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Frequently asked questions

Are there currently any shellfish closures?

Before you go out to harvest recreational mussels or clams, call the 24 hour shellfish safety information hotline at 1-800-448-2474. This recorded message is updated when there is any change in the status of a harvest area. Laboratory results for "red tide" or shellfish toxins can change the status of a harvest area at anytime. You can also check shellfish closures on this web site to see if an area is closed.

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Are the shellfish safe to harvest and eat?

Red tide closures
Shellfish feed on plankton or ocean algae. Plankton can produce toxins during an algae bloom, which are taken up and concentrated in shellfish. These toxins do not harm the shellfish, but can harm humans or marine mammals. A toxic algae bloom is not always red, it may be colorless.

Frequency of toxin testing in shellfish
ODA monitors shellfish from several key sites semimonthly in the winter and weekly in the warmer months for PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) toxins and domoic acid - the two shellfish toxins found on the west coast. Recreational clams and mussels and commercial oysters and clams are tested.

Safety of crab during a red tide or biotoxin closure
Crab are not filter feeders and do not concentrate toxins in their tissue or meats. There may be toxins in crab guts or viscera when red tide toxins are high. ODA does monitor crab viscera during toxin closures and will issue warnings through the Food Safety Program office if needed.

Licenses for the harvest of shellfish for human consumption
A Shellfish Sanitation Certificate from ODA is required for commercial harvesting of shellfish to be sold for food. You can obtain an application and list of classified areas open for commercial harvest from the Food Safety Program. Information for commercial shellfish harvesters and growers is available in the shellfish program area on this web site. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife  also requires licensing and permits for commercial harvesting of wild shellfish.

Buying and selling fresh or frozen shellfish to restaurants and grocery stores
To become a shellfish dealer (processor or distributor) you must be certified as either a shellfish shipper (SS) or shellfish shucker packer (SP) by ODA. The process for becoming certified includes proof of training or adequate experience in Seafood HACCP - Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, developing a HACCP Plan for processing shellfish, submitting a plan review of facilities for storing and shipping shellfish, and meeting initial inspection requirements. These steps are further explained in the shellfish program section of this web site.

Identifying shellfish from an "approved source"
Retail stores and restaurants must obtain shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels and whole scallops) from certified shellfish dealers. Shellfish in the shell or shellstock will be "tagged" with the certificate number of the certified shellfish dealer or shipper (for example, OR 999 SS). The retailer must retain the tags for 90 days in the event of a shellfish recall. An invoice does not suffice for a recall because it may not include original shipper or harvest area information. Further information on approved shellfish sources is available in the shellfish program area of this web site.

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As a small processor or producer how do I start a business in OR?

Are you a small producer or processor overwhelmed by the seemingly large list of things to do to start or maintain your food establishment in Oregon? The Oregon Department of Agriculture has two specialists who are dedicated to helping small/new producers and processors. If you don't know what to do next, give them a try! Please contact Will Fargo or Sarah Schwab as the primary contacts. They work primarily in the field and may not be able to answer the phone immediately but will call you back as soon as possible. If you don't receive a response within 24 hours, please contact Monica Durazo or Terry Hill at our Salem ofice.
Northern Oregon and the Willamette Valley:
Sarah Schwab
Phone: 503-508-6028
email: sschwab@oda.state.or.us
Southern and Eastern Oregon:
Will Fargo
Phone: 503-432-7092
email: wfargo@oda.state.or.us
If the specialists are unavailable, please call our Salem office for assistance
Phone: 503-986-4720
Resources and info for new and small farms

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What are the domestic kitchen licensing procedures?

Requirements for domestic kitchens
Domestic kitchen license information - English
Domestic kitchen license information - Spanish
Labeling information - English
Labeling information - Spanish 
Oregon Revised Statutes
Oregon Administrative Rules

Begin the application and inspection process:
Once you have reviewed the domestic kitchen licensing regulations and are ready to proceed with the application and inspection process, contact us and provide the address where your home located to receive the name and telephone number of the Food Safety Specialist in your area.

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What are the plan review requirements?

Plans for establishments regulated under the Food Code must be submitted to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for review and approval before the construction of a food establishment or before the conversion of an existing structure for use as a food establishment or before the remodeling of a food establishment or a change of type of food establishment or food operation, if the regulatory authority determines that plans and specifications are necessary to ensure compliance with the Food Code.
Plan review requirements - English
Plan review requirements - Spanish


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What are the labeling requirements for packaged foods?

Food that is packaged for retail sale must be properly labeled.
Labeling information - English
Labeling information - Spanish
Recall plan information

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What is required for potlucks, barbeques or mobile food sales?

Any establishment operating in connection with any event where food is prepared or served for consumption by the public would require a license, regardless of whether the food is offered for sale or provided free of charge. A temporary restaurant license is required for functions such as fund raisers events advertised to the public, fairs, carnivals, circuses, festivals and concerts. In addition, homemade food offered at such events to the public must be prepared in a kitchen that has been inspected by the local environmental health department. You may review the licensing information pertaining to restaurants and mobile units on the Oregon Health Authority, Public Health website or contact your local environmental health department to review the regulations. Outdoor food sales, such as barbeques and mobile food units that are not operating on property owned/leased by an Oregon Department of Agriculture licensed firm under an employee of the licensed firm, would be subject to regulations and licensing under the Department of Human Services Oregon Administrative Rule 333-162 .
Private parties or functions not open to the public do not require a license or permit.

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What are the produce stand license requirements?

