Chicago Shifts to Risk-Based Food Inspections

This will replace the current practice by the Department of Public Health of inspecting all food establishments at least once every six months.

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance Jan. 18 that prioritizes food inspections by the Department of Public Health according to each establishment's risk level. The department also will launch a self-certification pilot program for "low-risk" establishments, which city leaders say will improve the efficiency of its food inspections and allow it to target those with a higher risk of causing foodborne illnesses and other problems.

"This ordinance will allow the City to better ensure the health safety of Chicagoans by allowing a more targeted and streamlined approach to inspections," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The department currently is required to inspect all food establishments at least once every six months. Under the new approach, low-risk establishments will be inspected less frequently. The pilot self-certification pgram should be launched within a few months.

"Both of these initiatives will allow the department to conduct food inspections more effectively, better serving the taxpayers while still ensuring the health and safety of Chicagoans," said Bechara Choucair, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner.

As part of the pilot program, the Chicago Board of Health will adopt rules and regulations defining "low-risk" food establishments and offer additional guidelines needed to implement and enforce the pilot program. The definitions of "low-risk" establishments will include:

  • Food establishments that primarily serve pre-packaged foods
  • Food establishments that have passed an inspection within the 12 months directly preceding review
  • Establishments that within the 36 months directly preceding review have not been closed for any food safety issue
  • Establishments that within the 36 months directly preceding review have not been implicated as a source of a foodborne outbreak

The Chicago Board of Health's proposed rules and regulations will undergo a public review before being implemented. Inspection reports for food establishments across Chicago are avavilable in an online database that is updated weekly.

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