Ask Us: Are vendors at festivals inspected for food safety practices?

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 18, 2019

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

SALISBURY — A reader asked if food vendors at community gatherings such as the Cheerwine Festival, Rowan County Fair and Autumn Jubilee are inspected by an agency for safe food-handling or sanitation practices.

The short answer is yes.

The food inspection process for festivals and other community activities work to limit food-related sicknesses, said Greg McNeely, an environmental health program specialist with the Environmental Health Division of the Rowan County Health Department.

Some vendors can fall under the rules of the N.C. Department of Agriculture as opposed to the Environmental Health Division or they can be exempt. But most food vendors are inspected by Environmental Health, McNeely said. His agency is the same one that does restaurant inspections.
The requirements cover things like hand washing and limits on what can be sold and how it can be prepared. For example, chili must be bought already prepared, and the sources of food need to be approved as well.
McNeely said his agency isn’t required to go back to the locations after permits have been issued. But if the festival is multiple days long, McNeely said, inspectors will often check back while it is is ongoing.