The work of the Health Division
The Health Division makes sure all businesses in Boston meet state sanitary codes. We inspect businesses that offer food to the public, including:
- retail food stores
- temporary food vendors
- restaurants and caterers
- daycares, hospitals, and nursing homes
- food trucks and carts
- camps for children, and
- swimming pools and baths.
We inspect businesses at least once a year. We do follow-up inspections if the work of a business puts it at risk to break sanitary codes. We also respond to all complaints of unsanitary conditions or illnesses.
What to do if you have a complaint
If you have a complaint about a local food business, you can call us at 617-635-5326 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. You can also call or contact 311. Either way, only we know about your complaint.
If you think you got sick from eating somewhere, you should first contact your doctor. After that, contact the Boston Public Health Commission, and then file a complaint with us. We’ll investigate the establishment.
Food service regulations and codes
We add each food service business to our database when we inspect them. The Mayor's Food Court is our online database that keeps track of food service businesses in the City. You can see ratings based on violations and other data.Letter grading system
The City of Boston adopted an ordinance to create a restaurant and food truck letter grading system. The system protects consumers and provides them with information about recent health inspections.
We turn violations into a numerical point system. We then use this information to give letter grades that are placed on the wall outside of the establishment. Learn more about our grading system.Food service permits
All businesses must apply for a permit before they can offer food to the public. Learn how to apply for a food permit.
Part of the permitting process is to get certified as a food manager. The required program teaches you how to handle food the right way. Learn more about the food manager program.
CHANGES TO THE FOOD CODE
We've made a few important changes to the food code:
- You must have one full-time worker who is at least 18 and passed the food safety exam.
- You must put a person in charge who knows about food safety. You always need a person in charge working when you're open. If one of your workers is sick, the person in charge needs to report it.
- Never use bare hands to handle ready-to-eat foods. Let consumers know about foodborne illness risks if you serve raw or undercooked animal food.
- If you plan to leave food out of temperature control for up to four hours, you have to give us your plan for potentially risky food.
If you get a violation
If you violated a health code during an inspection, the inspector will give you a notice. They'll go over it with you so you understand how to solve the issue. If you didn't go over it with the inspector, contact them now. You can find their information on your violation notice.