The Environmental Health Services Division of Maricopa County is responsible for ensuring that the restaurants in the County comply with the Environmental Health Code. Each month the Department's inspectors visit food establishments across the Valley of the Sun. Weekly, I publish information that I receive from the Department, in abbreviated form, on the restaurant inspections that were performed during the previous week.
Which Restaurants Do I Include on the Best List?
My list includes a selection of restaurants in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale and other local Maricopa County cities that had no priority violations. I include those establishments that have seating for at least ten patrons and are generally places where the average resident or visitor might stop in for a bite to eat. I exclude businesses that have an admission charge, hotels, caterers, wholesalers, car washes, bakeries, food trucks, schools, company cafeterias, and grocery stores. For simplicity, and to make this list more manageable, I also exclude large fast food chains, ice cream shops, pizza chains, coffee shops, and donut shops. Most are locally-owned restaurants; I try to select a nice cross-section of eateries in various parts of town.
If you have a favorite restaurant that you'd like to check out, or you want to know about your child's school cafeteria or the sandwich shop where you work, you can see the inspection history of any establishment that serves/prepares food at the Maricopa County website.
Which Restaurants Do I Include on the Worst List?
My weekly list of inspections failures includes those restaurants that had three or more Priority Violations — those that are considered a serious risk for foodborne illness — during their last inspection. Three or more Priority Violations means that the grade for that inspection is a D (there are no F grades).
The worst are at the top of the list. A restaurant that had that many Priority Violations noted would be one that I'd avoid, at least until they had subsequent inspections showing more understanding of safe food preparation standards and concern for their patrons.
I also include establishments where their license was immediately suspended by the inspector. Typically, this involves an equipment failure that can't be corrected immediately. Examples might be refrigeration units that don't cool enough, plumbing problems, or availability of clean water. Their license might be reinstated, even later that same day, if they correct the problems noted.
Phoenix Area Restaurants Inspection Results: The Best and the Worst
What Geographical Area Do the Lists Cover?
Restaurants reported on my lists are located in communities all over Maricopa County. That means not only Phoenix but also Scottsdale; the cities and towns in the West Valley like Glendale, Peoria, Surprise; the cities and towns in the East Valley like Tempe, Chandler and Mesa; as well as other county locations. County inspectors may or may not inspect restaurants in every part of the county every week.
How Are Maricopa Count Restaurant Inspections Done?
The Maricopa County Environmental Health Services Department is responsible for ensuring that the restaurants in the County comply with the Environmental Health Code. Inspectors visit restaurants, caterers, food processors, prisons and jails, food warehouses, bakeries, and school cafeterias to evaluate the food safety practices in these establishments. The inspection of these businesses is conducted in accordance with the State of Arizona Food Code.
Maricopa County has adopted the FDA Model Food Code, which, simplified, breaks inspection items into either Priority Violations (Foodborne Illness Risk Factors), Priority Foundation Violations (the building blocks which are the control for priority violations) and Core Items (good sanitation practices that are not directly related to foodborne illness).
As the name suggests, Priority Violations are the most critical, because they have been found to contribute to the hazards associated with illness or injury to patrons. Core items relate more to premises, controls and maintenance not directly affecting the food.
Obviously, Priority Violations noted by an inspector are more serious than other kinds. Examples of Priority Violations reported might include that employees of the restaurant have discharge from eyes, nose, or mouth; food being obtained from a source that is not approved; food not cooked, reheated or cooled at proper temperatures; food surfaces not clean or sanitized. Examples of Priority Foundation or Core violations reported by an inspector might include improper storage of utensils or linens, plumbing problems or restroom issues.
If you ate at a restaurant in the Phoenix area that you believe is putting customers at risk for foodborne illness, you can notify Maricopa County here.