Food Permits

Any business that sells, prepares, serves, or provides food directly to a consumer is a food establishment. By law, a food establishment must have a permit from Harris County Public Health to operate. To obtain this permit from the Environmental Public Health Division (EPH) of Harris County Public Health, an establishment must complete the Plan Review process for their specific foodservice operation.

Retail fooD establishments include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Fast food outlets
  • Grocery stories
  • Conveniences stores
  • Bars
  • Day care centers
  • Schools
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals
  • Temporary events
  • Mobile food units

With the exception of convenience stores that do not prepare or serve food, each of these establishments is required to have a manager on duty who is trained in sanitation and safe food handling procedures. In addition, HCPH investigators inspect food establishments several times each year and, if requested, will offer an educational session for food service workers.

New Customers

Fixed Food Establishment

To obtain the annual permit for a Fixed Food Establishment from Harris County Public Health - Environmental Public Health Division (EPH), the applicant must follow these Plan Review steps:

To obtain a Fixed Food Establishment annual permit from EPH, an establishment must follow these Plan Review steps:

  1. Submit to the EPH office:
    • Complete the Application here.
    • Applications must be completed using Google Chrome. Safari is not a supported browser at this time.
    • Plan Review fee - Plan Review fees are non-refundable. Please ensure Harris County Public Health is your regulatory jurisdiction before the fee is paid. Harris County Public Health’s regulatory map can be found here. Harris County Public Health’s regulatory map can be found here.
    • The Sample Menu, Floor Plan, Equipment Plan, & the Owner’s US-Approved Identification must be uploaded to submit the application.
    • Note: Once submitted, the applicant does not have access to the completed application until after EPH reviews the application.
  2. Plan Review Conference Appointment - EPH will send an email invitation to all addresses listed on the application within five (5) business days to schedule the plan review appointment. This appointment is held virtually using Microsoft Teams. During the appointment, EPH will determine compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations for the submitted equipment floor plan. This step can be expedited*
  3. Document Submittal - At the end of the plan review appointment, EPH sends an email to all addresses listed on the application containing a URL / hyperlink that serves as a portal to submit required documents. The applicant or their designated representative must upload all required documents to obtain approval for the pre-opening inspection using that URL. Documents must be in PDF format.
    • The URL / hyperlink is the establishment’s application number in parenthesis (A0001234) and is located in the body of the email.
    Examples of documents that may be required include:
    • Water Approval – A Customer Service Inspection Certificate and Water District Approval Letter completed and signed by the MUD representative OR approved well and septic information.
    • A Certificate of Compliance from Harris County Fire Marshall for Fire Code Review, Harris County Engineering Division (713) 274-3900 or approved Certificate of Occupancy from local jurisdiction.
    • A Certified Food Manager certificate for an employee of the establishment.
    • A State of Texas Sales Tax Permit Taxpayer ID. Contact the Texas Comptroller at https://comptroller.texas.gov/.
  4. Pre-Opening Inspection - After the approval of all required documents, EPH sends an email to all listed on the application stating that the business is ready for the pre-opening inspection. The EPH staff assigned to the inspection will contact the business to schedule the pre-opening inspection.
    • Pre-Opening Inspections are scheduled within 10 business days.
    • Expedited* Pre-Opening Inspections are scheduled within 2 business days.

The business can open after the pre-opening inspection, permit approval, and purchase of the HCPH permit. A re-inspection fee will be charged if the business does not pass the inspection.

*EXPEDITE FEE: the indicated steps can be expedited with payment of the expedite fee. Contact Plan Review for eligibility.

Mobile Units

A Mobile Food Unit (MFU) is a self-contained, movable food establishment that serves or sells food to a person and can be either a trailer, truck, or pushcart. MFU permits are only issued at the EPH office to observe mobility and functionality of the unit. To minimize wait time, applications for new MFU should be made in advance either online or in person.

