How to Find Out if Your Favorite Restaurant Passed Inspection

Avoiding food poisoning – how to find out if your favorite restaurant passed inspection

Food poisoning is a common – yet preventable – public health problem.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food borne diseases each year.

Most cases of food poisoning last a few hours to several days, and are accompanied by symptoms that resemble intestinal flu.  However, food poisoning can be deadly – particularly in cases of botulism, or when food poisoning strikes infants, the ill, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.

Restaurant Inspections in Virginia

In Virginia, facilities that prepare and serve food to the public are required to have a license and to submit themselves to periodic inspections in order to ensure that they are safe.[1]  Licenses must be prominently displayed within the establishment.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) inspects each facility one to four times per year, and describes the results of its inspections in a report.  These inspection reports are available electronically at the following website:  From this web page, simply click on the “District Sites” link, and then select the health district where the facility is located.

Although the web page is called the “Restaurant Inspections,” it is not limited to restaurants.  The VDH publishes the inspection reports for almost every facility where food is prepared and served, such as schools, daycare centers, adult living facilities, gyms, public and private clubs, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, and correctional centers.


Violations are typically classified as either critical, posing a direct or immediate threat to safety, or non-critical, representing a failure of cleaning or maintenance.

It is important to keep in mind that inspection reports might not reflect the overall long-term cleanliness of the establishment because they are 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.  According to inspectors, it is unrealistic to expect that a complex, full-service food operation will be completely free of violations.  Inspectors also note that many inspection violations are corrected on-the-spot prior to the inspector leaving the establishment.

Nevertheless, in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning, consumers might wish to avoid facilities that frequently have critical violations, especially if follow-up inspections reveal that the facilities have not corrected their critical violations.

The attorneys at Allen & Allen have experience handling complex food litigation cases. If you or a loved one

About The Author: Ashley Davis is an attorney at Allen & Allen. Her role enables her to serve as a valuable resource to a team of 38 trial attorneys. She has more than 15 years of legal experience and focuses her practice on complex litigation, products liability, and food borne illness.

[1] Va. Code § 35.1-18 (licenses required); Va. Code § 35.1-22 (periodic inspections); Va. Code § 35.1-5 (Virginia Department of Health has the right to enter and inspect the facility).