Consumer Food

Q1: How do I get a permit for my restaurant or other food facility? 

A01: An application and fee must be submitted to the Environmental Health Division prior to opening. If the food establishment is new or undergoing remodeling, contact the Environmental Health Division at 559-624-7400 before the application is submitted. 

Q02:  What does the inspector do when he/she goes out to a restaurant or grocery store? Does the facility know he/she is coming?

A02:  The Environmental Health Specialist has many things to do when conducting an inspection. Primarily, we inspect the food facility to determine if it complies with the requirements of the California Health and Safety Code (CHSC). Sometimes an inspection is confined to a specific problem resulting from a complaint, and at other times the inspection may be very comprehensive.

All inspections are conducted with the intent to observe conditions which may contribute to food-borne illness. All problems noted during the inspection are brought to the attention of the management and violations are pursued to correction.

The food facility does not usually know when the specialist will be conducting routine inspections or complaint investigations. Follow-up and permit inspections may be scheduled in advance.

Q03:  What is the difference between a "Food Facility" and a "Restaurant"?

A03:  "Food Facility" means an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level.

Food facilities include restaurants as well as markets, bakeries, liquor stores, bars, certified farmers' market, food service at fairs and festivals, catering trucks, hot dog carts, ice cream trucks, produce vehicles, and retail stores that sell prepackaged food. Any business that sells food for public consumption is considered a "food facility," of which restaurants are the most common examples.

Q04:  Can I open a food business or prepare food for sale from my home?

A04:  Food may not be prepared, stored, or sold from a private home unless permitted as a Cottage Food Operation. Please see the cottage food page for more information for more information, including restrictions on the types of foods that can be prepared at home.

Q05:  Am I required to pass a food safety certification exam before I open a restaurant?

A05:  Any food facility that sells unpackaged food (such as a restaurant or bar); a mobile food preparation unit (such as a "taco truck" or "hot truck"); or a commissary, is required to have an owner or employee who has successfully passed an approved and accredited food safety certification examination.

Any of the above food facilities that commences operation, changes ownership, or no longer has a certified owner or employee has up to 60 days to have an owner or employee successfully pass (or hire someone that has already passed) an approved and accredited food safety certification examination. 

Q06:  Are employees required to wear gloves in food facilities?

A06:  Gloves shall be worn when contacting food and food contact surfaces if the employee has any cuts, sores, rashes, artificial nails, nail polish, rings (other than a plain ring, such as a wedding band), uncleanable orthopedic support devices, or fingernails that are not clean, neatly trimmed and smooth. Whenever gloves are worn, they shall be changed, replaced, or washed as often as hand washing is required. When single-use gloves are used, they shall be replaced after removal.

Q07:  Are employees required to wear hairnets in restaurants?

A07:  All employees shall wear hairnets, caps, or other suitable coverings to confine all hair when required to prevent the contamination of food, equipment, or utensils.

Q8:  What do I do if I think I got sick from eating at a restaurant?

A18:  All suspected food poisoning and food-born illness complaints should be called in to 559-624-7400. You should call the division as soon as possible in order for the Environmental Health Specialist to complete a thorough investigation. Be sure you have the restaurant's name and a street address before calling. Also, consult with your doctor if your symptoms are severe and/or you want a definitive diagnosis.

Q9:  I think the employees in a restaurant I frequent are not being sanitary. What can I do?

A9:  Call 559-624-7400 or fill out a complaint form online. By describing what you witnessed and where, an inspector can investigate your complaint. The inspector will conduct an investigation and document any information noted from the visit.

Q10:  When cooking, what temperature should my food reach to be safe?

A10:  Foods that contain ground beef need to be cooked until the internal temperature is 155º F. Pork must be cooked until the internal temperature is 145º F. Poultry must be cooked until the internal temperature is 165º F.

Measuring the internal temperature with a metal-stemmed probe thermometer is the only safe way of determining when the product is done. Relying on the color of the meat juices is not always a reliable way of determining doneness.

Q11:  How cold do I need to keep my refrigerator? How can I be sure it's cold enough? And, how long can I keep food in the refrigerator?

A11:  Your refrigerator should be kept between 35º and 39º Fahrenheit. The only sure way to determine the actual temperature of the refrigerator is to measure it with an accurate thermometer - do not rely on a thermostat control "number" as a reliable indication of temperature.

The length of time that foods stay fresh depends on the type of food and the temperature of the refrigerator. One good rule of thumb is, "When in doubt, throw it out!"

Q12:  I've heard about the "danger zone" - what is it exactly?

A12:  The "danger zone" for food preparation and storage is the temperature range where bacteria grow quickly. The "danger zone" is between 41º and 135ºF.