If you are a new owner of a MFU, follow these step to obtain a permit from EPH:

  1. Submit to the EPH in office or online:
    • Complete the Application here.
      • Once the application if filled out, an email will be sent to you with your establishment number and a link to pay the Plan Review fee.
    • Plan Review fee 
      • Plan Review fees are non-refundable. Please ensure Harris County Public Health is your regulatory jurisdiction before the fee is paid. Harris County Public Health’s regulatory map can be found here. Keep in mind, city jurisdictions may not allow MFU to operate inside their limits.
      • After the Plan Review fee is paid, EPH will call within five business days to schedule the permitting inspection appointment.
  2. Document Submittal - All documents must be submitted together and include the establishment number on all correspondence. To streamline the process, email all documents to [email protected] no less than 3 business days before the appointment. Failure to provide current copies of all documents will result in a re-inspection fee, failed inspection, and re-scheduled appointment.
    • The owner’s current Texas Driver’s License(TXDL) or US identification (Military ID, Texas, ID, US Passport, or Work Visa)
    • If the owner does not have a TXDL provide:
    • A Certified Food Manager certificate for an employee of the establishment
    • A State of Texas Sales Tax Permit Taxpayer ID. Contact the Texas Comptroller at https://comptroller.texas.gov/.
    • Valid vehicle registration for truck or tow vehicle and trailer (if applicable)
    • Valid vehicle insurance for truck or tow vehicle
    • Copy of the menu
    • If the MFU will operate at a location for more than 2 hours:
  3. Mobile Unit Inspection Appointment - After the Plan Review fee is paid, EPH will call within five business days to schedule the permitting inspection appointment. During the appointment, the MFU will be inspected by EPH staff and a Harris County Fire Marshall. All equipment on the unit must be functioning at the time of the inspection. If a generator is needed to operate the equipment, it must be brought to the inspection. The owner must be present with his/her current/valid TXDL. If the owner does not have a TXDL, the owner must bring current photographic identification issued by the State of Texas or United States agency and the driver must be present with his/her TXDL.
  4. Permit Payment – Once the application is received, the operator must purchase the permit and affix the mobile unit medallion to the unit. Current commissary receipts must be kept on the unit during all hours of operation.

Change of Ownership

Permits for food establishments are not transferrable to different owners. A change of ownership for a food establishment requires the new owner to obtain a new permit from EPH. To avoid citations or closure for operating without a current permit, the new owner of a food establishment should begin the change of ownership process prior to taking over the business.

Businesses that are changing ownership must follow these Plan Review steps:

  1. Submit to the EPH office:
  2. Plan Review Conference Appointment - EPH will send an email invitation to all addresses listed on the application within five (5) business days to schedule the plan review appointment. This appointment is held over Microsoft Teams. During the appointment, EPH will determine compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations for the submitted equipment floor plan. This step can be expedited*
  3. Document Submittal - At the end of the plan review appointment, EPH sends an email to all addresses listed on the application containing a URL / hyperlink that serves as a portal to submit required documents. The applicant or their designated representative must upload all required documents to obtain approval for the pre-opening inspection using that URL. Documents must be in PDF format.
    The URL / hyperlink is the establishment’s application number in parenthesis (A0001234) and is located in the body of the email.

    Examples of documents that may be required include:
    • Water Approval – A Customer Service Inspection Certificate and Water District Approval Letter completed and signed by the MUD representative OR approved well and septic information.
    • A Certificate of Compliance from Harris County Fire Marshall for Fire Code Review, Harris County Engineering Division (713) 274-3900 or approved Certificate of Occupancy from local jurisdiction.
    • A Certified Food Manager certificate for an employee of the establishment.
    • A State of Texas Sales Tax Permit Taxpayer ID. Contact the Texas Comptroller at https://comptroller.texas.gov/.
  4. Pre-Opening Inspection - A request must be made to EPH for a pre-opening inspection after construction or remodeling is completed and all required documents are submitted. Requests must be made ten (10) days prior to the desired preopening inspection date. This step can be expedited*. The business can open after the pre-opening inspection, permit approval, and purchase of the HCPH permit. A re-inspection fee will be charged if the establishment does not pass the pre-opening inspection.

*EXPEDITE FEE: the indicated steps can be expedited with payment of the expedite fee. Contact Plan Review for eligibility.

