FAQs for Food Establishment Owners & Operators


Permitting FAQs

  1. Who needs to have a Health Department Permit to Operate a Food Establishment?
    A food establishment is an operation that stores, prepares, serves or otherwise provides food for consumption, and provides such food directly to a member of the public for consumption. If your business meets the above definition you will need a Permit to Operate of Food Establishment.
  2. What do I need to do to open a new restaurant in Fairfax County, Fairfax City or the City of Falls Church?
    Contact the Health Department at 703-246-2444. Plans must be approved and an inspection conducted before a Permit to Operate will be issued. More specific instructions are available on the Health Department's new food establishment permitting page.
  3. Is the Permit to Operate transferable to a new owner after a change of ownership at a restaurant?
    The Permit to Operate is not transferable. An inspection must be conducted before the settlement on the change of ownership. More information is available on the Change of Ownership permitting web page.
  4. What should I expect from a food inspection?
    Learn about the food inspection process, the different types of inspections and how violations are enforced on our inspection web page.
  5. What type of equipment may be used in the kitchen of a licensed food establishment?
    Home-use equipment is not permitted for use in a restaurant kitchen. Food equipment in a food establishment shall be certified or classified by an ANSI accredited certification program, an equivalent certification program, or approved by the Regulatory Authority before installation and/or use. NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification is the most prevalent type of certification for commercial restaurant equipment.
  6. What is a Certified Food Manager (CFM)?
    A CFM is someone who has successfully passed an approved written examination and been issued a Northern Virginia Food Manager Certificate. The exam covers the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to operate a safe and sanitary food establishment.The Fairfax County Health Department DOES NOT issue CFM cards. Learn how to obtain CFM certification.
  7. What are the responsibilities of the Certified Food Manager?
    The Certified Food Manager (CFM) provides supervision of the safe handling of food during preparation, service and cleanup. There must be a CFM on the premises at all times of food preparation, service and cleanup. For this reason, an establishment must have enough CFMs on staff to cover all hours of food preparation, service and cleanup.
  8. What is the Consumer Advisory?
    The Consumer Advisory is a statement placed on menus to advise the consumer that a food may be served raw or undercooked and consuming that raw or undercooked food may increase the risk of foodborne illness. An example of a Consumer Advisory is: Eggs may be cooked to order. Consuming raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness. There is more information at the Consumer Advisory page .
  9. Is smoking allowed in restaurants in Fairfax County?
    Current legislation prohibits smoking in restaurants that are open to the public, therfore non-smoking regulations are in effect in Fairfax County. However, smoking may be permitted in food establishments under certain conditions
  10. What must an organization do to hold a temporary public event at which food will be sold to the public?
    If prepared foods will be sold to the general public, a Temporary Food Permit must be issued to the food vendors. Applications for a permit must be received at least 10 days prior to the event. More information and application forms may be found on the Temporary Events web page.
  11. Does a restaurant's Permit to Operate allow it to sell food at a temporary event such as a carnival?
    A restaurant which has a Permit to Operate in Fairfax County may use that permit to operate at a temporary event without filing a Temporary Permit application.
  12. Is a Health Department permit required for a youth athletic concession stand at a local high school?
    Effective July 1, 2013, a Health Department Permit to Operate will no longer be required to serve food from a youth athletic concession stand. However, we can provide food safety training if requested. Learn more.

Food Safety FAQs

  1. Are all food handlers required to wear gloves?
    The Fairfax County Food Code does not allow the handling of ready-to-eat foods with bare hands. Ready-to-eat foods are generally those that will not be cooked before being served or ready-to-eat foods may be leftovers, for example. Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is prohibited. Gloves, tongs or tissue paper must be used when handling ready-to-eat foods. It is not mandatory that gloves be worn when handling raw foods which will later be cooked thoroughly. Hands must be washed frequently when working with raw, to-be-cooked, foods.
  2. When must I change gloves?
    Gloves must be changed whenever the task changes or if the gloves become soiled or damaged. When gloves are changed, hands must be washed with soap and water. While changing gloves there is a risk of contaminating a clean hand which will then contaminate a clean glove. Washing hands properly when changing gloves minimizes the chance of contaminating the new gloves.
  3. How do I calibrate my food thermometer?
    One method to calibrate a food thermometer is to use ice water. Many food thermometers have a calibration nut under the dial that can be adjusted. Check the package for instructions. To use the ice water method, fill a large glass with finely crushed ice. Add clean tap water to the top of the ice and stir well. Immerse the food thermometer stem a minimum of 2 inches into the mixture, touching neither the sides nor the bottom of the glass. Wait a minimum of 30 seconds before adjusting. Without removing the stem from the ice, hold the adjusting nut under the head of the thermometer with a suitable tool and turn the head so the pointer reads 32 degree F.
  4. How should foods be stored in a refrigerator?
    Foods should be stored in a refrigerator in a manner to prevent cross-contamination. Cross-contamination refers to the transfer of a pathogen from one raw food to another food. For this reason, raw meats, poultry, pork and seafood must be stored in a certain order in the refrigerator. We cook to kill bacteria on our food. Because other foods may be cooked to a lower temperature than chicken, chicken must always be stored on the bottom shelf of a refrigerator to prevent drippings from getting on other foods. Leftovers should be on the top shelf, with raw fruits and vegetables. Pork and seafood should be placed below the leftovers and beef and ground beef should be below the pork, but above the poultry. See a chart showing the storage layout in a typical refrigerator at the Training Materials page. At home, there may not be enough shelves to completely separate the foods. In that case, place the raw meats, poultry or seafood on a plate or in a container to prevent drippings from getting on other foods.
  5. What should I do with my food after a power outage?
    When in doubt throw it out! For more information go to the Health Department's Food Safety In Emergencies page for more information.

Contact Us

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  • 10777 Main Street, Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Main Phone: 703-246-2444
  • Fax: 703-653-9448
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