Understand Health Code Requirements for Food Establishments

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is committed to protecting the public’s health by conducting science-based inspections of all food establishments. CDPH Sanitarians conduct inspections for new businesses, existing businesses and in response to a compliant. 

There are Different Types of Health Inspections

Business License Health Inspections

New food establishments, or a transfer of ownership, that are applying for a business license must pass a health inspection by CDPH before the license will be issued.  After an application for a license has been filed with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, a health inspector from the CDPH will contact the applicant to arrange for an inspection.  The applicant can schedule an appointment with the Health representative at the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at 312.744.5430, 312.74.GOBIZ (744.6249).

During the inspection, the health inspector will assess the types of food that will be prepared and the methods used for preparing and serving the food. This information will be used to assign a ‘risk-level’ – risk 1, 2 or 3 – to the food establishment.  This risk level will be used to determine how frequent a food establishment needs to be inspected.

Routine Health Inspections

Once a food establishment is licensed and operating, a health inspector will periodically conduct unannounced inspections. The frequency of these inspections is based on the risk level assigned to the establishment.

In general, risk 1 establishments are inspected twice per year,risk 2 establishments once per year, and risk 3 establishments every other year. If problems are identified, the establishment may face fines or possible closure, depending on the severity of the problems.

Complaint-Based Health Inspections

CDPH receives around  4,000 complaints against food establishments each year. In response, CDPH health inspectors conduct unannounced inspections at the establishment.

Ways to Prepare for a Health Inspection

You should know what to expect,  here are some ways to prepare:  


  • See what a health inspector will use when they inspect your establishment. CDPH health inspector's use a standard inspection form to document the inspection findings. A copy of this form is available here.

Health Code Violations

During routine inspections, or in response to a complaint a health inspector may issue one or more citations to the food establishment. These citations are based on the following violations:  

Critical Violations

 This category includes such occurrences as:

  • Inadequate storage temperatures
  • Improper food handling practices
  • Improper personal hygiene
  • Rodent and/or insect infestation
  • Lack of hot running water

Critical violations create an immediate health hazard that carry a high-risk of causing food-borne illness. Critical violations must be corrected immediately; if they cannot be corrected immediately, the license will be suspended, and the food establishment must close. Once the violations are corrected, the food establishment operator must sign an affidavit stating the violations have been corrected, and schedule a re-inspection with the health inspector. The inspection must pass in order for the establishment to reopen.

Serious Violations

Serious violations include such occurrences as:

  • Potentially hazardous foods improperly thawed
  • Re-serving food previously served to another customer
  • Food not properly protected from contamination during storage, preparation, display, service, or transportation
  • Inadequate pest control

Serious violations create a potential health hazard if not corrected in the timeframe specified by the health inspector. If serious violations are identified, an unannounced re-inspection will be conducted by the health inspector at a later date.

Minor Violations

Minor violations include such occurrences as:

  • Poorly constructed or maintained walls, ceilings or floors
  • Improper storage of soiled and clean linens, coats, and aprons
  • Unauthorized personnel in the food-prep area

Minor violations do not pose an immediate threat to the public’s health. A re-inspection is not performed if only minor violations are issued.

A more detailed list of all of the violations is available at the following link:

Violation Number Health Standard to Be Met Violation Type
  • All food shall be from sources by health authorities and safe for human consumption.
  • Shellfish shall be obtained from an approved source and kept in their original package until sold.
  • Molluscan shell stock shall be obtained in containers bearing legible source identification tags or labels.
  • All food establishments that prepare, sell, or store hot food shall have adequate hot food storage facilities.
  • All food establishments that display, prepare, or store potentially hazardous food shall have adequate refrigerated food storage facilities.
  • All hot food shall be stored at a temperature of 140°F or higher.
  • All cold food shall be stored at a temperature of 40°F or less.
V4 All food shall be protected from contamination and the elements, and so shall all food equipment, containers, utensils, food contact surfaces and devices, and vehicles Critical
V5 No person affected with or carrying any disease in a communicable form or afflicted with boils, infected wounds, sores, acute respiratory infection, or intestinal disorder shall work in any area of a food establishment in any capacity where there is a likelihood of that person contaminating food or food contact surfaces. Critical
V6 All employees who handle food shall wash their hands as often as necessary to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and should conform to hygienic practices prescribed by the Board of Health. Critical
V7 Hand washing of all tableware and drinking utensils shall be accomplished by the use of warm water at a temperature of 110°F to 120°F containing an adequate amount of detergent effective to remove grease and solids. Critical
V8 Equipment and utensils should get proper exposure to the sanitizing solution during the rinse cycle.  Bactericidal treatment shall consist of exposure of all dish and utensil surfaces to a rinse of clean water at a temperature of not less than 180°F. Critical
V9 All food establishments shall be provided with an adequate supply of hot and cold water under pressure properly connected to the city water supply. Critical
V10 In food establishments, there shall be adequate sewage and waste water disposal facilities that comply with all requirements of the plumbing section of the Municipal Code of Chicago. Critical
V11 Adequate and convenient toilet facilities shall be provided.  They should be properly designed, maintained, and accessible to employees at all times. Critical
V12 Adequate and convenient hand washing facilities shall be provided for all employees. Critical
V13 All necessary control measure shall be used to effectively minimize or eliminate the presence of rodents, roaches, and other vermin/insect infestations. Critical
V14 A separate and distinct offense shall be deemed to have been committed for each Serious violation that is not corrected upon re-inspection by the health authority. Critical