Food Permit Renewals

Fixed Food Establishments

Your establishment will receive two e-mails upon passing a Permitting Inspection. These e-mails will include a copy of your invoice, and the other will have payment options. Please use the e-mail with the payment link listed if you wish to pay for your permit online. If you did not receive one or both of the e-mails, please check the SPAM folder within your e-mail inbox.

If paying online via the online payment link, you must use Google Chrome as your browser to process the payment.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Environmental Public Health at 713-274-6300.

Mobile Units

All Mobile Food Unit permitting inspections will temporarily be held at IT May Park, located at 2100 Wolf Road, Huffman, TX 77336. For more information please call 713-274-6300.
 

A Mobile Food Unit (MFU) is a self-contained, movable food establishment that serves or sells food to a person and can be either a trailer, truck, or pushcart. MFU permits are only issued at the EPH office to observe mobility and functionality of the unit. To minimize wait time, email [email protected] to request an inspection appointment and submit the required documentation.

To renew a permit for a MFU with the same owner as the prior year, follow these steps:

  1. Request an Inspection Appointment - email [email protected] to request an inspection appointment and submit the required documentation. MFU inspections will be scheduled on Tuesdays. Do not bring the MFU without an appointment.
  2. Document Submittal - All documents must be submitted together and include the establishment number on all correspondence. To streamline the process, email all documents to [email protected] no less than 5 business days before the appointment. Failure to provide current copies of all documents will result in a re-inspection fee, failed inspection, and re-scheduled appointment.
    • If the owner does not have a current Texas Driver’s License, provide:
    • A Certified Food Manager certificate for an employee of the establishment
    • A State of Texas Sales Tax Permit Taxpayer ID. Contact the Texas Comptroller at https://comptroller.texas.gov/.
    • Valid vehicle registration for truck or tow vehicle and trailer (if applicable)
    • Valid vehicle insurance for truck or tow vehicle
    • Copy of the menu
    • If the MFU will operate at a location for more than 2 hours:
    • Visit www.hcfmo.net for Operational Permit renewal information. Failure to meet Harris County Fire Marshal Office requirements may result in a reinspection.
  3. Mobile Unit Inspection Appointment - After an appointment request is made, EPH will call within five business days to schedule the permitting inspection appointment. At EPH, the MFU will be inspected by EPH staff and a Harris County Fire Marshall. All equipment on the unit must be functioning at the time of the inspection. If a generator is needed to operate the equipment, it must be brought to the inspection. The owner must be present with his/her current/valid TXDL. If the owner does not have a TXDL, the owner must bring current photographic identification issued by the State of Texas or United States agency and the driver must be present with his/her TXDL.
  4. Permit Payment - Once the application is received, the operator must purchase the permit and affix the mobile unit medallion to the unit. Current commissary receipts must be kept on the unit during all hours of operation.

Events and Markets

Farmers' Market Vendors

A Farmers’ Market Vendor (FMV) permit is an annual permit for a farmer or producer who operates a food establishment at Farmers’ Markets. Farmers that sell only whole uncut produce, local honey, or packaged non-perishable foods do not need a permit. Farmers and food producers selling temperature-controlled foods, such as eggs or meats, or preparing food at the market, must obtain an annual FMV permit from EPH. Vendors that operate under a Farmers Market permit must meet the Farmers Market Requirements and follow the Temporary Food Establishment Operational Requirements.

To obtain a new FMV permit the FMV must follow these Plan Review steps:

  1. Submit to the EPH office:
  2. Plan Review Conference Appointment - EPH will call within five (5) business days to schedule the plan review appointment. This appointment is held over the phone. The application and operational statement will be reviewed to determine compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. During the call, the plan reviewer will discuss the documents that need to be submitted to EPH before the pre-opening inspection can be scheduled. This step can be expedited*.
  3. Document Submittal - All documents (if required) must be submitted together and include the establishment number on all correspondence.
  4. Pre-Opening Inspection - A request must be made to EPH for a pre-opening inspection to occur at the next event in Harris County the vendor will operate at. The request must be made five (5) days prior to the desired inspection date. A re-inspection fee will be charged if the FMV does not pass the pre-opening inspection.

