HAE

View the Restaurant & Grocery Store Inspections Database Here

The food safety program protects public health by working to reduce the factors that cause most foodborne illnesses, ensuring that food sold and served to the public is free of contamination and spoilage and promoting compliance with state food safety laws and regulations through education and enforcement.

Food Safety

  • Licenses and inspects restaurants, grocery stores, delis, concession stands. food processors, mobile food units and pushcarts.
  • Reviews construction plans and inspect new or extensively remodeled food establishments and ones that are changing owners.
  • Investigates foodborne outbreaks and follow ups on consumer complaints
  • Coordinates food safety training for restaurant managers and staff in partnership with Colorado State University Extension.
  • Maintains the Restaurant Inspection Database for the public.

Additional Food Safety Program Information

Submit a Restaurant or Illness Complaint

Foodborne illness or food poisoning is common, costly – and preventable. CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food every year.  You can get food poisoning after eating food that has been contaminated with a variety of germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxic substances (chemicals, natural toxins).  Food poisoning symptoms may range from mild to severe and may differ depending on the germ you swallowed. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include: upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  After you consume contaminated food or drink, it may take hours or days before you develop symptoms. 

Most foodborne illnesses happen when food service workers work when they are sick, or have recently been sick.  Individuals who handle food are not allowed to work while they are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Ill workers need to stay home from work for at least 24 hours after they are symptom free.

To prevent food contamination, food service workers must wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, before and during food preparation, and wear gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods.

The second most common cause of foodborne illness is due to lack of proper temperature control.  Foods must be held cold, below 41°F, or hot, above 135°F, to help prevent bacterial growth in them. When foods are held for prolonged periods of times between 41°F and 135°F, disease-causing bacteria can grow to unsafe levels.

If you had food poisoning

If you think you got sick from eating at a food establishment in Larimer County, please complete the Illness Complaint Form.  Keep in mind it may take hours or days before you develop symptoms so the source of your illness may NOT be the last place that you ate.  Make sure the provided contact information is accurate so we can contact you to verify the submitted information.  

Submit your Restaurant and Retail Plan Review Application Here

Submit your Mobile Plan Review Application Here

If interested in starting a food business in Larimer County

Contact the health department. You will be provided with copies of state regulations, plan review information and advice on how to get started.

You will need to submit a plan review application, a set of plans with outlined specifications and $100 application fee to the health department. Plans and specifications must be reviewed and approved before any construction is started. A plan review is needed to insure the establishment will be constructed to meet the current food safety regulations and to help prevent costly construction changes.

If interested in purchasing an existing food business in Larimer County

Contact the health department for a change of ownership inspection. A current inspection can provide detailed information outlining any changes or remodeling which may be required to meet current code requirements. Since regulations change and establishments are often modified between inspections, a restaurant that is operating may not meet the current regulations.

Getting a license to operate a restaurant or a grocery store

Contact the health department to obtain a license application. When your facility receives approval from the health department to operate, the license application will be approved and the license will be mailed to the establishment. Licenses must be renewed in January of each year, and are valid through December 31 of the licensing year. They are not transferable from one operator to another or from one location to another.

Restaurant and Retail Markets

Plan Review Requirements

The Health Department staff is there to help you from the beginning. Since compliance with all applicable regulations is necessary, it is much more cost effective for you to clearly understand what must be done and to do it right the first time.

Plan Review Application

Colorado Revised Statutes require plans and specifications be submitted to the Health Department for review and approved prior to starting construction or remodeling of any restaurant, grocery store, concession stand or any other type food service operation

Commissary Agreement

Mobile Units and Push Carts

Mobile retail food establishments include food trucks, trailers, carts and mobile food vending operations that sell prepackaged foods requiring temperature control for food safety.  Mobile units are intended to be just that, mobile and move from one operating site to another. They have a limited operating capacity compared to typical “brick and mortar” establishments that are plumbed to water and sewer systems, wired to the electrical grid, and can support more foodservice equipment, such as refrigeration.  In addition, mobile units may not have the capability to operate in cold or hot weather conditions that can impact plumbing and refrigeration equipment.    

Because of this limited capacity, a mobile unit’s menu needs to be relatively simple. Restricted to cook/heat and serve and simple assembly. Due to the described limitations, mobile units are expected to operate from a commissary or base kitchen for advanced food preparation, servicing, restocking, and maintenance each day they operate.  

Food trucks and trailers where the service of food is from the interior of the unit are called mobile units.  Units that are designed so food is served from the exterior of the unit are considered to be a cart.  Mobile food vending operations that sell prepackaged foods requiring temperature control for food safety, such as packaged frozen meats from a cooler or freezer, or packaged burritos from a hot holding cabinet, are considered prepackage mobile units. Booth setups that may include cooking at a grill and the service of food from a table, under a tent that often operate at a festival or temporary event are not considered to be mobile retail food establishments.