Regulations for produce stands are covered in Oregon Administrative Rule 603-025
Oregon Administrative Rule 603-025-0030 (2) states that retail fruit and vegetable stands, and other similar unusual food sales outlets, are also subject to these retail food provisions, except as follows:
a. fruit and vegetable stands located on a farmers own property, wherein only fruits; and
b. vegetables grown by the owner are sold, and no food processing is being done, are exempt from licensing:
c. other fruit and vegetable stands may be exempted from certain retail food establishment requirements where the department determines that public health principles would not be compromised.

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What are the laws regulating animals in food establishments?

The Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Code OAR 603-025-0030
Regulations regarding animals in food establishments is addressed in chapter six of the Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Code. Oregon laws comply with laws established under the American with Disabilities Act regulating service animals in places of business. In compliance with the act, service animals are permitted in areas that are usually open to the public, such as retail food establishments and dining areas. In addition, patrol dogs accompanying law enforcement or security officers in offices are allowed in dining and storage areas.  Live animals are not permitted in areas used for food preparation or processing.  ADA's revised regulations on service animals took effect on March 11, 2011.  
Service animal brochure
Service animal poster
 Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Code:
6-501.115 Prohibiting Animals.*
(A) Except as specified in ¶ (B) and (C) of this section, live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment.
(B) Live animals may be allowed in the following situations if the contamination of food; clean equipment, utensils, and linens; and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles can not result:
(1) Edible fish or decorative fish in aquariums, shellfish or crustacea on ice or under refrigeration, and shellfish and crustacea in display tank systems;
(2) Patrol dogs accompanying police or security officers in offices and dining, sales, and storage areas, and sentry dogs running loose in outside fenced areas;
(3) In areas that are not used for food preparation and that are usually open for customers, such as dining and sales areas, service animals that are controlled by the disabled employee or person, if a health or safety hazard will not result from the presence or activities of the service animal;
(4) Pets in the common dining areas of group residences at times other than during meals if:
(a) Effective partitioning and self-closing doors separate the common dining areas from food storage or food preparation areas,
(b) Condiments, equipment, and utensils are stored in enclosed cabinets or removed from the common dining areas when pets are present, and
(c) Dining areas including tables, countertops, and similar surfaces are effectively cleaned before the next meal service; and
(5) In areas that are not used for food preparation, storage, sales, display, or dining, in which there are caged animals or animals that are similarly restricted, such as in a variety store that sells pets or a tourist park that displays animals.
(C) Live or dead fish bait may be stored if contamination of food; clean equipment, utensils, and linens; and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles can not result.

Related link: 
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How do I file a complaint?

Complaints involving Oregon Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Program licensed facilities
To file a complaint regarding the food handling practices or products for a grocery store, meat market, warehouse, bakery, food processing plant or dairy, complete the information on the consumer complaint form and forward it to our office as an attachment via e-mail or print the consumer complaint form in PDF format, and mail the completed form to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Program, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97301-2532, or you may contact our office at (503) 986-4720. Your complaint will be entered in the record and referred to the food safety specialist responsible for inspecting the establishment for review and appropriate action. If you have a complaint involving a restaurant, fast-food facility, or to report a suspected food-borne illness, please contact your local environmental health department.

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How do I report a possible foodborne illness?

To report a suspected foodborne illness, contact your local environmental health department. The health department completes epidemiological investigations, and will provide you with information and instruction on the process and steps to take.

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How do I prevent foodborne illness?

There are several steps that reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Wash your hands
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating
  • Store all produce in the refrigerator
  • Avoid cross contamination from raw meats by using a clean or different cutting boards and plates, and use separate knives for produce
  • Store fresh produce in a separate drawer in your refrigerator, away from raw meat, poultry and seafood

Related links:
The Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority works with the local health departments, the food service industry and the public to help reduce foodborne illnesses through the foodborne illness prevention program.
To report a foodborne illness, contact your local environmental health department .
The Food Safety Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information regarding foodborne illness outbreaks

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What are the farmers' markets vendor license requirements?

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What are the honey extractor license requirements?

Honey extractor´s licensing requirements:
Any beekeeper with 21 or more colonies of bees who is extracting and selling honey at retail or wholesale is required to be licensed as a food processor, and is subject to inspection by the department.
Extractors who have 20 or fewer colonies and extract only their own honey under the Oregon Department of Agriculture´s administrative policy are considered to be hobbyists, and therefore exempt from licensing and inspection requirements. While, extractors with 20 or fewer colonies may sell their honey through any retail channel, the product produced is required to be properly labeled. Extractors must submit an application for exemption with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Program. There is no fee to file an exemption, and the application for exemption may be forwarded to the Food Safety Program, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97301.

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How do I obtain organic certification?

Organic certification is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and therefore, is not under the authority of the the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program is responsible for regulating the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. The Organic Foods Production Act and the National Organic Program require that agricultural products labeled organic originate from farms or handling operations certified by a certifying agent accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To inquire about the process in which to become certified, or to request certification, contact the USDA to obtain a list of USDA accredited certifying agents, or the visit the National Organic Program website.

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How do I obtain a food handler's card?

Local environmental health departments are responsible for issuing food handler's cards. Employees working in food service establishments licensed by the local county health department are required to obtain a food handlers card within thirty days of beginning work. The Food, Pool & Lodging Health and Safety Section of the Office of Environmental Public Health has additional information regarding taking the food handler's test on-line, by mail or in the work place. In addition, you may access the Food Safety: Your Self-Training Manual, which includes everything you need to know to pass the food handler's test.

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How do I obtain a letter for food stamps?

If a retail food store would like to accept food stamps through the federal program called SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program), you can request a letter from the Food Safety Program on your licensing application by marking the appropriate box. The license application must be processed and paid before the letter can be generated. The office and contact information for the SNAP program is:
2029 Lloyd Center
Portland, OR 97232-1314
Phone: 1-877-823-4369 or 503-236-5971
Fax: 503-326-5973

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