This guide is for prospective operators of food enterprises (food establishments, retail food stores, food warehouses, and food processors) desiring to open a food business in either their local city, county or state jurisdiction. This is a general overview and may not be all inclusive of the codes and ordinances in your locality. It is good to note that though this document will more than likely cover most if not all requirements for starting a food business in your jurisdiction, it would be in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the codes and regulations of your local city, county and/or state.
Operating Permits – Food Enterprises
A Food Establishment application can be obtained at your local city or county health department. If you plan to manufacture foods and package for retail sale you may be required to obtain a food manufacturer’s license from your state regulatory agency. If you plan to distribute your product outside of your state lines a federal license may also have to be obtained. It is recommended that you submit a fully completed application and fees at least one month prior to your anticipated opening date. This gives the local authority the needed lead time to process it and schedule any needed pre-opening inspections. Again, make sure that you provide ALL information required on the application. Incomplete applications may delay your approval.
Food permits are generally in effect for one year from the date of issue and are renewable each year thereafter when the appropriate fee is paid and as long as the establishment remains in compliance with applicable Health codes and regulations.
Home preparation of food for public consumption is prohibited. All food that is to be consumed by the public, whether free or for purchase must be prepared at a permitted establishment that is inspected by a federal, state, or local Health Authority.
Food Establishment Fee: Food establishment fees are variable depending on jurisdiction. Contact your local health authority to inquire about permitting fees.
NOTE: Larger establishments that have multiple food service operations on site may need to obtain a health permit for each operation. A separate application and fees may need to be submitted for each operation.
Food Enterprise Pre-Opening Processes
When starting a Food Enterprise business you may be required to go through either or both A) a change of ownership inspection or B) a plan review process. Read through options A & B below to determine which best fits your situation. Contact your local health authority if you need help in making that determination.
A) Change of Ownership Inspection Process-
Before opening for business you may be required to go through a change of ownership inspection. This inspection verifies your establishment complies with current regulations and that clearance to occupy the site has been granted by your city or county. This inspection may incur a fee and the fee for this inspection will more than likely be required to be paid before the inspector conducts the inspection. If applicable, a request for a Change of Ownership application should be available at the offices of your local city or county health authority. Again, to expedite your request, a fully completed application must be submitted. After submitting the application; call to schedule the inspection with your inspector. If the establishment doesn’t comply with current regulations you will be required to bring it up to code before your operating permit is approved. Prospective business owners, if available, it would be in your best interest to request a change of ownership inspection before finalizing the sale. This gives the prospective business owner a heads up on any items that may be required for the establishment to be in compliance with local city or county codes. Under no circumstances may you begin operations without approval from the local city or county health authority. Legal charges may be filed against you if you do.
B) Food Establishment Plan Review Process
A plan review will more than likely be required for any newly built business or in the event of an extensive remodel of an existing business. NOTE: This will also more than likely require a completed application and fees be paid in order to initiate this process.
A Plan Review is required whenever a building is constructed or substantially remodeled to be a food enterprise, whenever a substantial change is made to an existing food facility or may be required if a plumbing permit, building permit, or other construction permit is required by the local city or county development offices.
The Plan Review Application, including proposed menu, Fees, and 1 or more sets of building plans all may be required to be submitted as a package. Review all forms thoroughly to ensure accuracy of information provided. Incomplete or inaccurate applications could delay your plan review. The Plan Review Application should be available at the offices of your local city or county Health Authority. Upon approval, the plans are stamped by the Health Authority and the person submitting the plans will be called to pick them up.
Submit building plans after the type of food operation and menu has been determined and after receiving Building approval from your local city or county development offices. The building plans should be drawn to scale with most plans drawn in a scale of ¼” = 1Ft. and detail the layout of the kitchen, dining area, restrooms, storage areas, break room, wait stations and bar. The plans are to include a materials list of specifications for all floors, walls, and ceilings.
