Food Program Frequently Asked Questions


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

California law does not require regulated food facilities to conspicuously post the health inspection report or results of the inspection. However, food facilities are required to maintain health 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 restaurant scores, restaurant grades, or restaurant ratings, but because inspections are a snapshot in time, a simple grading, scoring, or rating 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 to view complete food facility inspection results.

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

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

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.

  • 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.


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.

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: [email protected]
  • 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.

The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows Service Animals inside any area that the public is allowed to go. A Service Animal may only be a dog/animal that has been trained or is in training to perform a specific task and is recognized as a Service Animal under both the ADA and the California Health and Safety Code for food facilities. Click here to read more information regarding Service Dogs and Pets in Food Facilities or 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.

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.

"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. ​

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.

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.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final determination that foods that contain Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in human food. This means that food ingredients that contain trans fats may not be consumed or used in food at a retail food facility.

Read the fact sheet on Trans Fat and Partially Hydrogenated Oils regulation for more information.


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