Inspection Services Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of facilities are inspected by the Health Department?
The Orange County Environmental Health inspects restaurants, food stands, meat markets, mobile food units and push carts, child care centers, adult care facilties, adult day facilities, lodging, schools, summer camps, summer feeding sites, local confinement, public swimming pools, and tattoo artists. The rules for each of the facilities are available. In addition, the inspection records for these facilities are available here.
What do I need to do if I want to open a business that prepares and sells food in North Carolina?
Check with Orange County Environmental Health or navigate to here for more general information on obtaining a food establishment permit.
Some food manufacturing that is not retail or packaged foods are inspected under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. Click here to view a chart to help you decide. Special tax-exempt and private membership groups may also be exempt from the Rules and NC Food Code. If it is determined that you do not need a permit from the Health Department, you may be asked to fill out this exemption form. It is also important to include other agencies, such as the building inspections office and the fire marshal, in planning approvals.
How are food service establishment grades determined?
Each establishment that has a food service establishment permit must be evaluated by an Environmental Health Specialist. This is an unannounced inspection evaluating the food service establishment for compliance with the NC Food Code . The focus of the inspection is to ensure that the operation is practicing safe food preparation methods including approved food source, elimination of cross-contamination, refrigeration and hot-holding temperatures, final cook temperatures and cooling methods, hand washing and employee hygiene. Any violations are summarized on an inspection sheet, and an overall score is computed. A perfect score is 100 percent. The inspection grades are then posted for public viewing at the establishment and can also be viewed on our website.
How often are food service establishments graded?
Inspection frequency is now based on risk factors that require anywhere from 4 inspections to 1 inspection per year. These risk factors are based on cooking temperature, holding temperature, approved food sources and food handling practices that are essentinal for preventing foodborne disease.
Does everyone working in a food service establishment have to wear gloves?
With the 2012 adoption of the NC Food Code, food employees may not touch ready-to-eat food with their bare hands. Employees must use approved utensils (spatulas, tongs, etc.), deli tissue, or single-use gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods.
I want to sell food at a festival. What is required?
Check with the event organizer first to get information regarding food sales. Submitting an application that gives details on your food booth. If you are already a permitted Mobile Food Unit, you will not need to fill out an application, but the event organizer will still need to get information from you. Vendors who are not already permitted as a Mobile Food Unit or who are not a tax exempt group will need to submit an application with a fee to the event organizer who will turn the applications in to Environmental Health. Our office will inspect your food booth on the day of the event approximately 2 hours before the scheduled opening.
How many times per year is a childcare inspection done?
Twice per year an unannounced inspection is made by Environmental Health staff. Additional inspections are required if a childcare center receives a "provisional" or "disapproved" rating.
Does the Health Department issue permits for daycare centers?
No. While the Health Department is responsible for inspections, the license is actually issued by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education.
Are grades posted in a daycare?
Yes, a placard is posted in each daycare showing the result of the inspection as: Superior, Approved, Provisional, or Disapproved. Child Care Center Rules offer more information on inspection results and guidelines for each grade.
What do I need to do if I am planning to open a childcare center?
You will need to speak with someone from Environmental Health to discuss your proposal. A plan review application will need to be filled out and turned in. You will also need to discuss your plans with the building inspections office and fire marshal. If your proposed business is served by a well or septic system, additional investigations will be needed. You will also need to apply for a daycare license from the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education.
What are the conditions that require a daycare license?
The law defines child care as: 3 or more unrelated children under 13 years of age, receiving care from a non-relative, on a regular basis of at least once a week, and for more than 4 hours per day but less than 24 hours. It is only when all of these conditions exist that regulation is required.
What kinds of inspections are done at the school?
The school cafeteria is inspected separately from the school building. The cafeteria kitchen is inspected 4 times per year and held to the same standard as a food service establishment; the grade is posted. School buildings are inspected once a year, independent from their cafeterias. We do not currently post the grade of the inspection. However, future revisions to the state rules may change this.
How many times per year is a school building inspected?
A school building is inspected one time per year minimum.
What types of schools are inspected?
Public, private and religious schools are all inspected by the Health Department.
What kind of swimming pools are inspected?
Any public pool, spa or wading pool that serves more than one family is inspected and must receive an annual permit to operate. These pools may be located at apartments, condominiums, community centers, duplexes and health clubs.
How many times per year is a pool inspected?
Seasonal pools (those that do not operate from November through March) are inspected at least once per year and prior to opening for the season. Year-round pools are inspected at least twice per year.
Are bathers required to use the shower before going in to the pool?
Showers must be available for use at any pool built after 2003. In addition, the pool is required to state clearly on a sign that a shower is required before entering the pool.
How do I know that a pool is protected from suction hazards?
All pools are required to have suction prevention drain covers in place. If you suspect that a drain cover is missing or broken, contact our office immediately.
Is it safe to swim in a pool with cloudy water?
If the bottom of the pool can not be seen clearly from the deck, it indicates a chemical imbalance. The pool must be closed immediately and can not reopen until the chemicals have been adjusted and the water quality standards are met. A submerged swimmer in trouble may not be visible, and this presents a safety hazard. If you encounter a pool with cloudiness, please contact our office immediately .
Does the pool grade have to be posted?
Pools do not have posted grades, however they must meet specified requirements in order to operate. You can visit our inspection results or ask the pool operator to view the permit.
How often are pool chemicals checked during the day?
The pool operator must visit the pool at least once daily to measure and record water quality and to make necessary adjustments for maintenance.
Who do I contact for concerns about treatment of residents at a home?
You will need to contact the licensing agency.
Who do I contact for concerns about cleanliness and sanitation at a home?
You may speak to the manager of the facility about your concerns. If they are not addressed, feel free to contact our office to discuss the issues.
Who inspects hospitals?
State operated hospitals are inspected by the Regional Environmental Health Specialist with the Environmental Health Section of the Department of Health and Human Services. County owned and private hospitals are inspected by county health departments.
How often are hotels and motels inspected?
Our office inspects lodging at least once per year.
Is the food at the continental breakfast regulated?
Depending on the menu items, some continental breakfast operations are exempt from permits. Other menus with certain food items may require permits from our office. If you have questions about this, speak with the manager or with our office.
Are pets allowed in hotel rooms?
Under certain conditions required in the NCGS 97-7.1, pets may be allowed in hotel rooms if the requirement for posting signs are met.
How often is a tattoo artist inspected?
Inspections are conducted at least once per year. A new permit is required for each artist annually.
Who issues permits for tattoo artists?
Orange County Environmental Health issues permits to each individual tattoo artists within a designated location.
What do I need to do in order to sell food at a street festival?
Contact the event organizer and submit an application to determine if a permit will be required. The event organizer will then send the application to the Health Department and get back to you with results. If you have specific questions about whether a permit will be required, you may contact our office.
Can an individual sell food from a roadside stand?
Individuals can sell food from an approved food truck if they have a mobile food unit permit from the Health Department and zoning approval from the town or county (as applicable).
Are mobile food units and pushcarts required to have an inspection and post a grade card?
Mobile Food units and pushcarts are permitted and inspected by the Health Department and must display a grade card.
Where can I find the rules for mobile food stands and pushcarts?
Food service is regulated by the NC Food Code. Additionally specific requirements for Mobile food Units and Pushcarts can be found in sections .2670 through .2672 of the 15A NCAC 1800 Rules Governing the Food protection and Sanitation of Food Establishments.