Food Protection Program

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Environmental Health Services


Color-Coded Placarding Program

 Green PLACARD 2016.9.30Yellow PLACARD 2016.9.30Red PLACARD 2016.9.30

On July 1, 2017, Yolo County Environmental Health  (YCEH) implemented a color-coded placard program to rate food safety inspection results for restaurants, delicatessens, grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, licensed health care facilities, and mobile food facilities. 

Click here for a presentation which gives an overview of the program.  This presentation was offered to all retail food facilities during October 2016.

Click here for a handout with general information on the program.

Food Protection Program Information

Beginning July 1, 2007 the California Retail Food Facilities Law was replaced with the California Retail Food Code, or CalCode, which was signed into law on May 15, 2006 by Governor Schwarzenegger. CalCode is intended to create uniformity and consistency in the regulation of retail food facilities throughout the state. With the enactment of CalCode, Yolo County Environmental Health Specialists will be refocusing their inspections to emphasize the most common foodborne illness risk factors and public health interventions as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Assuring that the risk factors do not occur is vital to preventing foodborne illnesses. The public health interventions have been identified as methods to protect consumer health.

Food related illness is a serious matter, it could result in short term pain and discomfort or long-term chronic disease and even death. To prevent food-borne illness, Yolo County Environmental Health Specialists working in the food protection program:

  • Permit and inspect over 700 retail food businesses including restaurants, markets, school cafeterias, bakeries and bars in addition to over 400 mobile food vendors and special event food booths
  • Review construction plans and inspect new and remodeled food facilities
  • Investigate complaints regarding violations of the California Health & Safety Law including unsanitary conditions
  • Investigate suspected food-borne illness cases

    The foodborne illness risk factors are:

    • Food from Unsafe Sources
    • Inadequate Cooking
    • Improper Holding Temperatures
    • Improper Cooling
    • Contaminated Equipment
    • Poor Personal Hygiene

    The public health interventions are:

    • Demonstration of Knowledge
    • Employee Health
    • Time/Temperature Control
    • Hands as a Vehicle of Contamination
    • Consumer Advisory


    Types of Food Businesses

    Starting your own food business can be a very exciting and stressful venture. Extensive research should be done to determine which laws and regulations would apply to your business. In addition to the Yolo County Environmental Health Division, you may also need to contact additional state, county and/or city departments and agencies for building and permit requirements.
    • What type of food business are you interested in? Will it be a full-service restaurant or will it be a simple pushcart? The following are highlights of some of the more important considerations:
      • Permanent Food Facilities are those operating in a permanently constructed structure. Examples are restaurants, cafeterias, markets, delis, bakeries, and bars.

      • Mobile Food Facilities are vehicles that must operate in conjunction with a permanent food facility or commissary. Lunch trucks and ice-cream carts are examples.

      • Community Events and Temporary Food Facilities are those operating at a fixed location for the duration of an approved community event.

      • Cottage Food Operations are those operating in a residential kitchen making non-hazardous food and selling the finished product directly to the consumer.



    Permit to Operate

    Permits to Operate: Unless specifically exempt, all retail food businesses are required to have a permit to operate from the local health department. The operator must submit an application for a health permit at least two weeks prior to beginning food sales. The permit is valid only for the person and food service, and is non-transferable and non-refundable. For more information on fees associated with a permit to operate, please refer to the Yolo County Environmental Health Fee Schedule. The application for a permit to operate a food business can be located online or picked up at the Environmental Health office during business hours.

    **Operating without a valid permit is subject to citation to court and penalties. Twice the permit fee may be levied for operating without a permit.

    If your food business is a whole sale food business then contact the California Department of Public Health  Food Safety Program for licensing requirements.  Click here for a link to the website.


