Winston-Salem, NC -- When it comes to festival season, arguably the best part is the food. But there are some things you should know before you dig in.
According to Sheryl Emory, Environmental Health Supervisor with Forsyth County Department of Public Health, not all temporary food stands have to be inspected.
"Things such as hot dogs, hamburgers, corn dogs, those do have to have an inspection. The pizza, ribs, chicken, anything like that," said Emory.
The food stands that are required to be inspected by the health department are permitted for events.
"A permit is posted at the booth, so you should be able to find the permit. Most of the time we use a bright-colored piece of paper, so that it's easily identified," Emory said.
However, when it comes to funnel cakes, cotton candy, candy apples, popcorn, snow cones, and other "carnival food", Emory said the Health Department is hands off.
"Hand hygiene is always important, but in this particular situation, they're specifically exempted from our rules," said Emory.
Emory said that's because those foods are not considered potentially hazardous. It's unlikely they would make you sick.
"Bacteria doesn't typically grow or multiply very fast in those types of food items," Emory said.
While ice cream and some baked goods fall under the Department of Agriculture's rules, a lot of stands aren't regulated at all. No one is watching how the food is handled.
Emory said if you plan on eating there, you've got to be your own best advocate.
According to Emory, you should look at how clean the booth is, the cleanliness of the staff preparing the food and whether they're washing their hands.
"For the most part, most of the people, this is their livelihood, this is their job, they want to do a good job," she said.
If there's a complaint about a particular food booth or vendor, the Health Department and the Department of Agriculture will investigate. But Emory said, to her knowledge, there have been no outbreaks of illness linked to carnival foods.
As for the booths that are regulated and inspected by the Health Department, they're not issued a sanitation grade, just a permit to operate up to 15 days.
WFMY News 2