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Food Safety Program

Food Safety Program: Permit & Fee Exemptions

Permit Exemptions

Food Facilities on Federal Properties– A permit will not be issued for a food facility on Federal property. These properties are governed the by Federal Law; the U.S. Public Health Services conducts its own inspections. Inquiries or complaints about these food facilities need to be directed to the appropriate federal agency.


Food Facilities on State Properties– A permit will not be issued for a food facility owned by the State and operated by State employees. This permit exemption does not apply to private operators who lease space on State property.


Food Operations not defined as Food Facilities– A permit will not be issued if the food facility is not defined as a Food Facility in the California Retail Food Code Section 113789(c). The Health Department has the authority to require your business to provide pertinent information and/or documentation to make this determination.


Complimentary Incidental Food–A permit is not required for non-potentially hazardous food and beverage given away as a courtesy to waiting customers where the primary business does not involve food service. Example: A bank, salon or auto shop that offers complimentary coffee and/or pastries for customer self-service in a waiting area. All food must be from an approved source(s). Only disposable, recyclable or compostable customer utensils can be used. The business is limited to a single coffee brewer and/ or hot water pot. If you have questions whether your business can give away food or beverage, please call Environmental Health Branch at (415) 252-3800.


Transitional (Halfway) Housing– A permit will not be issued when a facility (not licensed or inspected the State) permits residents the use of a community kitchen to prepare their own meals.


Vending Machines – A permit is not required for vending machines that do not sell potentially hazardous foods (food that must be kept at or below 41°F), such as: bottled water, canned or bottled sodas, whole fruit, and/or pre-packaged non-potentially hazardous foods (e.g. candy, nuts, popcorn, gum, crackers, cookies).


Nonprofit Charitable Temporary Food Facilities– A permit is not required for certain qualified non-profit temporary food booth operations at an approved community event, however you must apply for a permit waiver for your non-profit event.


Fee Exemptions

Charitable feeding programs– A non-fee permit may be granted by the Director of Environmental Health on a case by case basis when: (1) the operation is owned and operated by a certified non profit organization and (2) where food is provided at no cost to vulnerable population (e.g. low income, elderly, homeless, disabled, etc.) of San Francisco. The permit will require the operation to meet minimal health requirements to provide safe food. Inspection frequency will be based on food service and risk. For fee-exemption status, the majority of the food distributed must be done under charitable feeding. If less than the majority of the food is charitably distributed, fee-exemption status does not apply.

Examples: food banks, grocery distribution, operator prepared food deliveries, operator prepared food for onsite consumption, distribution of prepared foods from approved food facilities, etc…


Blind and disabled operators– A non-fee permit may be granted to blind or disabled operators of food facilities who are sponsored by the Business Enterprise Program of the California Department of Rehabilitation.


Veteran operators– A non-fee permit may be granted to food facility operators claiming veterans’ exemptions. Operators must present proof of veteran status and write a letter to the EHS Director requesting exemption from license fees. Someone claiming a fee exemption as a veteran, in addition to the above, is only exempt, per California’s Business and Professions Code Section 16102, if the following applies:

Every soldier, sailor or marine of the United States who has received an honorable discharge or a release from active duty under honorable conditions from such service may hawk, peddle and vend any goods, wares or merchandise owned by him, except spirituous, malt, vinous or other intoxicating liquor, without payment of any license, tax or fee whatsoever, whether municipal, county or State, and the board of supervisors shall issue to such soldier, sailor or marine, without cost, a license therefor.

This veteran’s fee exemption section only applies to sole proprietorships where the veteran hawks, peddles or vends goods, wares, and merchandise. This does not apply to restaurants or facilities where food products are created, nor facilities where alcohol is sold.


Food preparation and service facilities used exclusively for day care for children–  A non-fee permit may be granted if the center is not licensed by the State Social Services. If licensed by the State, the facility may be exempt from a permit under CRFC 113789.


Food preparation and service facilities used for nutrition projects for elderly individuals A non-fee permit may be granted to facilities funded through the San Francisco Commission on Aging for nutrition projects for elderly individuals, per San Francisco Business Code.