    Food Handling Processes Guidelines 

    Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storing are essential in preventing foodborne illnesses. Oftentimes the bacteria that cause illness cannot be seen, smelled, or even tasted. It is important to always follow these guidelines to keep food safe
    • COOK: Cook raw meat, fish, poultry, shellfish and eggs thoroughly. The best way to tell if items are cooked thoroughly is to measure the internal temperature. Cook ground meats, poultry, or stuffed poultry to 165°F.
    • HOLD: After cooking meats, gravies, poultry, seafood, beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, and vegetables, yes, even cooked onions, hold at 135°F or higher to prevent growth of food borne illness microbes. Don't leave these foods out at lukewarm or room temperatures.
    • CHILL: Quickly cool leftovers to 41°F or less by dividing into small, easy to cool portions and placing them uncovered in the refrigerator. Cover them after cooling is completed. Refrigerate perishable foods including sprouts, soft cheeses, milk and cut melons to 41°F and less.
    • DON'T CROSS-CONTAMINATE: Don't spread germs from raw foods to ready to eat foods. Wash your hands frequently, especially after contamination from using the toilet; touching the face, nose or mouth; tending to a sick person; changing baby's diaper; handling pets and handling raw animal flesh. Wash knives, cutting boards, counter tops, wiping rags or any other utensil that comes into contact with raw meat or its juices. Don't forget to sanitize them too!!

    Fact sheets detailing food handling processes including basic food handling guidelines, meat and poultry preparation, seasonal food safety tips, and food labeling requirements can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture website.

      • PROPER HAND WASHING HELPS PREVENT FOODBORNE ILLNESS!!! One of the most important steps in preventing the spread of disease is to use proper hand washing techniques. Even though hand washing may seem like a basic task, it is something that many people fail to do properly. * Hand sanitizer should never be used in place of proper hand washing. * You should wash your hands frequently including before working with food, clean utensils, linens or food contact surfaces; when switching the type of food that you are working with; after touching your face, skin or hair; after touching anything that may contaminate the hands (including money); after using the restroom, coughing or sneezing; eating or smoking; and after handling soiled utensils or equipment.

    Follow these steps to help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria:

    1. Wet hands and arms with running water, as hot as you can comfortably stand.
    2. Apply soap and lather well.
    3. Scrub hands and arms thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. A nailbrush may be used to clean under the nails and between fingers.
    4. Rinse thoroughly from the wrists down to the fingertips.
    5. Dry hands and arms with a single-use towel or a hand air dryer. Never dry hands on kitchen towels, aprons, or wiping cloths.



    Foodborne Illness Information

    Foodborne illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. There are more than 250 types of foodborne illnesses according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Due to the large numbers of illnesses that can be transmitted through food, it is difficult to diagnose a single symptom as being an indication of a foodborne disease; however, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea are all common symptoms (bacteria causing the illness can enter through the gastrointestinal tract). It is estimated that 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur in the United States each year. The majority of cases are mild and last for only a day or two; however, some cases are more severe and may result in hospitalizations or even death. Severe cases generally occur in the very old and very young, and those with an already compromised immune system.

    Foodborne Illness Frequently Asked Questions

    What do I do if I think I have food poisoning?

    Contact your physician: For medical treatment advice and possible treatment, timely consult your doctor. Encourage your physician to run medical tests to identify the exact illness-causing agent since many symptoms mimic food borne illnesses. Make a list of the foods that you have eaten within several days before the illness as it may sometimes take several days for symptoms to arise. Test results and food-eating history are important investigative clues.

    Contact Environmental Health: 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 Yolo County you may call (530) 666-8646 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 three days prior to the first signs of illness, as this information is critical for the investigation.  To submit a report online, click here.

    Why does Environmental Health investigate foodborne illness?

    Environmental Health officials track foodborne illness reports to determine if there is a possible foodborne disease outbreak. An outbreak is when two or more people consume the same contaminated food and come down with the same illness. These outbreaks are reported to the California Department of Public Health and to the Centers for Disease Control to watch for larger scale outbreaks. Outbreaks are an indication of something that needs to be improved in the food safety system. Investigations help to identify where these improvements should be made and to put measures into place to prevent future outbreaks.



    Frequently Asked Questions 

    Do all food facilities have to have a Food Safety Certified person? 

    All food facilities that prepare, handle, or serve food must have at least one adult employee who has successfully passed an approved Food Safety Certification test.  The individual who is Certified must be able to instruct all other employees in food safety measures.  The Certified person at one food facility may not serve at any other food facility as the Certified person.  The Certified person need not be present at all times, however, must be regularly present / employed at the food facility.  If the Certified person leaves, his or her replacement must obtain Food Safety Certification within 60 days of leaving.

