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Food Safety for Industry

DHEC Inspections of Food Service Establishments

The photo shows a food inspector inspecting a food bar.A permit (pdf) to open a retail food service establishment in South Carolina automatically grants DHEC food safety staff ongoing, full access to your facility and staff for inspections. Our inspections help protect public health, and help you protect the financial health of your operation by alerting you to the kinds of sanitation and food handling mistakes that most often play a part in expensive food-related outbreaks. There are a number of different reasons we might inspect your facility.

Before You Open for Business

  • Preliminary (Planning Stage) Site/Facility Inspection: Planning to open a new food service establishment? DHEC’s optional preliminary site inspection alerts you to problems that could keep you from passing the required pre-opening permit inspection. Better yet, we can review your plans for free before you break ground, remodel or buy equipment. This will help you build out problems and avoid expensive mistakes that do not meet South Carolina’s food safety standards. Contact us to schedule this permit inspection.
  • Permit Inspection: Once your facility is fully equipped and all systems are turned on so that in theory you could open for business that day, we’ll conduct a permit inspection. You must have a S.C. Retail Food Service Permit before you can open for business. Passing scores get you a Retail Food Service Permit and an “A” rating score on the spot. You must display the permit where customers can see it. If we find problems, we will tell you what you need to do to fix them so that you can open for business. See our list of required structural and equipment installations. When you are ready to open, contact DHEC to schedule your permit inspection.
  • 30-Day Post-Opening Follow-Up Inspection: Thirty days after you open your doors to the public, we will re-inspect your facility and food handling processes. Depending on what we find, your rating score could stay the same (A) or go down.

Ongoing Inspections

  • Unscheduled, Routine Inspection: At least one unscheduled routine inspection is required each year, but we sometimes do additional ones depending on the “risk” or complexity of your food handling processes. We never tell you ahead of time when we’re planning to do a routine inspection because we want to see your facility and food service operations on an ordinary day.
  • Follow-up Inspections after a “C” Rating: Follow-up inspections are done after an establishment scores a “C” rating or below in a routine inspection. We schedule these types of follow-up inspections to verify that problems have been corrected. Correcting any problems will raise your rating score. But if you have not been able to correct violations, discuss your reasons for not doing so with us; we may be able to provide or direct you to training or other assistance and grant you an extension. We will re-inspect your facility 60 days later.
  • New Construction or Remodeling Inspections:If you are already operating but build a new facility, remodel your existing facility or purchase new equipment, read Build Out Problems, then submit plans and specs to your local DHEC public health office for pre-approval. Once your construction project is completed and any new equipment is in place and operational, we will inspect it to make sure it complies with state food safety regulations. After we approve the final work, you can open the new/remodeled facility for business and/or begin using your new equipment.

Structural, Equipment Installation Required Before Inspection


All items noted as out of compliance during pre-operational inspections or noted as deficient in the plan approval letter must be corrected and your facility must be in full compliance with all applicable parts of the food safety regulations before DHEC will issue a permit.

The following structural and equipment installations are required in preparation for your inspection:

  • Your facility must have soap and towels at all handsinks, thermometers, detergents, sanitizers, and test kits.
  • Equipment such as, but not limited to, dish machines, refrigerators, and cooking equipment shall be properly installed and operational.
  • All food contact surfaces such as, but not limited to, food equipment and preparation surfaces shall be cleaned and sanitized. Non-food contact surfaces shall be cleaned and free of an accumulation of dust, dirt, and other debris.
  • Floors shall be swept and cleaned of all construction debris. Floors, walls, and ceilings shall be installed and finished for a smooth surface. All areas that require sealing shall be sealed prior to permitting. We recommend you have any and all resources necessary, i.e. caulk, for last minute touch ups that can be accomplished during the inspection.
  • Bulk foods, bulk supplies, and prepackaged products may be placed in storage areas and retail display areas if protected from spoilage, adulteration, and other contamination.