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Environmental Health Services

Inspection Services Frequently Asked Questions

Restaurants

Child Care Centers

Schools

Swimming Pools

Rest Homes and Nursing Homes

Lodging

Tattoo Artist

Street Festivals and Temporary Food Stands

Food Trucks - Mobile Food Units

What kinds of facilities are inspected by the Health Department?

The Health department also inspects hotels, schools, residential care facilities (such as foster homes), summer camps, summer food service sites, local confinement facilities (jail), Bed & Breakfast, tattoo businesses, meat markets, nursing homes and adult day-care facilities. The rules for each of the facilities are available. In addition, the inspection grades for these facilities are available on the same web site.

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Restaurants

What do I need to do if I want to open a restaurant or business that sells food? 

You will need to check with the Environmental Health Office to see if the type of food service will require a permit.  If so, you will be asked to submit an application, floor plan and specifications for the kitchen equipment. If it is determined that you do not need a permit from the Health Department, you will be asked to fill out this exemption form.  There may be other agencies, such as the building inspections office and the fire marshal, that will also need to be involved.

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How are restaurant grades determined?

Each establishment that has a restaurant permit must be evaluated by an environmental health specialist (EHS)from the health department.  The EHS makes an unannounced inspection to evaluate the restaurant for compliance with the regulations.  The focus of the inspection is to ensure that the operation is practicing safe food preparation methods including refrigeration temperatures (45 degrees or less), hot-holding temperatures (135 degrees or more), cooking temperatures and cooling methods, food worker hygiene (hand washing), and safe food sources. Any rule 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.

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How often are restaurants graded? 

In years past,  restaurants were inspected four times per year.  Beginning in 2007, a major change recognized that some businesses did not require inspections that often because of the nature of their menu and complexity of the food operations.  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.

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Does everyone working in a restaurant have to wear gloves? 

With the 2012 adoption of the Food Code in NC, food service workers 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.

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Do I need a permit from the Health Department to serve ice cream or to open a bakery? 

Businesses that serve only ice cream, pre-packaged products or bakery items do NOT need a Health Department permit but must get a permit from the NC Department of Agriculture.

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I want to sell food at a street event.  What is required? 

You will need to check with the event organizer first to get information from her or him regarding food sales.  You will be filling out and 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.

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Child Care Center

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Schools

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 restaurant; 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.

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How many times per year is a school building inspected?

A school building is inspected one time per year minimum.

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What types of schools are inspected?

Public, private and religious schools are all inspected by the Health Department.

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Swimming Pools

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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. 

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Rest Homes and Nursing Homes

Who do I contact for concerns about treatment of residents at a home?

You will need to contact the licensing agency, which is the Division of Facility Services in the NC Department of Health & Human Services.

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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.

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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.

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Lodging

How often are hotels and motels inspected?

Our office inspects these businesses at least once per year.

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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 a permit from our office.  If you have questions about this, speak with the manager or with our office.

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Are pets allowed in hotel rooms?

Under certain conditions required in the general statutes 97-7.1, pets may be allowed in hotel rooms if the requirement for posting signs are met. 

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Tattoo Artist

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How often is a tattoo establishment inspected?

Inspections are conducted at least once per year.  A new permit is required for each artist annually.

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Who issues permits for tattoo businesses?

The Health Department issues permits to each individual tattoo artists within a designated location. Our office does not issue a permit to the tattoo business itself. 

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Street Festivals and Temporary Food Stands

What do I need to do in order to sell food at a street festival?

You will need to contact the event organizer and fill out 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.

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Food Trucks - Mobile Food Units

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).

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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. 

 

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Where can I find the rules for mobile food stands and pushcarts?

Mobile food stands and pushcart requirements can be found in sections .2670 through .2672 of the Food Service Establishment Rules.

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