Requirements

Mobile Plan Review

Commissary Agreement

Food Safety, Preparation and Preservation

The common goal of food establishment operators and regulators is to assure safe food is provided to consumers. The implementation of an Active Managerial Control (AMC) program can help achieve this goal. AMC is a proactive approach to control foodborne illness risk factors and to minimize the occurrence of food safety violations.

Regulatory inspections emphasize the recognition and correction of violations that exist at the time of inspection. Recurring violations have traditionally been handled through re-inspections, assessment of fines or other enforcement actions. Operators of food service establishments routinely respond to inspection findings by correcting violations, but often do not implement proactive systems to prevent them from recurring. While this type of inspection and enforcement system has done a great deal to improve basic sanitation and to upgrade facilities, it emphasizes reactive rather than preventive measures to food safety.

Using AMC concepts, establishments can develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to address food safety issues. Once the SOPs are developed, staff can be trained on how to follow these procedures. A proactive approach to food safety can be made to monitor food temperatures, reheating techniques, cooling procedures, address employee illnesses, hand washing and glove use, as well as schedules for cleaning. Using AMC can lead to an empowered staff that can take an active role in the overall operation of the establishment and is able to handle food safety issues when they arise.

Please complete the AMC assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses in your food safety program.

Food Establishment Logs

Policies

Enforcement

Signs

Other Website Resources

The Colorado Department of Health & Environment has adopted the 2013 FDA Food Code,. The Food Code will replace Colorado's current Rules and Regulations and will be effective in January 1, 2019.  The change will effect restaurants, delis, cafeterias grocery stores and other retail food establishments. Numerous sections of the FDA Food Code are incorporated in Colorado’s current food safety regulations so establishments should not see a great deal of new requirements. However there are several changes that will impact currently operating establishments.  Some of the changes include:

  • Date marking procedures would be required for all food service operations. Date marking is currently only required in Colorado for establishments that serve food to highly susceptible populations such as health care facilities and schools. Refrigerated, ready-to-eat potentially hazardous foods prepared and held in the establishment for more than 24 hours will be required to be clearly marked to indicate the date by which the food is to be consumed, sold, or discarded. These foods must then be consumed, sold, or discarded within 7 days. This requirement is to help control the growth of deadly Listeria bacteria.
  • Establishments will be required to have at least one employee, with supervisory and management responsibilities, that holds a current food protection manager certification. Studies have shown establishments with certified managers have fewer food safety violations.
  • Establishments must have procedures for employees to follow when responding to vomiting or diarrheal events within the establishment. Illness outbreaks have been documented when proper clean up procedures were not followed.
  • Facilities with high temperature dish machines will need to have means to check the final rinse temperature using a heat tape thermometer or a maximum registering thermometer. Actively managing ware washing equipment can reduce violations associated with inadequate sanitization.
  • A sign or poster that notifies food employees to wash their hands will need to be displayed at all hand washing sinks. Signage is intended to improve the frequency of hand washing.
  • The term “Potentially Hazardous Food” will be replaced with "Time and Temperature Control for Safety Food." 
  • The terms critical item, and non-critical item will be replaced with priority, priority foundation, and core items.  In most cases priority and priority foundation items are currently called critical items and core item are non-critical items.

Resources

The following procedures and guidelines will apply for all retail food operations held at temporary special events in Larimer County.  Special events or temporary events are single organized community events or celebrations that operate for a period of not more than 14 consecutive days. They may include community farmers’ markets, town celebrations, fairs, and festivals.  Temporary special events do not include regularly scheduled events at venues such as sporting arenas, concert settings, flea markets, or sporadic promotional events such as grand openings or events serviced by licensed caterers. 

Effective January 1, 2022, some regularly scheduled events will be eligible for temporary event licensing. To be considered a temporary event, an Event Coordinator Application must be submitted and approved.
 

