Virtual Food Safety Assessments
Because COVID-19 is still actively spreading within our community, NRH Consumer Health is offering Virtual Food Safety Assessments (VFSAs) for our food establishment partners. VFSAs will not affect food safety scores but can help restaurants and inspectors protect the public from foodborne illness while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 by limiting in-person interactions.
What is a Virtual Food Safety Assessment (VFSA)?
Virtual food safety assessments (VFSA) are an alternative method of conducting routine food establishment inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a VFSA, the NRH Consumer Health inspector visits with the food establishment operator through a video conferencing app and helps the operator identify and address any threats to public health and safety at the food establishment. If serious issues are observed, the inspector will follow up with an onsite visit. This ensures that food establishments continue to serve safe food to North Richland Hills residents and visitors, and limits the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for both the inspector and the food establishment staff.
A VFSA lasts approximately 30-40 minutes. During the VFSA, the inspector will have the operator give a “tour” of the food establishment via video call and check foodborne illness risk factors such as handwashing/hygiene, food and equipment temperatures, and cleaning/sanitizing procedures. If the inspector notices any problems or if the operator has questions, the inspector can provide the operator with guidance and resources during and after the VFSA. The inspector may also decide to follow up with a site visit to address serious issues.
Steps of a Virtual Food Safety Assessment
Step 1: The food establishment receives notice that they need to schedule a VFSA.
Step 2: The food establishment and the inspector agree upon a date and time for the VFSA and which videoconferencing app they plan to use. The inspector then sends an email to the food establishment confirming the videoconferencing app and meeting details, and sends the operator a list of instructions for how to prepare for the VFSA.
Step 3: At the agreed upon time, the inspector conducts the VFSA with the operator using a standardized inspection form. The inspector will also review and address any pending or recurrent issues based on the food establishment’s inspection history.
Step 4: After the VFSA, the inspector will email the operator a copy of the VFSA inspection form as well as any other resources that may help the operator. The inspector may also follow up with an onsite visit to address serious issues.
Preparing for a VFSA
If you’re a food establishment operator preparing for a VFSA, make sure that you have the supplies and tools listed below. Click here to see a copy of the North Richland Hills VFSA inspection form.
- Phone/Tablet and Virtual Videoconferencing Platform: The food establishment operator needs to download a video call application to their phone or tablet that will allow them to videoconference with the inspector and walk around the establishment. Try one of the applications on the list below, or contact your inspector if you prefer to use another option.
- Food Thermometers Required: Make sure that you have an appropriate food thermometer (see photo below) available for taking the temperatures of cold and hot foods. Your inspector will have you take temperatures of food and hot water at handwashing sinks during the inspection. Make sure that you have alcohol wipes or sanitizer ready to clean your thermometer between uses. Be prepared to calibrate your thermometer.