Image of How to Start a Food Business Guide

This handout was developed to help inform you of the requirements of a retail food business in El Dorado County. The El Dorado County, Environmental Management Department, Environmental Health Division, permits and regulates all retail food facilities and establishments in the County. These facilities are regulated under the California Retail Food Code (CRFC), an excerpt from the California Health and Safety Code. The Environmental Health Division is made up of Environmental Health Specialists that are divided into separate geographical districts. Your district Environmental Health Specialist will be determined by the area in which your business is located. After reading this guide, any specific questions about your business should be referred to your district Environmental Health Specialist.

When is a Health Permit Required?
Any storing, preparing, serving, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, salvaging, or handling food for dispensing or sale directly to the consumer requires a health permit from this office. The health permit has an annual fee based on the type of business and the size of the facility.

What is My Business?
This should be your first question. Are you planning on a wholesale or retail operation? Will you be in a building, or will you be mobile? How large is the facility? What are you planning on selling? Are you catering? Are you processing? Each answer to these questions help to determine the specific type of permit required.

  • Retail vs. Wholesale:
    "Retail" means the storing, preparing, serving, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, salvaging, or handling food for dispensing or sale directly to the consumer -- This office regulates retail facilities. "Wholesale" is the sale of food in quantity especially for resale by a retailer - The California Department of Public Health, Food & Drug Branch regulates wholesale facilities. Your business could be both, requiring a permit from this Department and another permit from the State.
  • Mobile Food Facilities:
    There are different types of mobile food facilities, with different requirements. Please talk to an Environmental Health Specialist for review and approval. All mobile food facilities are required to operate out of an approved commissary.
  • Caterers:
    See the "Catering Guidelines" handout for more information. All caterers are required to operate out of an approved commissary.

!!! Please be aware that it is unlawful to operate
any retail food business from your home !!!

What about Food Handler Certification?
State law mandates that certain food facilities are required to have at least one owner or employee who has successfully passed an approved and accredited food safety certification examination. The certification is valid for five years, and is issued to the individual who passes the exam. If that person leaves employment, the facility must obtain another certified person within 60 days. The certified owner/employee is responsible for the safety of food preparation and service, including employee education. 

What is Required in a Change of Ownership?
If you are the new owner of a retail business, you are required by this office to apply for a new health permit. You will be asked to submit a health permit application and pay an annual permit fee. As a new owner, you may be required to upgrade the facility. (It is strongly suggested that you review the facility file prior to closing the deal - there may be specific requirements that demand correction upon new ownership).

If there are any changes to occur, the district EHS should be notified so the proposed changes can be reviewed and approved. There may need to be a plan review. Some examples of these changes are:

  • Change of menu - May require additional equipment, such as a preparation sink.
  • Changing the floor, walls, or ceiling - Only certain materials are approved.
  • Installation of new equipment - All new or replaced equipment needs to be commercial-grade and be approved by this office before installation.
  • Removing equipment - May not be approved if the equipment is needed for operation.

What is "Plan Review"?
Submission of plans is a requirement upon the proposal of a new or remodeled retail food operation. The plans need to be reviewed and approved by this office before any construction takes place.There is a plan review fee involved. Some examples of when a plan review is required are:

  • A food facility is brand-new or is being remodeled -- Complete plans shall be submitted to this office for review and approval prior to any construction. (Other agencies, such as the Building Department, may also be involved). See the "Plan Check Guide" handout for further details.
  • An individual is proposing a new retail food operation (e.g., catering).
  • There are extensive changes in an existing facility, operation, or menu.

If you have any questions, or you need additional information, please contact El Dorado County, Environmental Management Department, Environmental Health Division, at (530) 621-5300 for Placerville or (530 )573-3450 for Tahoe.
We would be happy to help you!