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Environmental Health

Retail Food Safety Program

NEW! The California Homemade Food Act, also know as the Cottage Food Law, goes into effect on January 1, 2013. For more information, click here.

The Retail Food Safety Program monitors compliance of local and state food safety regulations in restaurants, markets, and all other retail food operations.

Principal Activities and Services

  • Permit restaurants, markets, and all other retail food operations.
  • Review construction plans to ensure that permitted food facilities comply with health codes.
  • Inspect and monitor all retail food operations for compliance with health and safety regulations.
  • Take enforcement actions, including suspension of permits, when needed, to protect health and safety.
  • Permit and inspect temporary food events (e.g. street fairs, concerts, etc.) and farmers' markets.
  • Investigate foodborne-illness complaints.
  • Educate food facility operators on safe food handling practices.
  • Provide food safety manager training and certification courses.

Obtaining Permits and Certifications

Food Facility Permit to Operate

All retail food operations including - restaurants, bars, markets, farmers' markets, concession stands, mobile food units, licensed health care facilities, and temporary food events - must obtain a Permit to Operate from the Department of Public Health. Click on the appropriate link below for permitting information in regards to different types of food facilities.

Plan Check

For any new construction or remodeling of a food facility, the Department of Public Health must perform a review of the construction plans to ensure that the physical requirements set by the California Health and Safety Code are met. For more information on the plan check procedure and requirements, click here.

Food Safety Certification

California Food Safety Law requires at least one employee at each retail food facility be certified in food safety by passing an approved examination. The certified person can be the owner, manager, chef, cook or any employee responsible for safe food handling and who may insure that other employees use proper food handling techniques. The certificate must be renewed every five years. For more information on certification, click here.

Food Handler Cards

California law requires all individuals involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility to obtain a food handler card after taking a food safety training course and passing an exam. For a list of certified organizations that can provide the food handler training program, click here (pdf).

Letter to operators about food handler cards - English, Spanish, Chinese (pdf)

Trans Fat Ban in California

In accordance with California law, the SFDPH's trans fat compliance program ensures that no food containing artificial trans fat is stored, distributed, served, or used in the preparation of any food within a food facility in the state of California. Click here for more information about the law.

Making a Complaint

Environmental health investigates foodborne-illness complaints when three (3) people or less are ill and complaints about food establishments in general. If you would like to make a complaint, click here. For foodborne illness complaints involving more than four (4) people, call Disease Control as soon as possible at (415) 554-2830.

Related Agency

San Francisco Planning Department: A potential site for a new food establishment may require approval from the Planning Department.