Violation Number

Violation Short Description Violation Type
V15 Food once served to a consumer shall not be re-served, with the exception of packaged food remaining in its original, unopened package. Serious
V16 All food should be properly protected from contamination during storage, preparation, display, service, and transportation. Serious
V17 Thawing frozen food for further processing shall be accomplished by storage in a refrigerator at 40°F or less, or by other approved method. Serious
V18 All necessary control measures shall be used to effectively minimize or eliminate the presence of rodents, roaches, and other vermin and insects on the premises of all food establishments, in food-transporting vehicles, and in vending machines. Serious
V19 The area outside of the establishment used for the storage of garbage shall be clean at all times and shall not constitute a nuisance. Serious
V20 All garbage and rubbish containing food wastes shall, prior to disposal, be stored in metal containers with tight fitting lids and shall be kept covered except when opened for the disposal or removal of garbage. Serious
V21 A certified food service manager must be present in all establishments at which potentially hazardous food is prepared or served. Serious
V22 All dishwashing machines shall maintain proper water pressure and must be provided with suitable thermometers, chemical test kits, and gauge cocks. Serious
V23 Dishes and other utensils shall be rinsed or scraped to remove gross food particles and other soil before washing. Serious
V24 All dishwashing machines must be of a type that complies with all requirements of the plumbing section of the Municipal Code of Chicago and Rules and Regulation of the Board of Health Serious
V25  Only such poisonous and toxic materials as are required to maintain sanitary conditions may be used in food establishments and they shall not be used in any hazardous manner. Serious
 V26  When toilet and lavatory facilities are provided for the patrons of food establishments, such facilities shall be adequate in number, convenient, accessible, properly designed, and installed according to the municipal code. Serious
V27 In all food establishments, toilet facilities shall be kept clean and in good repair and shall include an adequate supply of hot and cold or tempered water, soap, and approved sanitary towels or other approved hand-drying devices. Serious
 V28 One copy of the Food Inspection Report Summary must be displayed and visible to all customers. Serious
 V29 A separate and distinct offense shall be deemed to have been committed for each Minor violation that is not corrected upon re-inspection by the health authority. Serious
Violation Number Violation Short Description Violation Type
  • All food not stored in the original container shall be stored in properly labeled containers.
  • The licensee shall inform the public in writing of the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Consumer Advisory relating to consuming raw and undercooked animal products.
V31 Containers and utensils shall be inverted, covered, or otherwise protected from contamination until used.  All single-service drinking straws and containers shall be discarded immediately after use. Minor
V32 All food and non-food contact equipment and utensils shall be smooth, easily cleanable, and durable, and shall be in good repair. Minor
  • All utensils shall be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each usage.
  •  All food and non-food contact surfaces of equipment and all food storage utensils shall be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized daily.
V34 The floors shall be constructed per code, be smooth and easily cleaned, and be kept clean and in good repair. Minor
  • The walls and ceilings shall be in good repair and easily cleaned.
  • Use dustless cleaning methods.
  • All rooms in which food or drink is prepared, or in which utensils are washed, shall be lighted so that a minimum of 50-foot candles of light is available on all work surfaces.
  • Shielding to protect against broken glass falling into food shall be provided for all artificial lighting sources in preparation, service, and display facilities.
  • Toilet rooms shall be completely enclosed and shall be vented to the outside air or mechanically ventilated.
  • None of the operations connected with food establishments shall be conducted in any room used as living or sleeping quarters.
  • The flow of air discharged from kitchen fans shall always be through a duct to a point above the roofline.
  • All plumbing fixtures, such as toilets, sinks, washbasins, etc., must be adequately trapped, vented, and re-vented and properly connected to the sewer in accordance with the plumbing chapter of the Municipal Code of Chicago and the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Health.
V39 Soiled and clean linens, coats, and aprons shall be properly stored. Minor
V40 All food establishments that display, prepare, or store potentially hazardous foods shall have calibrated metal stem thermometers, provided and conspicuous, for refrigerated and hot food units. Minor
  • All parts of the food establishment and all parts of the property used in connection with the operation of the establishment shall be kept neat and clean and should not produce any offensive odors.
  • Cleaning equipment shall be properly stored away from food, utensils, equipment, and clean linens.
  • Only employees must dispense ice for consumer use with scoops, tongs, or other ice dispensing utensils. Customers must dispense ice through appropriate automatic self-service ice dispensing equipment.
  • All employees shall be required to use effective hair restraints to confine hair.
  • All employees must wear garments that are clean and of washable character and nature.
V43 Between uses and during storage ice dispensing utensils and ice receptacles shall be stored in a way that protects them from contamination. Minor
V44 The traffic of unnecessary persons through the food preparation and the utensil washing areas is prohibited. Minor
  No Smoking Regulations  


Inspection Results

Upon completion of the inspection, the health inspector will assign one of the following results:

Pass: No critical or serious violations were found.

Pass with Conditions:  Serious or critical violations were found, but were corrected during the inspection.

Fail: Serious or critical violations were found, but were not corrected during the inspection. If critical violations were found that were not corrected during the inspection, the health inspector will suspend the license, and the establishment must close.

A Written Summary Report is provided by the health inspector. This report must be posted prominently and in plain view of customers.

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