rodents, roaches, flies, and other vermin.

Last updated April 24, 2024