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Food Program: Common Restaurant and Retail Questions Answered

The Health & Safety Code prohibits the entrance of dogs into retail food facilities except for “Service Animals”, defined in the Health & Safety Code as animals such as a guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.  There are some exceptions where animals could be seen either in or around retail food facilities and it would NOT be considered a violation: 

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), governed by the federal government’s U.S. Department of Justice, requires businesses, including retail food facilities, to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. The ADA law supersedes the California Health & Safety Code in those instances.  More information regarding “service animals” can be found at: 

  1. Pet dogs are not exclusively prohibited from outdoor dining areas, such as patios or common areas, such as food courts as long as there is a separate entrance that allows access into the areas without entering into a food facility and no active food preparation is occurring. 

Manufacturers of baby food and baby formula are required to date their products. After this date, these products must be removed from sale. However, with all other packaged food products, code dates are voluntary. Manufacturers who choose to include these voluntary dates often do to indicate a peak taste or nutritional value.

Yes. Temporary food operations have specific requirements that are contained in the California Health and Safety Code. The Division has developed a policy that can assist you in preparing food legally from temporary facilities operating at approved events. 

The Environmental Health Division investigates consumer complaints regarding food safety and sanitation at all retail food facilities in Orange County. If you have a consumer complaint regarding an Orange County food facility, please call 714-433-6000 to report the complaint. Please provide the name and address of the facility you want to be investigated and explain the conditions you are reporting. 

All reports of possible foodborne illness reported to this Division are investigated. If you believe that you became ill due to a food product purchased in Orange County, you may call 714-433-6000 to report the incident. Be prepared to answer questions about the onset time, duration, and types of symptoms. Try to compile a list of all foods and drinks consumed for the two days prior to the first signs of illness, as this information is critical for the investigation. Some commercially distributed, prepackaged foods are regulated by other State or Federal agencies. The Environmental Health Division can assist in making referrals to the correct agency.  

The Environmental Health Division does not routinely perform laboratory testing on food products in the possession of the consumer. If testing is conducted, it is usually done as part of an ongoing investigation. The Environmental Health Specialist in charge of the investigation will ask for a product release from the consumer if testing is necessary. If you would like a product tested for your own information, there are a number of private analytical testing laboratories listed in the telephone directory that have the ability to test food.

An Environmental Health Specialist will look at how food is being handled, stored, and prepared; the personal hygiene and habits of the employees; the general cleanliness of the facility; and observe the operation of a food facility to determine the level of sanitation. The Environmental Health Specialist has access to the entire food facility, but as a consumer, you can also view some of these things from the dining area. If you would like to see an inspection report please visit here.

You may view the latest inspection report here.

The California Retail Food Code (CRFC) Section 114021(b) states that food prepared in a private home may not be used or offered for sale in a food facility. In addition, CRFC Section 114285(b) states that a private home, a room used as living or sleeping quarters, or an area directly opening into a room used as living or sleeping quarters shall not be used for conducting food facility operations.

If you buy an existing food facility and do not change the building or the equipment, call 714-433-6000 to find the inspector for your area. Make an appointment with the inspector for a health-permit inspection. The inspector will have you fill out a health permit application. This information is necessary to issue a health permit to you. The permit is only valid for the person, location and type of food sales listed on the permit application. The permits are non-transferable.

If you plan to build or remodel a food facility, it is necessary to submit three copies of detailed plans and specifications to Orange County Environmental Health. These plans must be approved by the Plan Check and Construction Section before you begin work. When you receive approval on the plans, you may begin construction. Contact your plan checker when the project is 75% to 80% completed for a preliminary construction inspection. Upon completion of the construction, contact your plan checker for a final inspection. You need final approval prior to opening for business. For more information, call 714-433-6074.

Hot and cold holding temperatures are only required for potentially hazardous foods. Potentially hazardous foods are foods that are capable of supporting the rapid growth of disease-causing microorganisms (e.g. meat, dairy, poultry, fish, and other high moisture foods). Potentially hazardous foods must be held at or below 41 degrees F or at above 135 degrees F. The California Retail Food Code also contains minimum cooking temperature requirements for potentially hazardous foods. For more information on cooking temperature requirements, call 714-433-6000 to request a cooking temperature informational bulletin. 

The California Retail Food Code does not prohibit bare-hand contact with food, as long as the food worker complies with the strict handwashing requirements in the law and does not engage in any activity which could contaminate the food. The Environmental Health Division strongly encourages the use of utensils whenever possible to minimize bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. To obtain information on this, please call 714-433-6000, and ask for the bulletin on "Handwashing Requirements".