Food Safety

Overview

Alameda County Department of Environmental Health consumer protection activities are aligned with State and local health laws and regulations.

The food safety program monitors all retail food facilities in the county (excluding the City of Berkeley) to ensure a safe and wholesome food supply for the public. Food facilities include restaurants, markets, school cafeterias, bakeries, convenience stores, bars, certified farmers' market, food service at fairs and festivals, mobile food trucks and carts (hot dog, tamales, etc.). In addition, we review for approval applications for cottage food operations, community food producers, etc.

Our team of Environmental Health Specialists conduct routine food safety inspections, investigate complaints of sanitation violations and suspected foodborne illnesses, conduct food safety recalls, review plans for proposed new and remodeled facilities and issue permits for food facilities. 

We also offer food safety certification classes in English or in Spanish to assist food operators in complying with the Statewide requirement for Food Safety Certification.


Frequently Asked Questions

The California Retail Food Code (CalCode) authorizes a local Department of Environmental Health (DEH) to establish a food safety program charged with the issuance of a permit-to-operate once a proposed food establishment and its operations meets the requirements of CalCode. In order to ensure a safe level of food preparation and food handling practices are maintained, inspections of food facilities are conducted on a routine basis.

All retail fixed and mobile food facilities are permitted and inspected, included but not limited to, restaurants, markets, school cafeterias, skilled nursing facilities, in-plant feeding operations, commissaries, commercial kitchens, bakeries, mobile food trucks, food carts, detention facilities, and food banks distribution centers. DEH also permits and inspects temporary food booths at special events, farmers markets, street fairs, county fairs, temporary foodservice operations, etc.

The California Retail Food Code requires a local DEH to provide the results of inspections to the public in a timely, standardized manner. The Alameda County DEH posts the results of routine and re-score inspections to the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health Online Inspection Results. The Alameda County DEH Grading System Ordinance and Penalty Schedule forms the basis for scoring food facilities inspections and enforcement for compliance.

CalCode allows a local DEH to adopt an evaluation or grading system for food facilities. The provisions of the ALCO DEH Grading System are developed in its Grading System Policy. The grading system policy standardizes the approach inspectors use to determine violations during inspections and the methodology used for attaching point values to each violation. The ALCO DEH Official Inspection Report (OIR) form is organized in two halves, the left-side are Major CDC Risk Factor Violations (violations are 2 to 4 points in value each) and the right-side are Minor Retail Practices Risk Factor Violations (each violation is 1 point in value).

The six CDC major risk factors identified in the California Retail Food Code are:

  • Improper Holding Food Temperatures
  • Improper Cooling of Potentially Hazardous Foods
  • Inadequate Cooking temperatures of Potentially Hazardous Foods
  • Poor Personal Hygiene of Food Employees
  • Food from Unapproved Sources
  • Contaminated Equipment 
After routine and re-score inspections the inspection results are uploaded to the DEH website. To access inspection results for a food facility a search can be conducted by facility name or address. Noted violation descriptions are color-coded RED for major and Blue for minor. The overall score of an inspection is reflected on the website by the issuance of a color-coded placard for the facility. The placard provides the dining public, at a glance, the current food safety status of the facility after the most recent inspection.  A GREEN placard indicated on the website and posted in public view at the food facility reflects a PASS score. A YELLOW placard indicates a CONDITIONAL PASS score and a RED placard indicates the facility failed the inspection and is CLOSED. Any Imminent Health Hazard noted is grounds for immediate facility closure.

Imminent health hazards are conditions and/or violations that could lead to adverse effects to the public health or the environment and require immediate suspension of the permit-to-operate and closure of the food facility. DEH encourages operators to self-report these type hazards to reduce the necessity for escalating enforcement. Facility is to remain closed until re-opened by DEH inspection. An Imminent Health Hazards carries a 26-point violation value and include but are not limited to:

  • Electrical Power Outage
  • Lack of Refrigeration
  • Lack of Potable Water
  • Lack of Hot Water
  • Sewage Backup or Overflow within facility
  • Fire
  • Vermin Infestation (insects or rodents)
  • Food Worker with Communicable Disease
  • Any other condition that requires immediate correction or closure to protect public health

Food Safety Classes

We offer food safety certification classes in English or in Spanish to assist food operators and managers in complying with the statewide legislation requirement for Food Safety Certification. 

Public Notices

As of June 18, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) order pertaining to foods containing partially hydrogenated oils (PHO's) will be effective and enforced. Alameda County Department of Environmental Health is notifying all the retail food facilities covered by this order of their compliance obligations. Please refer to the link below for more information regarding your responsibilities as a food facility owner/operator to ensure no foods containing PHO's are offered

Notice on (PHO's) Partially Hydrogenated Oils  (PDF)

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) maintains a listing of current shellfish advisories.

PREVENTION of HEPATITIS A

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Proper CLEANING AND DISINFECTION of facilities can help prevent the spread of this disease.