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Food Safety

General FAQs

  • Are shellfish safe to harvest and eat?ODA monitors mussels, clams and oysters for paralytic shellfish toxin and domoic acid, two marine toxins that can affect shellfish. ODA might close or open recreational beaches based on these test results. ODA cannot test for all the other substances that could be harmful if eaten, so use your best judgment and only harvest from beaches that are sanitary.
  • Are there any current recreational shellfish closures?Each time before you harvest mussels or clams, call the 24-hour shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or check our website.
  • How do I file a food safety complaint?For facilities licensed by Oregon Department of Agriculture (grocery stores, meat markets, warehouses, bakery, food processing plant or dairy), please visit our concerns and complaints webpage. If you have complaints about a restaurant or a food cart, contact your local health department.
  • How do I know whether the shellfish I'm buying for my store or restaurant are from licensed sellers?Retail stores and restaurants must obtain shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels and whole scallops) only from certified (licensed) shellfish dealers. A list of licensed dealers is available on our website.
  • How do I obtain a food handler's card?Local environmental health departments issue food handler cards. Food handler cards are required if you work at an establishment licensed by the local health department. If you work at an establishment licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture you are not required to have a food handler's card, but it is recommended.
  • How do I obtain a letter for food stamps?If you want your retail store to accept food stamps through the federal program called SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program), you will need to contact this USDA program at 877-823-4369. SNAP no longer accepts letters from the Food Safety Program, rather they need to see the firm's retail license.
  • How do I obtain organic certification?The United States Department of Agriculture regulates organic certification of farms, wild crop harvesting, and handling operations that sell agricultural products as organically produced. A certifying agent accredited by the USDA must certify farms or handling operations.
  • How do I prevent foodborne illness?There are several ways to minimize your risk of foodborne illness: wash your hands; wash fruits and vegetables before eating; store all produce in the refrigerator; avoid cross contamination from raw meats to ready-to-eat foods, such as fruit, salads or cooked foods, by using clean cutting boards for each, separate plates and separate knives; store fresh produce in a separate drawer in your refrigerator, away from raw meats.
  • How do I report a possible foodborne illness?To report a suspected foodborne illness, contact your local environmental health department.
  • How do I start a business in Oregon as a small processor or producer?ODA has specialists who can help small producers or processors. Contact the Salem office at 503-986-4720 for more information.
  • How do I start a business under the Farm Direct Bill?ODA has a specialist who can help producers or processors with questions about the Farm Direct Bill. Contact Sarah Schwab at 503-508-6028.
  • How often are shellfish tested?ODA tests shellfish for paralytic shellfish toxin and domoic acid from several key sites along the entire coastline. ODA tests at least twice per month during the colder months, and weekly during the warmer months.
  • If I sell shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and whole scallops) at my store or serve them at my restaurant, am I required to keep the tags?Yes. Every store and restaurant is required to keep shellfish tags for 90 days in the event of a recall. Use a record keeping system to track dates shellstock were served or sold, and for shucked shellfish you must track the shellfish company name, lot number, and dates the shucked shellfish were served or sold. An invoice will not work for recalls because it does not contain enough information to trace back the shellfish to where they were harvested and which company harvested them.
  • Is a license required to harvest shellfish and sell them for human consumption?Yes. An ODA license is required for commercial shellfish harvesting.
  • Is crab safe when there is a biotoxin closure?Crab are not filter feeders and do not concentrate the toxins in the tissue or meats. There may be toxins in the viscera (guts) if the toxin levels are high. ODA does monitor crab viscera during toxin closures and will issue warnings when needed.
  • What are the domestic kitchen licensing procedures?Review the kitchen licensing webpage and visit the Find My Local Food Inspector page to get the name of the inspector assigned to your ZIP code.
  • What are the farmers' markets vendor license requirements?Each farmers market operates under its own set of rules. For more information please contact the farmer's market in your area.
  • What are the honey extractor license requirements?If you extract only your honey, and sell only directly to the consumer, you are exempt from ODA licensing under the Farm Direct Bill. If you have 20 or fewer colonies and extract only their honey, and you sell either direct to the consumer or wholesale, you are considered a hobbyist and are exempt from licensing, but you must submit an application for exemption to the ODA. Any beekeeper, with 21 or more colonies, extracting and selling wholesale honey is required to be licensed as a food processor.
  • What are the labeling requirements for packaged foods?Food that is packaged for retail sale must be properly labeled.
  • What are the laws regulating animals in food establishments?Oregon laws comply with laws established under the Americans with Disabilities Act. OAR 603-025-0020 states service animals are permitted in areas usually open to the public, such as retail food stores and dining areas. Animals are not permitted in areas where food processing or food preparation is occurring.
  • What are the plan review requirements?Plans for establishments regulated under the Food Code must be submitted to ODA for review and approval before the start of construction or remodeling.
  • What are the produce stand license requirements?Oregon Administrative Rule 603-025 states that retail vegetable and fruit stands are required to be licensed, except when the produce stand is on the farmer's own property, only fruits and vegetables grown by the owner are sold, and no food processing is done.
  • What is required for potlucks, barbeques or mobile food sales?Any establishment operating in connection with any event where food is prepared and served to the public for consumption, whether for sale or free of charge, is required to have a license. A temporary restaurant license is required for events such as fundraisers, events advertised to the public, fairs, carnivals, concerts, festivals, etc. Any homemade food offered at such events to the public must be prepared in a kitchen inspected by the local health department.

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