Food Program Frequently Asked Questions

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Food Safety Program
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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I learn the results of a food facility inspection?

Up to two years of food facility inspection scores are posted online. Visit eatsafeslo.org to search for food facility inspection results.

Why aren't food facility inspection results conspicuously posted at each food facility within San Luis Obispo County?

California law does not require regulated food facilities to conspicuously post the inspection report or results of the inspection. However, facilities are required to maintain inspection reports on-site and must provide them upon request to anyone who wants to see the results.

Each health agency has the discretion to post scores or grades, but because inspections are a snapshot in time, a simple grading or scoring system may not accurately represent the day-to-day operational behaviors. In some cases, some restaurants that earn poor scores during a routine inspection could potentially try to artificially boost their scores by requesting a re-inspection. They may fix the issues that were found during the inspection, but the overall score doesn't tell the public about the actual issues that were found. This would be unfair to other restaurants that truly earned a higher score and had fewer health code violations during a routine inspection.

To put it simply: The grading or scoring system oversimplifies the results in a manner that may actually be misleading regarding what was found during a particular inspection.

It's much more beneficial for individuals to read the comments of each inspection and not rely on any assigned score. That's why we post full inspection results online, including the comments and the score. Visit eatsafeslo.org to view complete food facility inspection results.

Under which laws are restaurants and retail markets regulated?

Regulatory requirements for restaurants and retail markets are mandated by the California Retail Food Code which is available for download.

Which law grants inspectors the authority to inspect food facilities?

Authority is granted under the California Retail Food Code, Article 2 Enforcement Section 114390.

Can I sell food from my home? Does my home need to be permitted?

This type of operation is called Cottage Food Operation (CFO). The operation and the type of food you are going to prepare need to be approved.

For more information on Cottage Food Operations allowances, limitations, and requirements, visit the California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch Cottage Food Operations website.

Information regarding becoming registered or permitted to conduct Cottage Food Operation within San Luis Obispo County can be found here.

I plan to take over an existing food facility. What do I need to do?
  • The food facility Health Permit to Operate is non-transferrable.

 

  • If you are taking over an existing food facility and are not planning to remodel, change any equipment, or change the menu, please visit our food facility health permitting page for information on acquiring a permit to operate.

 

  • If you plan to remodel, change any equipment, or change the menu, you must submit a written plan or proposal to Environmental Health Services prior to remodeling or making any significant menu or equipment changes to an existing food facility. Some proposals may require plan submittal. 

 

  • If you plan to construct a new food facility, you must submit an application and three sets of plans along with equipment specifications for review and approval prior to beginning construction.
If I provide food for free to the general public am I still required to obtain a food facility health permit?

Yes.

Any operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides to the general public for human consumption is required to obtain a Health Permit to Operate a food facility regardless of whether there is a charge for the food.

For more information, refer to section 113789 of the California Retail Food Code which defines what is and what is not a food facility. Any operation which is defined as a food facility is regulated by Environmental Health Services.

What do I do if I become ill after eating at a restaurant?

If this is an urgent medical emergency, immediately contact your medical professional or 911 if necessary.

If you believe you have acquired a foodborne illness, it is very important to report it as soon as possible to ensure a prompt response and prevent continued illness from occurring.

Please fill out and a Foodborne Illness Investigation Form and submit to Environmental Health Services:

  • Email:  Email completed form to: ehs@co.slo.ca.us
  • Fax:  Fax completed form to (805) 781-4211
  • In Person:  Submit completed form to front counter staff
  • Contact Us: directly from this website

It is also strongly advised that you report the problem directly to the restaurant or market where the alleged contaminated food was purchased.

View more information regarding foodborne illness, reportable diseases, and to submit a Foodborne Illness Investigation form.

Are pets allowed inside food facilities?

The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows Service Animals inside any area that the public is allowed to go.  Service Animals are only dogs/animals that have been trained or are in training to perform a specific task and are recognized as Service Animals under both the ADA and the California Halth and Safety Code for food facilities.  Visit the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website on Service Animals for answers to frequently asked questions.

If you believe you have observed a pet inside of a food facility that you don't believe is a Service Animal, please contact us to report it to Environmental Health Services.

Does my brewery or wine tasting room need a Health Permit to Operate?

It depends on your operation.  If you only sell or serve crackers, pretzels, or pre-packaged food items that are non-perishable and do not exceed 25 sq. ft. of display space, then you do not need a food facility health permit. However, if you sell prepackaged food that is non-perishable but exceeds 25 sq. ft. of display space, or sell prepackaged or open foods that are perishable, then a health permit is required.

In this case, the food service section of your establishment must meet all construction and equipment standards of the California Retail Food Code and be approved by Environmental Health Services.

Visit our food facility permitting page for more information on acquiring a health permit.

What is Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP)?

"Reduced-Oxygen Packaging" (ROP) means the reduction of the amount of Oxygen in a package by mechanically evacuating the Oxygen, displacing the Oxygen with another gas or combination of gases, or otherwise controlling the Oxygen content in a package to a level below that normally found in the surrounding atmosphere (i.e. Vacuum Packaging, Sous Vide, Cook Chill, Canning or Jarring, modified Atmospheric Packing (MAP), and Controlled Atmospheric Packaging (CAP).

Performing Reduced-Oxygen Packaging in any food facility requires a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan approved by the California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch prior to implementation. ‚Äč

What is the difference between a retail and a wholesale food facility?

Retail food facilities provide food directly to the consumer or indirectly through a delivery service. Examples include but are not limited to restaurants and retail markets.

Wholesale food facilities provide food to other businesses for resale. Examples of wholesale products include but are not limited to bottled and canned items, meat processing, and meat packing.

  • Wholesale food facilities are regulated by state and/or federal agencies depending on the type of food being manufactured or produced as outlined in the Agency Referral List.
    • Internet sales of food products are also regulated by state and/or federal agencies, not Environmental Health Services.
Where can I take a food manager or food worker certification course?

At least one person (owner or employee) at each food facility where unpackaged foods are handled is required to maintain current Food Safety Certification obtained through an approved and accredited food manager course. This person is responsible for ensuring adequate knowledge of all other food employees.

Additionally, all other employees involved in the preparation, storage, and/or service of food are required to maintain a valid Food Handler Card obtained through an approved and accredited food handler course.

A list of course options can be found here.