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The Winnebago County Health Department is responsible for licensing and inspection of approximately 624 permanent food establishments and an average of 400 temporary food service stands.  Winnebago County is an agent for the State of Wisconsin under State Statute 254.69.

Inspections in Winnebago County are conducted by Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) who are either state certified Registered Sanitarians (RS) or nationally certified Registered Environmental Health Specialists (REHS)  and are commonly called “Health Inspectors.”   Current EHS’s have 4 year college degrees are continually undergoing education and training to keep them current.

EHS’s work hand in hand with food establishment operators to ensure that food is safe for the public.  Our goals for this program are:

  • To reduce exposure to environmental and safety hazards in licensed facilities.
  • To increase the knowledge and safety practices of local establishment operators to reduce illness and injury.
  • To promote awareness of the things people can do to keep their food, water, and recreational resources safe.
  • To protect and advise the public in times of food or water borne illness outbreaks and in time of crisis disaster.


Establishments serving or selling food to the public in Winnebago County are required by state statute to obtain a permit from the Health Department.  Permits are issued after a preinspection is conducted to confirm compliance with the Wisconsin Food Code. Routine inspections are conducted during normal operation of the food service establishment and are normally unannounced and are risk based.

Risk Based Inspections are conducted using the following processes:

  • Following the flow of food throughout the food facility.
  • Observation and verification of proper food safety practices and procedures.
  • Discussion and dialogue with the food service employees and management.

The inspection is focused on identifying risk factors and good retail practices in addition to providing education and information on proper food safety practices.ans the improper practices or procedures that have been identified by the Centers for De generally unannounced.

Risk factors - the improper practices or procedures that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through epidemiological data, as the contributing factors of foodborne illness or injury. “Risk Factor” includes:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Food from unsafe source
  • Inadequate cooking
  • Improper holding temperatures
  • Contaminated equipment
  • Good Retail Practices - the practices or procedures that focus on general sanitation in the food establishment.

    If violations are observed during routine inspections, they are described in an inspection report with reference to a relevant section of the Wisconsin Food Code (WFC). Violations that result in immediate health hazards to the general public are corrected immediately.

    Please keep in mind that any inspection report is a "snapshot" of the day and time of the inspection. On any given day, a restaurant could have fewer or more violations than noted in the report. An inspection conducted on any given day may not be representative of the overall, long-term operation of an establishment.


    Pre-inspection - an inspection used for a new establishment or an existing establishment under new ownership. A pre-inspection must be completed before an establishment can be open for business.

    Routine inspection - a risk based inspection covering all items in the Wisconsin Food Code. Routine inspections are conducted at least once within the licensing year and are usually unannounced.

    Re-inspection - an inspection that is required when risk factor violations are noted on the routine inspection report and cannot be corrected onsite or when consecutive violations are noted.

    Follow Up Inspection - an inspection that is used at the discretion of the inspector to check back with the establishment operator to assure that violations have been corrected following a routine inspection. Unlike a reinspection this is not required.


    Restaurant Complexity Categories: complexity categories are used to evaluate the type of potential risk in the food establishment based on the type of food service activities as indicated in the following chart and is reviewed annually:

    Complexity Factors Point(s):

    The restaurant contains a self-service salad or food bar.1
    The restaurant handles raw poultry, meat, or seafood.1
    The seating capacity of the restaurant or operation is 50 or more.1
    Food is served through a drive through window for food pickup.1
    The restaurant promotes delivery of ready−to−eat food products to customers.1
    Potentially hazardous foods are cooled, reheated, or hot or cold held for service longer than 4 hours.1
    Food is prepared in one location and then transported to be served in another location.1
    The restaurant contains or uses banquet facilities as well as main dining area.1
    Food is served that requires preparation activities such as chopping, dicing, slicing, boiling, and blanching in order for that product to be served. 1

    Low (Simple) - a restaurant, whose total point value equals zero.

    Moderate - a restaurant, whose total point value is at least one but not greater than 4.

    High (Complex) - a restaurant, whose total point value equals 5 or greater.

                * A restaurant that has been ordered closed by a state or local health department or that has

                 caused a foodborne outbreak within the previous licensing year shall be included in the complex


    Pre-Packaged Category - a restaurant that serves only individually wrapped single food servings that are prepared and packaged off premise by a licensed processor with preparation on the premise limited to heating and serving


    Priority Observations - violations such as improper cooking, reheating, cooling, or handwashing. These violations are known to cause foodborne illnesses. Uncorrected priority observations usually result in a reinspection.

    Priority Foundation Observations - violations such as no soap or single use toweling available for handwashing, failure of the person in charge to properly train employees, not maintaining required documentation, labeling or records. These observations support or enable a priority violation and may contribute to a foodborne illness. Priority foundation observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.

    Core Observations - violations that usually relate to general sanitation, operational controls, sanitation standard operating procedures, facilities or structures, equipment design, or general maintenance. Core observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.