All food facilities that store, prepare, package, serve, vend, or otherwise provide food and beverage for human consumption at a retail level or wholesale must have a valid health permit. Raw, cooked or processed edible substance, ice, water and chewing gum are examples of food. Orange County Environmental Health inspectors issue permit that authorizes a person to operate a food facility.
What is a Food Facility?
Food facility includes but is not limited to restaurants, bars, markets, public and private school cafeterias, carts, trucks, food booths at events, cottage food operation, certified farmer’s market and commissaries. If you are not clear about what kind of food facility you are planning to operate, the health inspector assigned to your area can help you with that. Knowing the type of food facility operation will help you and your inspector figure out requirements, fees and type of health permit.
Do I have to have a health permit?
Yes, a health permit is required in order to sell food.
What do I do if I am taking over an existing food facility or just planning to change the facility name?
The food facility permit is non-transferable. If you are taking over an existing food facility and are not planning to remodel, change any equipment, or change the menu, you must apply for a new health permit. The procedure is as simple as:
- Review the past restaurant inspection reports of the facility you are planning to purchase at our website: http://ocfoodinfo.com/.
- Contact the Environmental Health inspector assigned to your facility to schedule an inspection. Your health inspector will assist you with the requirements and useful information including past history of the facility.
- You can find out from previous owner or previous Food Facility Inspection Reports the health inspector assigned to your facility. You can also call (714)433-6000 to find out the assigned area inspector or visit our web page http://ocfoodinfo.com/general/specialists for the list of area supervisors.
- Upon successful inspection, you will complete an application and the permit to operate will be issued. If there are pending issues, your health inspector may schedule a re-inspection before issuing a valid health permit.
- If you are not making any changes, you can continue operation while waiting for your initial visit from your inspector.
How about if I plan to build, remodel, bring in new equipment, or change the menu?
You should obtain a written approval of your plan or proposal prior to any of the following:
- Constructing a new food facility
- Remodeling an existing food facility, or
- Making a significant menu change, change in operations, or equipment changes to an existing food facility
Not all proposals require plan submittal so it’s important that you communicate with the health inspector assigned to the proposed food facility location. When construction is involved, you are required to submit 3 sets of plans and specifications for review and approval prior to construction. A specific plan check construction guide for each type of food facility and fee schedules are available online at www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck. Once the plans, application and plan check fees are submitted to our office at 1241 E Dyer Rd Suite 120, Santa Ana, an Environmental Health plan checker will be assigned to review your plans. It usually takes 20 working days for the initial Food Facility plan review. This is what you can expect:
Following plan review you will be informed whether or not your plans are approved. If approved an approval report is provided along with 2 sets of stamped plans. If not approved, a report summarizing the corrections necessary is provided to you. Plans not approved require plan revisions via red line or new submittals.
Preliminary and final inspections are conducted at 80% and 100% completion respectively. Inspection requests shall be requested 5 working days in advance.
A health permit will be issued upon completion of a final inspection.
You may not start construction until plans from all agencies have been reviewed and approved in writing.
I already have a health permit for my restaurant. All I'm doing is adding an oven. Should I get an approval for something that minor?
Equipment used in a food facility needs to be approved and meet the standards. Sometimes even small changes can affect the safety, operation and/or other equipment in the food facility. Like for like equipment may not require approval. You should contact your health inspector and obtain approval for any changes before going through unnecessary cost and unexpected circumstances.
I have a permitted restaurant. Can I use the same permit to set up a food booth at a park?
Food booths are also known as Temporary Food Facilities (TFF). Since health permits are not transferable, you need to obtain a separate permit for your TFF. TFFs can be operated at community events, farmer’s market or swap meets. Remember not all events are community events. Your health inspector can make that determination. There are specific requirements for TFFs to obtain a permit. To become familiar with the TFF requirements, please visit our web site: http://ocfoodinfo.com/tff
I’m thinking about building a new push cart or get a new food truck. If it’s cheaper, I might just take over an existing one and make some changes to it. What do I need to do to get a health permit?
Carts and Trucks are referred to as Mobil Food Facilities (MFF). If you are starting fresh with new MFF or planning to remodel one, or make a significant change in equipment, menu or operations, then you need to submit plans for approval. The proposed MFF design/construction, equipment, menu, and operations will be reviewed by the Environmental Health inspector during a plan review process. For your conveyances, we have created a check list that will help you with what is needed to be included in your plan submission. Please visit our web site for the check list and to learn more about MFF requirements: http://ocfoodinfo.com/mobile
How about if I’m just going to take over a MFF and not make any changes?
If you are taking over Carts, trucks or commissaries, you can contact our Mobile Food Facility Section at (714) 433-6416 and make an appointment with the health inspector to set up for an inspection and if approved, obtain a health permit.
I am starting a wholesale business. Since all food are packaged and I'm planning to store my food in a self-storage unit, do I need a permit?
Self-storage units do not meet the requirement for the wholesale food facility. There are specific requirements for packaged and unpackaged wholesale food facilities. One of the requirements is to submit 3 sets of plans to our plan check section and go through the plan check process to obtain a health permit. To learn more about wholesale food facilities requirements visit our web page: http://ocfoodinfo.com/wholesale
I have heard that I can now make commercial food at my house. Does my house need to be permitted?
This type of operation is called Cottage Food Operation (CFO). The operation and the type of food you are going to prepare need to be approved. We have put together a web page that contains information on classification, application, food safety class requirement, and more related to CFO. Here is the CFO web site: http://ocfoodinfo.com/cottage
Send Us Your Questions!
In addition to obtaining a valid health permit from Orange County Environmental Health, you may need other types of permit and approvals. Here are some useful links: