Food Service

The Food, Lodging and Institution section of the Environmental Health Department is responsible for permitting and inspecting restaurants, food stands, mobile food units, pushcarts, meat markets, elderly nutrition sites, school lunchrooms, school buildings, lodging places, bed and breakfast places, hospitals, rest and nursing homes, child and adult day care, residential care, jails, boarding schools, orphanages, swimming pools, spas, summer camps and tattoo parlors.

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Breads, pastries, pies, other baked goods and dip ice cream are excluded from the food service rule. You must, however, contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to see what you may need to do to be in compliance with that department. Call (919) 733-7366 for more information.

A permit or transitional permit must be issued by Catawba County Environmental Health before an establishment is allowed to begin operation. A permit shall be issued only when the establishment satisfies all of the requirements of the rules. See state regulations here.

Plans must be in accordance with 15A NCAC 18A .2600.

A permit or transitional permit shall be immediately revoked in accordance with G.S. 130A-23(d) for failure of the establishment to maintain a minimum grade of C. A permit or transitional permit may otherwise be suspended or revoked in accordance with G.S. 130A-23.

If ownership of an establishment is transferred or the establishment is leased, the new owner or lessee shall apply for a new permit. The new owner or lessee may also apply for a transitional permit. A transitional permit may be issued upon the transfer of ownership or lease of an establishment to allow the correction of construction and equipment problems that do not represent an immediate threat to the public health. Upon issuance of a new permit or a transitional permit for an establishment, any previously issued permit for an establishment in that location becomes void.

Additional rules for nonprofits and fundraising events can be found in Chapter 55A of the General Statutes, G.S. 105-228.90, and G.S. 163-278.6(14).

Before a food service establishment or meat market can begin construction, plans, drawn to scale, and specifications, including the proposed menu must be submitted for review. Plans should show food preparation areas and seating capacity.

For more information on requirements for plans and sanitation guidelines, see state statutes.

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Anyone considering operating a Mobile Food Unit or Pushcart to vend food in Catawba County should review our (English)(Spanish) before proceeding with the permitting and inspection process.

A mobile food unit is defined as a vehicle mounted food service establishment designed to be readily moved. A pushcart is defined as a mobile piece of equipment or vehicle which serves hot dogs or foods which have been prepared, pre-portioned, and individually pre-wrapped at a restaurant or commissary.

These permitted units can operate year-round. They are different from temporary food service establishments, which are defined as those food and drink establishments which operate for a period of 15 days in connection with a fair, carnival, circus, public exhibition, or other similar gathering, although a mobile food unit or push cart can serve at such events without the issuance of a separate permit.

Prior to permitting and/or construction, an application must be submitted to Catawba County Environmental Health, along with the plan review fee. The drawing of the mobile food unit or pushcart must be submitted with equipment layout and specs. All equipment must be NSF or commercial. The type of interior finishes must also be included. Pushcarts must be constructed to NSF/commercial standards and must be labeled so. Please submit the manufacturer’s specification sheet when submitting the cart’s layout, along with the contact sheet and required plan review fee.

The Rules Governing the Sanitation of Restaurants and Other Food Handling Establishments, 15A NCAC 18A, section 2600, sets forth requirements for the operation of food handling establishments, and contains specific requirements for operation of mobile food units and push carts, in addition to the rules governing food handling generally.

The Mobile Food Unit Application and the Pushcart Application are available online.

Overview of general requirements for mobile food units and push carts:

  • The first and most important requirement for any mobile food unit or push cart is that it must be operated in conjunction with a permitted restaurant or commissary, and shall report at least daily to that restaurant or commissary for supplies, cleaning and servicing. The county in which the restaurant or commissary is located will issue the permit for the mobile food unit or push cart.
  • The unit must be submitted for inspection to Catawba County Environmental Health to determine compliance with the rules.
  • An agreement must be signed by the restaurant or commissary operator and the mobile food unit or push cart operator and properly notarized. This agreement will give access to the restaurant adequate to meet all requirements in the rules. Facilities must be provided at the restaurant or commissary for storage of all supplies. All solid waste and liquid waste must be properly disposed of at this establishment. A meeting among the restaurant owner or operator, the mobile food unit operator, and a representative from the Environmental Health Department will be arranged during which the responsibilities of each party will be explained. The agreement form will be provided by the Environmental Health representative to the parties at this meeting.
  • The operator must provide to the local health department issuing the permit a list of all counties and locations where the unit will operate, and to the local health departments in all counties of operation a list of those locations within that county where the unit will operate.
  • The permit for the unit shall be posted so that it is visible to the public.
  • The facility must be either hooked up to a public water system or well water. If the facility is connected to well water, then a water sample must be taken prior to opening.
  • Sewage shall be disposed of into either a proper onsite sewage system or public waste water system. If your facility has an onsite sewage system, a tank check is required to ensure that the existing system is sized properly.

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Temporary food establishments which operate in connection with a fair, carnival, circus, public exhibition or other similar gathering must possess a permit to operate from Catawba County Environmental Health. These stands must meet the requirements contained in 15A NCAC 18A .2635.

The Catawba County Environmental Health Department has developed a brochure called Temporary Food Establishment Requirements. It is also available in Spanish, and Hmong to assist vendors in understanding the requirements contained in these rules. Vendors should review this brochure and contact Catawba County Environmental Health with any questions. The Temporary Food Stand Guidelines & Permit Application must be submitted to Catawba County Environmental Health no less than two weeks before the first anticipated day of operation. Click here for fees.

Festival organizers should include a copy of the brochure, along with the application, in the information package sent to potential festival vendors. Organizers should also submit to the Catawba County Environmental Health Department a list of all food vendors who will be participating in the event.

The brochure discusses the requirements and standards for these requirements, including:

  • Conducting all operations under a tent or in an approved enclosure
  • Source of running water under pressure and an equipment sink in each temporary food stand
  • Storage
  • Use of screens and fans
  • Sneeze guards
  • Temperature controls for food safety
  • Use of stem thermometers
  • Heated water for hand washing
  • Disposal of wastewater and garbage
  • Food preparation, including special requirements for hamburgers and poultry
  • Foods which cannot be served
  • Drinks which may be served
  • Exemptions from the rules, and requirements for verifying exempt status

Representatives of Catawba County Environmental Health will be on site to issue permits before vendors commence operation, and will continue to monitor operations during the festival.

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