Procedures and Guidelines

  • All food vendors must operate in compliance with the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations. Vendors must hold a current Retail Food Establishment License issued by Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. Licensed mobile food trucks/trailers or carts that hold a valid Colorado Retail Food Establishment License wanting to operate at temporary special events may do so provided they operate under the conditions outlined in the Rules and Regulations and operate within the conditions of approval at the time the establishment was originally licensed. Non-profit organizations based in Larimer County are exempt from licensing requirements.
  • A Vendor Application for Temporary Food Events must be completed by prospective food vendors. Vendors wanting to operate multiple booths or points of sale must complete an application for each. Vendor applications must be submitted to Larimer County Department of Health and Environment with the required license fee(s) 14 days prior to the event. 
  • Vendors operating at events that are more than 1 day in duration must operate from an approved commissary that is within 60 minutes or 60 miles of the event. Vendors must provide a written commissary agreement with their vendor application. Vendors with limited menus operating from licensed self-contained mobile units may be allowed to operate without a commissary.
  • Preparation of food at the event site is to be limited to the service of pre-prepared foods, simple assembly of prepared foods or cook and serve only. Advanced, multi step food preparation that includes cooking and cooling or complex assembly, must be conducted in a commissary kitchen. Produce used at the event site must be pre-washed in the commissary kitchen. Washed produce must be placed into clean food grade containers. Storage of washed produce, such as lemons, potatoes or apples, in cardboard boxes is not allowed. Except for a single cut or slice to pre-washed potatoes, lemons, limes, oranges and apples, all slicing and chopping must be done at the commissary kitchen. Service of food prepared, cooked or stored at home is prohibited.
  • Foods requiring temperature control must be maintained below 41°F or above 135°F. Foods must be transported to the event below 41°F or above 135°F. Foods are not to be left out at room temperature even if frozen. Equipment capable of holding food at safe temperatures, and in sufficient numbers, must be provided. A system for hot holding of items, such as a double boiler, must be provided for food that will be cooked on site even if the intent is to cook per order. No cooling of hot foods is to be conducted on site. Hot food leftover at the end of the business day is to be discarded. Use of Sterno for hot holding, and Styrofoam coolers is not allowed.
  • A food thermometer must be provided. A simple digital food thermometer with a range of at least 0°F to 220°F should be used.
  • Bare hand contact with ready to eat foods is prohibited. Food handlers must use utensils, deli papers or clean food handlers' gloves. Food handlers' glove must be provided on site, but should only be used when tongs, scoops, other utensils and deli papers cannot be used. It is recommended to not wear gloves when handling raw meats and poultry. The use of gloves does not replace the need for hand washing.
  • To allow workers to wash their hands, a hand washing station must be provided within the food booth. 
    • Vendors with full service operations that conduct cooking including, grilling, frying and baking, or reheat unpackaged foods for hot holding or for immediate service, or assemble orders such as making wraps, sandwiches, tacos burritos or prepare and serve items that include fresh squeezed or blended drinks must have a hand washing station with at least a 5 gallon water capacity, supplied with both hot and cold running water dispensed through a combination faucet and basin that drains into a covered waste water collection holding container.  Hand soap and dispensed hand towels.  
    • Vendors with minor operations that serve premade baked goods, ice cream, popsicles, cotton candy, popcorn, kettle corn, roasted nuts, snow cones, or shaved ice must have a hand washing station that consist of a covered container filled with warm water, at least 5 gallons in size, fitted with a spout or spigot capable of providing 'hands-free' continuous flowing water, a covered 5 gallon catch bucket for the collection of hand washing waste water, hand soap and dispensed hand towels. Containers with push button type spigots are not allowed to be used as the water container for the hand washing station. 
    • Use of hand sanitizers is not a replacement for required hand washing.
  • Extra utensils such as tongs, spoons, knives, and cutting boards must be provided so soiled items can be changed out every 4 hours. All soiled utensils and equipment must be washed and sanitized at the end of the business day at the commissary kitchen. On-site ware washing in tubs, dish pans or buckets is not allowed.
  • Provide adequate work space, surfaces and tables for needed food preparation, assembly and to efficiently locate equipment needed for cooking, hot holding, beverage dispensing, taking and putting out food orders.
  • Foods, utensils, equipment and single-use items must be protected from weather, dust, dirt, insects and customer contamination. Store items off the ground. Keep foods covered during storage and during slow periods. Food preparation and assembly areas within the food booth and grills need to be protected from customer contact and contamination using distance to provide separation, shields or barriers. All foods, utensils and paper goods must be transported in clean, covered containers. Use coolers equipped with drains so packaged food and beverages can be stored in drained ice.
  • Wet cloths used to wipe down work surfaces and equipment must be kept in sanitizing solutions. Sanitizer solutions must have chlorine residual of 50-100 ppm (approximately 1 teaspoon of non-scented bleach per gallon of water) or 200 ppm quaternary ammonia. A test kit for checking sanitizing concentrations needs to be provided. Sanitizing solutions should be changed as needed, but at least every 3 hours. 
  • Eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited within the food booth. Staff must leave the booth for these activities and wash hands upon returning to work. Staff with long hair need to tie their hair back, wear a hat or have other appropriately hear restraints.
  • Enough water must be provided for food preparation, to fill and refill hand washing stations and sanitizer buckets. Check with the event coordinator to see if potable water is available, if not vendors will need to bring extra water.
  • All liquid waste from cooking processes, hand washing, and sanitizer buckets must be collected and disposed of in a sanitary sewer. Check with the event coordinator to see if a waste water disposal station is available, if not vendors need to take waste water back to the commissary kitchen for disposal. Waste water is not to be dumped onto the ground or into storm water drains.
  • Clean trash receptacles lined with trash bags must be provided in the food booth.
  • Screening or other provisions, such as floor covering may be required depending on the event location, time of year, weather and other conditions.
  • Pet animals are not allowed inside the food booth.
  • Vendors with full service operations that conduct cooking including, grilling, frying and baking, or reheat unpackaged foods for hot holding or for immediate service, or assemble orders such as making wraps, sandwiches, tacos, burritos must hold a current food safety managers certification.  A copy of the certification must be on site.
Additional Resources

If you have any questions concerning these requirements, please contact the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment for assistance.

Food Safety Program

(970) 498-6775