*EXPEDITE FEE: the indicated steps can be expedited with payment of the expedite fee. Contact Plan Review for eligibility.

FMV permits are renewed at an event during routine operation. 

Food Sample Permit

A Food Sample permit is an annual permit that allows cottage food businesses and licensed food manufacturers to provide customers with a sample of the pre-packaged foods the vendor is offering for sale and allows food manufacturers to sell pre-packaged temperature-controlled foods at Temporary Events in Harris County. The sample of food must be prepared at the temporary event following the Food Sample Operational Requirements.

To obtain a Food Sample permit, the vendor must follow these Plan Review steps:

  1. Submit to the EPH office:
  2. Plan Review Conference Appointment - EPH will call within five (5) business days to schedule the plan review appointment. This appointment is held over the phone. The application and operational statement will be reviewed to determine compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. During the call, the plan reviewer will discuss the documents that need to be submitted to EPH before the pre-opening inspection can be scheduled. This step can be expedited*.
  3. Document Submittal - All documents (if required) must be submitted together and include the establishment number on all correspondence.
  4. Pre-Opening Inspection - A request must be made to EPH for a pre-opening inspection to occur at the next event in Harris County the sampler will operate at. The request must be made five (5) days prior to the desired inspection date. A re-inspection fee will be charged if the sampler does not pass the pre-opening inspection.

*EXPEDITE FEE: the indicated steps can be expedited with payment of the expedite fee. Contact Plan Review for eligibility.

Food Sample permits are renewed at an event during routine operation.

Temporary Event

A temporary food establishment is a food booth at a temporary event that operates for no more than 14 consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration. Temporary Food Establishments must follow Temporary Food Establishment Operational Requirements during operation at the event.

To get a temporary food establishment permit, the event coordinator must register the event with Harris County online.

Temporary Food Establishments must complete the application online or at the EPH office kiosk. Once approved, the link for permit payment will be emailed to the temporary food establishment operator. Permits are considered late if paid less than three business days in advance or onsite at the event. 

Please see the handout for Non-Profit Organization Permits if event is held to raise money for a non-profit organization.

Food Manager and Handler Training

Food Manager Training

Food Handler Training

Additional Food Permit Information:

Title Type

Permit Fee Schedule

Non-Profit Permits

Employee Health Condition Reporting Sign

Frequently Asked Questions

What laws and regulations does HCPH follow?

Inspections are conducted for compliance in accordance with the Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER). The TFER is based on the 2013 FDA Food Code and was adopted into state law in late 2015. Harris County Commissioner's Court adopted the revised version of the TFER in 2016. Operation of the food inspection program is also governed by the Texas Health and Safety Code. Unlike other jurisdictions, Harris County may not pass local ordinances that exceed state requirements or laws.

Who does HCPH serve?

HCPH inspects and permits all retail food establishments in the unincorporated areas of Harris County as well as in the cities of Tomball, Katy, Jacinto City, Galena Park, LaPorte, Morgan's Point, South Houston, Seabrook, El Lago, Southside Place, Hunter's Creek, Piney Point, Bunker Hill, Jersey Village, Spring Valley, Deer Park, Humble, Waller, and West University Place.

How frequently is a food establishment inspected?

Inspection frequency is based on a risk assessment conducted in conjunction with the annual permitting inspection. Risk assessments determine the likelihood of a food establishment causing a foodborne illness.

Criteria utilized for the risk assessment are:

  • Type of food processed or prepared
  • Method of food preparation
  • Population served (young children, infirm, elderly)
  • Number of customers
  • Past sanitation and food safety history
  • Whether food manager's certification requirements are met.

Establishments are categorized from very high to very low risk. Inspection frequency ranges from 12 times per year for very high risk establishments to one time per year for very low risk establishments.

Warnings and Recalls

How to Report a Problem

Warnings

Recalls
Sign up to receive recall notices:

Additional Recall Information Available from the Following Agencies:

How to open a food establishment in Harris County
How to purchase a food establishment permit for a festival or other temporary event
USDA's four steps to food safety