Q13:  What are the safest ways to thaw meat?

A13:  The safest way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. Be sure to place the frozen product in a pan or on a plate to prevent raw juices from leaking onto shelves. Place the thawing product on the lower most shelf in the refrigerator so that raw juices do not cross-contaminate clean vegetables and other ready-to-eat foods.

Another acceptable thawing method is to submerge under cold running water for not more than 2 hours. The water should be of sufficient velocity to flush food particles into the sink drain.

You can also safely thaw frozen foods in the microwave oven and then transfer the product to the stove for further cooking. You can also go directly to the cooking process if the product can be properly unwrapped. 

Q14:  How do I find out about inspections for a specific restaurant?

A14:  Each food facility inspected by Tulare County is required to have its latest food inspection report available upon request, although it does not have to be posted. The food inspection report is issued to the operator or manager at the time of the inspection.

Current food inspection reports are available for review on theFood Facility Inspections web page

Temporary Food Facilities

Q15:  What is a temporary food facility?

A15:  A temporary food facility is a food facility operating out of temporary facilities, such as at a fair or street festival. The temporary food facility is at a fixed location for the duration of the approved community event. Temporary food facilities must be approved by this division. 

Q16:  Do I need a health permit for temporary events?

A16:  Yes, when you serve food to the general public (either selling or giving away food), a permit is required.

Q17:  Can I have a temporary event permit applications mailed to me?

A17:  Yes. However it is best to call the Tulare County Environmental Health Division at 559-624-7400 and discuss specific permit requirements for your event prior to completing the application package. 

Q18:  Do I need to have an enclosed food booth?

A18:  Yes, unless you only have prepackaged food items.

Q19:  What kind of equipment can be placed outside the food booth?

A19:  A BBQ or any large flame cooking device. Check with your local fire department for more information. If the local fire department requires the equipment to be outside the booth, then we will allow it.

Q20:  What is the deadline to apply for a temporary event food booth permit?

A20:  Two weeks prior to the event.

Q21: How do I participate at a temporary food event?

A21: Complete a Temporary Food Event Vendor Application and turn into the temporary event organizer at least 3-4 weeks prior to the event start date. The event organizer is responsible for collecting the temporary food event vendor applications and the vendor health permit fees and turn in to the Environmental Health office at least two weeks prior to the event start date.

Q22: How much does a temporary food event health permit cost?

A22: The temporary event fees are listed on the Temporary Food Event Vendor Application.

Q23: If I am an annual permit holder do I still need to complete an application to participate at an event?

A23: Yes, annual health permit holders such as Tulare County Mobiles, Caterers, and Annual Vendors still need to complete a Temporary Food Event Vendor Application and turn into the organizer, but will not need to pay an additional health permit fee for participating at the event as long as the permit holder is operating within their permit conditions.

Q24:What are the temporary food booth vendor requirements?

A24: The minimum requirements that food vendors must follow are listed in the handout entitled TFF Requirements

Q25: What do I do if I am planning a community event?

A25: As the event organizer, you must complete the Temporary Food Event Organizer Application and have each food booth vendor complete a Temporary Food Event Vendor Application. As the event organizer, you are responsible for:

  • Facilities shared by two or more TFF vendors (as applicable)
  • A site plan that shall show the proposed locations of the food and beverage vendor booths, restrooms, refuse containers, potable water supply faucets, waste water disposal facilities, and all shared warewashing and handwashing facilities.
  • Temporary Food Event Organizer and Temporary Food Event Vendor Fees
  • For submitting all completed food vendor applications and the organizer application to our office no later than two weeks prior to the event start date.

Q26: Am I required to pay fees?

A26:  As the organizer of the community event you are responsible for paying the organizer fee indicated on the organizer application, and for paying vendor fees for vendors that do not already have Tulare County Environmental Health permits. Temporary Food Event Vendor fees are listed on the vendor application. If a vendor has a Tulare County Mobile, Catering, or Annual Single Vendor permit a health permit fee for such vendor will not be charged to the event organizer’s account.

Q27:Do I qualify for a Non Profit Event Exemption?

A27: If your event is fundraising and donating all food and beverage profits to a registered nonprofit 501 (c) 1-10, 19 you may apply for an event exemption. To apply for an event exemption complete the first page of the Temporary Food Event Organizer Application, attach a letter from the nonprofit stating that they will receive all food/beverage profits from the event, and attach a copy of the IRS 501 (c) 1-10, 19 nonprofit status. Please note California Code only allows 3 days of exemptions in a 90 day period.

Contact Information for further questions.