Certificate of Occupancy
All Food Enterprises will more than likely be required to have a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO is issued after the Building and Health Officials inspect the building and find no violations of the Building or Health Codes during new construction and/or a remodel. The CO will also state the use for which the building will be used. The CO Inspection is usually required prior to getting final health approval but in some cases not only may a preliminary CO inspection be required prior to receiving your final health approval but a secondary (final) CO inspection may be required by your building inspector before your Operating Permit is approved. Inquire with your local health authority and building inspectors to see what process is required. NOTE: Contact the building inspectors at least 7 days prior to the time you are ready to schedule your inspection. This should insure that you get a timely response.
Once you have completed the pre-opening processes and your Building and Health Inspectors have approved your operating permit, you may open for business. Under no circumstances may you begin operations without approval from both the Building and Health Inspectors. Legal charges may be filed against you if you do.
Building Permits: Plans may need to be submitted for a Commercial Plan Review. If required, contact your local Building or Development Services Office to schedule this review and to obtain a building permit.
Industrial Waste: If you are taking over a previous business and changing the type of operation, ensure the grease trap meets the requirements for your new operation. For example, when a “sandwich shop” becomes a “fried chicken” location, the existing grease trap may need to be modified. Contact your local industrial waste inspector to ascertain if any changes need to be made to the existing system or to evaluate your engineered designs if your plans require the installation of an on-site septic system.
Fire Inspections: Building Inspectors are concerned with grease-laden vapors and proper hood protection in food facilities. All cooking equipment must be installed under an approved hood system. In addition, establishments in excess of 5,000 sq. ft. are required to provide a sprinkler system. Establishments with an occupancy load in excess of 50 people are required to provide fire alarms. Call your local building inspector, fire inspector or fire marshal to evaluate plans or to schedule a site inspection.
What to put in a plan Review
Include and Identify the following on your Building Plans
– Major pieces of equipment
Ice Cream Dispenser
Food Processors Salad/Food Buffets
Hand sinks (food prep areas ware-washing area restrooms) Ware washing sinks Service Sink/Mop sink/curbed floor sink Food Prep Sink
– Grease Barrel
– Chemical Storage areas
– Mop drying area
– Employee area for belongings
– Dry food storage area
– Mechanical ventilation in restrooms
– Outdoor food prep areas (bars/wait station/BBQ)
– Grease trap size and location
– Water Wells
– Underground and overhead sewer and waste lines
– On Site Sewage Facility
Health Code Plan Notes
1) Refrigeration All refrigerated units are to hold foods at or below 41°F.
2) Restrooms (two are normally required). If the establishment has only carry-out or seating for less than 20 people, and less than 10 employees, then only one employee restroom may be allowed. Two restrooms may be required if alcohol is served on the premises or more than 20 seats are provided. Each restroom must have a hand sink with hot (at least 100°F) and cold water, mechanical air ventilation to the outside, and a solid, self-closing door. Restrooms may not open directly into a kitchen. The total number of restrooms for a Childcare facility is dependent on the “minimum standards” of the Texas. Dept. of Family and Protective Services (834-3195) as it relates to Childcare.
A. Service Sink/Mop Sink/Curbed Floor sink: At least one of these must be available for mop washing and disposal of mop water in an approved waste water disposal system. A drying rack is required for mops to air dry. This sink must be provided with a backflow preventer on any threaded hose bib to protect the water supply. Note: the mop sink may be located in a different area of the building than the kitchen.
B. Hand washing sinks: Shall be located to allow convenient use by employees in food preparation, food dispensing, ware wash areas, and any wait station where ice is dispensed, bar area or in a walk-in where meat is cut or trimmed. At least one hand sink will be required; additional, separate hand sinks may also be required. Small kitchens with food prep and ware washing in close proximity may be allowed to use one hand sink to serve both activities. Other hand sinks must be associated with restrooms. Provide at least 12″ tall splashguards if a hand sink is located near food prep, open food, ice, or clean food contact surfaces. Otherwise, the hand sink must have at least 18″ lateral separation from these. A sign or poster that notifies food employees to wash their hands shall be provided to all hand washing sinks and be clearly visible. A small, swinging door (as in a bar area) could separate a hand sink from a work area, otherwise no doors separating hand sink from work areas.