    Certification is obtainable by successfully passing an approved test.  For a list of approved Food Safety Certification providers, click here.  The Certification is good for 5 years.  The original Certificate (not a copy) must be kept at the food facility and made available for review during a food inspection.  Expired Certificates must be renewed within 60 days of expiration.

    Temporary Food Facility Operators must demonstrate safe food handling techniques, but are not required to have a person who is Food Safety Certified.  Those food facilities that sell foods that are not perishable, whether prepackaged or not, are exempt from needing a Food Safety Certified person.

    Food Service Operators with a thorough understanding of safe food handling is key to providing wholesome and safe food to the public.


    If a facility has a Food Safety Certified person, why do other employees need a Food Handler Card?

    In 2010 California has adopted the California Food Handler Card Law. This law went into effect on July 1, 2011. This law requires all employees who prepare, store, or serve food to obtain a California Food Handler Card.  Please view the Yolo County's California Food Handler Card Law handout and California Food Handler Card Q & A for more information.

    Food Safety Certification Class List

    Are employees required to wear gloves in food facilities?

    No, employees are not required to wear gloves in food facilities.  However, food employees are required to minimize bare hand and arm contact with non-prepackaged food that is in a ready to eat form by using utensils or gloves.  Food employees may use bear hands to contact food if they have properly washed their hands.  The only exception to this is if a food employee has a cut, sore , rash, artificial nails, nail polish, ornate rings, un-cleanable orthopedic support devices or fingernails that are not clean, smooth, or neatly trimmed then they must wear gloves.  

    Are employees required to wear hairnets in restaurants?

    No, however employees that prepare food shall wear hair restraints such as hats, hair coverings, or nets to keep hair from contacting food, equipment, or utensils.

    I saw a cockroach/mouse at a restaurant. What do I do?

    If you have a complaint about unhealthy conditions such as uncleanliness, poor food handling practices, or unsafe food, fill out the online complaint form or contact the Yolo County Environmental Health Department at (530) 666-8646 to make a complaint. An Environmental Health Specialist will investigate the complaint. If you have a complaint about poor service, please complain to the restaurant manager and/or the Better Business Bureau. The Yolo County Environmental Health Services does not handle customer service complaints.

    My refrigerator door was accidentally left open overnight. Can I still eat the food inside? My power went out in the storm. Is the food in my refrigerator/freezer still safe to eat?

    The answer to this question depends on the temperature of the food and how long it was held without refrigeration. Use a food thermometer to measure the temperature on the inside of the food. If the food is not above 41°F, then it should be safe to eat. If the food has been above 41°F, then it is critical to determine how long it has been above 41°F. If the food has been above 41°F for less than 2 hours, it should be safe for immediate use. If the food has been above 41°F for more than 2 hours, then it should be discarded.  Click here for the FDA fact sheet on Food and Water Safety During Power Outages.  

    I saw someone with a dog inside a grocery store? Is that allowed?

    Yes, if the dog is a service animal or a police dog. Dogs or other animals that are not service animals are not allowed inside a food facility. Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  For more information on service animals please read the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA Service Animal Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions.

    Effective January 1, 2015 pet dogs may be permitted in an outdoor dining area under certain conditions.  Click here for more information on pet dogs in outdoor dining areas.

    Can I use additives or medicinal ingredients in my food product? 

    Any ingredients added to a conventional food must be used in accordance with a food additive regulation, unless it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its intended use. The use of a food ingredient that is neither GRAS nor an approved food additive causes a food to be adulterated.

    Are wineries required to have a health permit to serve food with their wine tastings?

    It depends on what type of food is being offered. Nonpotentially hazardous (nonperishable) foods such as crackers and chocolates, that are from an approved source can be offered as part of the wine tasting experience without a health permit. If a winery wishes to offer potentially hazardous foods, such as cheese, then a health permit will be required. For more information review our Food Service in Wineries FAQ, Food Service in Wineries Handout, and Food Service in Wineries Presentation.

    Can breweries have food vendors sell food at their brewery?

     Yes, as long as the food vendor is a mobile food facility that has a permit to operate in Yolo County. Other food vendors with temporary food facility or catering permits are not allowed to sell food at a brewery. Temporary food vendors are limited to selling only at community events while caterer's are limited to serving food at private events.  For more information on food distribution at breweries click here.  For more information on temporary food vendors and community events click here.



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