Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) recommends everyone take steps to stay safe and healthy in the hot weather forecast for inland communities today through the weekend. Follow this link for air-conditioned county buildings open to the public Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 211 or check your city's web page for information about other places to stay cool near you. Visit cchealth.org/heat for health information about hot weather.
Food-safety specialists annually inspect 4,200 permitted food facilities in the county. Everything from sit-down restaurants and delis to convenience stores, mobile food trucks, and special event food booths. Checking to ensure they are storing, preparing and handling food in a safe and sanitary way. Environmental Health reviews all construction and remodeling plans to ensure the facilities are built in a manner to promote food safety. Environmental Health also investigates food-poisoning complaints and tries to determine the source of foodborne-illness outbreaks. When food manufacturers issue recalls, it's up to Environmental Health to audit retailers to verify that contaminated products have been removed from store shelves.
Contra Costa County Environmental Health is responsible for ensuring that all food establishments are operated in compliance with applicable Local, State and Federal regulations. These regulations are intended to guarantee that food will be pure, safe and unadulterated.
Food safety specialists aim to keep restaurants and food facility proprietors in our area aware and in compliance with the minimum standards for retail food facilities established by the California Retail Food Code (Cal Code).
To reach the goal, we focus our inspection efforts on facilities that may present a greater risk based upon various aspects of the food operation. This approach is called a Risk-Based Inspection Program. Although foodborne illness can happen in any food facility, it is more likely to occur where many different kinds of perishable foods are handled and processed. To concentrate our resources where the highest risks of foodborne illness occur, we have designed a risk-based inspection program that adjusts inspection frequency based upon the volume and types of food handling that take place at food establishments. For food establishments with minimal food handling, such as most convenience markets and some coffee shops, we conduct one routine inspection per year. For facilities that have some but not a lot of food handling such as chain-type facilities and bakeries, we conduct two inspections per year. For full service restaurants that have a lot of food handling, we conduct three inspections per year.
During our inspections, Environmental Health Services' staff teach restaurant owners and employees proper food storage and handling, bug and rodent prevention, and also ensures the food being served is unadulterated and from approved sources. Environmental Health Services staff help new restaurant owners get off to a good start (and prevent expensive mistakes) with our prospective owner and plan review process.
THINKING OF BUYING A FOOD FACILITY - Read This First
Temporary food facilities at community events often handle large volumes of food with limited physical facilities and equipment, making food safety especially important. Poor sanitation and hygiene practices can spread germs that cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever and, in certain circumstances, death.
A permit to operate a temporary food facility is required before the event may open for business. It is the event coordinator's responsibility to also contact any other agencies, such as California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Fire Department, City or County Planning Department, or Building Department to obtain permits and approval.
Contra Costa Environmental Health inspects permitted facilities to ensure temporary food establishments operate in a safe and sanitary manner. These inspections ensure that temporary food facilities operate in compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
On September 21, 2012, Governor Brown signed into law legislation known as the "Cottage Food Bill" (AB 1616) that became law on January 1, 2013. This law allows that certain non-potentially hazardous foods can be prepared within and sold from a private home provided certain requirements are met.
Caterers offer food services to the public every day in Contra Costa County. These food services are provided to events such as conferences, parties, weddings and other public or private venues. A caterer typically operates out of their own licensed facility or time and space is rented at a licensed facility. To address the potential issues with food safety, all Caterers operating within Contra Costa County must be permitted to verify the safe handling of food by limiting and reducing the chances of a potential outbreak/death.
A Catering Business Permit to Operate is required before the preparation, selling or giving away of food including beverages. All foods must be prepared at an approved and permitted permanent food facility, such as a Production Kitchen. Search for a permitted Production Kitchen »
Contra Costa Environmental Health inspects permitted facilities to ensure caterers and production kitchens operate in a safe and sanitary manner. These inspections ensure that Catering businesses operate in compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
In November 2016, our division collaboratively responded to a tragic Thanksgiving public feeding event that moved our division to take additional steps to permit Charitable Food Facilities. A Charitable Food Facility is a non-profit organization or entity that conduct community events, prepare and provide food and beverages to populations who are food insecure, deliver food to charitable feeding sites, or maintain food pantries.
Is it our goal to provide food safety guidance and educational outreach to prevent future illnesses or deaths from contaminated food. We also understand that it can be very confusing to know when Environmental Health is required to be involved when food and beverages are prepared and served. Here are some important aspects to consider:
Caterers must have a Health Permit to Operate from the county in which the foods or beverages are prepared. Foods prepared from a caterer must be prepared in an Environmental Health permitted food facility. Foods and beverages prepared from a private residence are not approved to sell or give away to the public.
Understanding the difference between a public and a private event. An event is considered public when it is advertised or announced on social media, television, radio, or signage posted for public viewing. When the event is restricted to members or guest of the member, the event is most likely to be private.
TRAINING: The Environmental Health partnership with local adult schools to teach the food managers classes is suspended until further notice. When these classes at the adult schools resume, we'll post a schedule of classes on our website. In the interim, there are other resources for this training (see below):