Each sink must be supplied with hot (100°F) and cold water, soap and disposable towels. Childcare facilities must have hot water in the diaper changing area and kitchen. If plans do not provide sufficient hand sinks to meet the requirements of the establishment you will be asked to provide a revised plan with additional hand sinks.
C. Ware Wash Area: A commercial dishwasher or 3 compartment sink is required in most cases. Dish machines must be able to effectively sanitize all equipment and utensils. They must dispense a chemical sanitizer or provide a final rinse of at least 180° F. (single, stationary rack machines are required to reach 165° in the sanitize cycle). Test strips are required. Above-the-counter dish machines are required to have Type II vent-hood.
Ware washing sinks shall be of sufficient size to immerse the largest piece of equipment. Cold and hot (100°F minimum) water under pressure delivered through a mixing valve shall be provided. Provide at least 2 integral drain boards or 1 integral drain board and a mobile dish cart. Drying racks or shelves will aid in adequately air drying all wares. Facilities with very limited ware washing and using disposable containers may request a variance to install a 2 compartment sink (example: convenience store). These sinks are required to have a drain board. The sinks must have an indirect connection to the sanitary sewer (at least a one inch air gap). This includes all food prep sinks and ware wash sinks.
4) Ceiling Construction: Ceilings over open food, ice, soda fountains, ware washing, restrooms and bars must meet construction criteria and be smooth, durable, nonabsorbent, and cleanable. Open rafters, trusses or grid work and exposed duct work, pipes or utility lines are usually prohibited with no open structure permitted. If drop down acoustic tiles are used, they must be properly constructed. These tiles are washable and have a smooth surface without pinholes. Painted dry wall or boards are generally acceptable.
5) Walls/Floors: Must be constructed of approved materials. Cleanable water-based enamel paint is usually acceptable for most wall surfaces. Areas that are subject to regular cleaning and splash may be covered with FRP, stainless, or galvanized metal. Floor/wall junctures shall provide no greater than 1/32″ gap. Baseboards are required. Caulk wall/floor junctures to prevent the collection of food particles and water. Masonry (brick/concrete) wall/floor junctures DO NOT require baseboards since a masonry juncture provides no gap. Raw brick and concrete in the kitchen area requires sealing. The sand grout of all tiles needs to be sealed. Epoxy grout does not require sealing. VCT floor tiles require a coat of wax to seal out liquids.
6) Solid Waste: Dumpster and grease barrels shall rest on a machine laid asphalt or concrete pad. These containers must have tight fitting lids and drain plugs in place.
7) Outdoor Cooking facilities: Barbeque pits or smokers shall be enclosed, and if screened in, at least a 1/16″ mesh screen is required. They shall rest on a concrete or asphalt pad. The meat may only be placed on the smoker; no food prep allowed in this enclosure. Any seasoning, cutting, etc. must take place inside the establishment. Outdoor bars and wait stations will be approved on a case by case basis by your local health authority.
8) Water and Sewage Systems: All private onsite sewage facilities and wells serving a new food enterprise, an extensively remodeled food enterprise, or a food enterprise coming under new ownership must meet current standards. These systems are required to be evaluated with respect to whether the system (a) meets current standards and (b) is adequate for the proposed use.
NOTE: A food service facility or Childcare facility using a well may be considered public water supply and subject to specific restrictions and regulations. Consult your local health authority to inquire about any questions regarding the use of a private well.
9) Protecting the Water Supply: Threaded hose bibs are required to have a backflow prevention device attached. Spray hoses and fill hoses shall hang at least 1 inch above the maximum flood rim of a basin or the hoses shall be provided with an atmospheric vacuum breaker or backflow prevention device.
10) Indirect Connections: Jockey boxes, ice bins, ice machines and sinks (as identified above in # 3) must be provided with indirect connections to the sewer. Floor sinks are required on new construction.
11) Lighting: Adequate amount of light shall be provided to all areas. At least 20 foot candles is required where food is provided for customer self-service such as buffet and salad bars or where fresh produce or packaged foods are sold. At least