California law requires that each retail food facility have a permit before commencing operation and this permit is not transferable between facilities or persons. A permit is issued only upon verification by this Division that the food facility complies with applicable standards of construction, finish, equipment, and operation. This guide is intended to assist you in understanding the steps to be completed before issuance of a permit can occur. Throughout the process of obtaining a permit, please feel free to contact the Division of Environmental Health regarding fee amounts or other specific details involved with the permit process.
The steps in the process are listed below. In many cases you may begin applications with different county and/or city agencies at the same time, such as plan reviews with both city building department and the county Division of Environmental Health, but all approvals must be secured from the appropriate agencies before beginning to work on construction or beginning to operate your food facility.
1. Pre-application Inspection:
If you are contemplating buying or leasing an existing building to begin a retail food business, you should contact this Division for an inspection so that you can become aware of required work to bring the facility into compliance before you make a final decision about the building in question. Other departments having jurisdiction may also provide a similar service to help you determine compliance issues before you make a final commitment to a specific building. While this is extended as a courtesy to you in your early planning stages, inspection by this Division will always be required before a food facility opens or before a food facility reopens under new business ownership.
2. Plan Review:
Submit plans to this Division for construction or remodeling, if required. Written plans are typically required for all new construction or remodeling if there is a requirement for a permit by a building department for this work. Plans may be required by this Division under other circumstances as well. Please verify the requirement for plan submittal and also verify the current plan review deposit with the Division of Environmental Health. The Division charges on a time and materials basis for all plan reviews.
The applicant might sometimes find it expedient to do something different from what is shown on plans that have already been approved by this Division. All we ask is that, prior to actually changing what has been approved, you notify the Division of the change, and give us a copy of the changed part of the plan for review. A separate fee is not required for minor plan changes. Approval by Environmental Health of changes to already approved plans is required before the change is actually done during construction.
3. Construction Site Inspections:
Once this Division approves plans and you have obtained any required construction permits from the building department, work may proceed. One or more inspections are normally made during construction to provide feedback to you regarding status of compliance.
You may request an on-site consultation for advice on needed corrections or proposed work at any time. The Division strongly recommends you take advantage of such reviews to assure yourself that construction will be done correctly the first time, and that equipment chosen is approved for food facilities in California. In all cases, the project must receive a final inspection by the Environmental Health before a permit to operate may be issued (see below). As with plan review work, the Division also charges for inspection work on a time and materials basis.
4. Application For Food Facility Permit and Final Inspection:
When the business is ready for opening, application must be made with this Division for a food facility permit. A permit fee, the amount of which can be provided to you upon request, must also be submitted. Upon receipt of application and fee, a final (opening) inspection will be scheduled. Please allow sufficient advance time for the Department to schedule the inspection. Typically, at least two or three business days advance notice is necessary. YOU MAY NOT OPERATE THE FACILITY UNTIL THE INSPECTION VERIFIES COMPLIANCE, and the permit is issued. The Divisionís office hours are from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding Holidays.
You should be aware that other agencies, such as building and fire departments, also require final approvals before you open your business.
5. Health Cards:
With the exception of prepackaged foods and pre-containerized beverages, those operations which prepare, portion, dispense, store, or otherwise handle non-prepackaged foods or beverages must have health cards issued by Imperial County for each employee and management staff who are involved with the handling of these non-prepackaged foods or beverages. Health cards or certificates are not accepted from any other jurisdiction and the Imperial County card is the standardized means within the County of certifying that food personnel are free of any apparent communicable disease. Please contact the Imperial County Public Health Department located at 935 Broadway, El Centro by telephone at 760-482-4453 for current hours of operation and fee amount. Health cards expire one year from the date of issuance. Each food handler must possess his or her Imperial County health card before they can begin work within the food establishment.
6.California Food Handler Card:
State law requires each food service employee, with the exception of those that are exempt, who is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility, to obtain a food handler card within 30 days of the date of hire from an organization with an ANSI accredited food handler program. A list of approved organizations are listed below. You can also obtain a listed of approved organizations at the following link:
7. Certified Food Safety Manager:
State law requires each food facility to have at least one owner or employee that has passed a state-approved food safety certification exam. Each certification is applicable to only one facility. These certificates are valid for 3 years and must be renewed.
The Division has been notified that a Certified Food Manager Course and examination is being offered locally by the following:
*A Plus Food Safety, David Perez, Sr.
(619) 758-5487, (760) 298-4156
In addition, the following link provides ANSI accredited providers for Certification of Food Safety Managers ANSI Accreditation Services
7. Permit Expiration & Renewal
Except for temporary food facility health permits, all annual permits expire on December 31st of the year of issuance. Permit renewal fees are due on or before December 31st . A penalty of 10% will be assessed if permit fees are received after December 31st . Failure to pay any portion of the annual permit within 60 days will result in an additional 15% penalty and the revocation of facilityís health permit. California State law has no provisions for allowing a retail food facility to be open for business without a valid permit issued by this Division.