Severe Weather: Donate to the Arkansas Disaster Relief Program
Healthy Communities

Food Protection FAQ

Q: Who needs a permit to sell food?

Answer: Any food sold to the public that requires temperature control to remain safe must be permitted by the Arkansas Department of Health. Examples of food service establishments include but are not limited to restaurants, bars, daycares, schools, grocery stores, convenience stores, bed and breakfast, hotels/ motels, mobile units and concession stands. The Health Department regulates food safety to ensure that the food being sold is wholesome and represented honestly.

Q: How do I get a Food Service Permit?

Answer: To become a permitted facility the establishment must first be approved by this agency. A Plan Review of the facility is required If the facility is new, or being remodeled. Information on plan review can be obtained from your local county health unit. If you are buying an existing business check with your Local County Health Unit to determine if a plan review will be required.

Q: Where do I send my permit fee?

Answer: If you are a currently permitted food service with a valid food service permit you will be automatically billed on an annual basis for your new permit.

NOTE: We cannot receive payment before you are billed.
Remit check or money order along with your bill or customer number to:
Arkansas Department of Health
Environmental Health, Slot 29
4815 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205

Pay Online Here

Online Permit Renewal Form

Q: What is the procedure for Plan Review?

Answer: A retail food plan review must be submitted for review. Our Environmental Health Specialist located in your county health unit is available for questions. 

A plumbing review is required for new facilities and for remodeled facilities with new or relocated plumbing. Our Protective Health Codes Branch should be contacted at 501-661-2678 for an appointment. Protective Health Codes will coordinate the appointment with the Food Protection Branch. A plan review fee is required equaling 1% of the total estimated cost, not less than $50 and not to exceed $500. Once your facility is open you will be billed annually for your $35 permit fee. 

NOTE: The first year you will be responsible for the plan review fee and the permit fee.

Q: What do I need to include on the plan review cost estimate worksheet?

Answer: Any costs associated with construction or remodeling or purchase of the food establishment need to be included. The cost of plumbing installation, repair or remodel and the cost of any equipment to be utilized in the food service establishment should also be included.

Q: I am adding menu items to my store. Do I need to apply for a new permit before making these additions?

Answer: You do not need a new permit to add food to your menu. However, you should contact our Environmental Health Specialist located in your County Health Unit.

Q: What is the definition of a mobile?

Answer: A vehicle mounted food service establishment designed to readily movable and approved to travel highways and waterways that is a self-contained retail food establishment with permanently mounted freshwater and waste tanks.

Q: What is required to permit a mobile food unit?

Answer: You must submit a retail food plan review to the Arkansas Department of Health, Environmental Health Protection Branch. The plans should include ceiling, wall and floor schedules, service area information, door and window specifications menu, Standard Operating Procedures, and Equipment schedules. 

Q: What is the definition of a push cart?

Answer: A non-self-propelled vehicle equipped with permanently mounted freshwater and waste holding tanks. Food products prepared on and served from such units are limited to non-potentially hazardous foods or frankfurters that that are commissary wrapped. The unit must be capable of holding food at proper temperatures and must operate.

Q: How many times per year are food service facilities inspected in the State of Arkansas?

Answer: Food service facilities are inspected based on the type of operation. Facilities considered to be low frequency are inspected once per year and include facilities that prepare limited amounts of non-potentially hazardous foods or sells prepackaged foods that require temperature control such as milk or lunchmeat. Medium frequency facilities are inspected twice per year, the food is cooked and served and is disposed of at the end of the four hour holding period. High frequency facilities are inspected three times per year, these facilities cook and serve foods that are cooled and reheated for later service.

Q: Why does the health department not require glove usage in food service facilities?

Answer: The Regulation does not allow bare hand contact with ready to eat food however it does not require glove usage. Gloves or utensils may be used to prevent bare hand contact with food that is ready to eat.

Q: Are food permits transferable?

Answer: Food permits are not transferable to a new owner or a new location.

Q: Can I prepare food in another person’s approved kitchen under their permit?

Answer: No. While you may operate in another person’s approved kitchen with a permission letter, you must still maintain your own food establishment/ manufacturing permit.

Q: Is certified food manager training required to operate a food establishment?

Answer: Yes. Effective, September 7th, 2019, the Rules Pertaining to Retail Food Establishments require that all facilities have at least one employee that has supervisory and management responsibility and the authority to direct and control food preparation and service shall be a certified food protection manager who have passed a test that is part of an accredited program.

(Note: Retail Food Establishments operating prior to the effective date of this rule have 1 year (September 7th, 2020) to comply. This section does not apply to certain types of retail food establishments whose business model has a low risk of causing, or contributing to, foodborne illness based on the nature of the operation and extent of food preparation. Including retail food establishments that only provide commercially prepackaged foods or retail food establishments that provide only low risk, non-time/temperature control for safety foods as determined by the Arkansas Department of Health.)

Q: How can I get a temporary permit and what are the requirements?

Answer: Temporary Permits are limited to operating for a period of less than or equal to fourteen (14) consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration. Temporary Food Guideline
For information on obtaining a temporary permit, please contact your Local County Health Unit.

Q: Are fairs and carnival food units or establishments inspected?

Answer: Yes, our Environmental Health Specialist located in the local county’s Health Department inspects food units at fairs and carnivals.

Q: I want to cater food from home, what do I need to do?

Answer: To legally sell Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food, you are required to be permitted by the Arkansas Department of Health. All raw, ice, beverages, or ingredient for sale in whole or in part for human consumption must be prepared in a facility licensed and inspected by the Arkansas Department of Health. This includes everything from snow cones to chicken and steaks. Prepackaged foods that do not require refrigeration such as chips, candy bars, canned/bottled beverages that are sold unopened may be sold without a permit from the Department of Health. However, some cities and counties may require a license. Sales of Non-Time/Temperature Control for Safety Foods are allowed under the Arkansas Food Freedom Act. For additional information on foods that can be sold from your home, please refer to the Arkansas Homemade Food Production Guidelines. If you have questions or need more information, please contact our Environmental Health Specialist at your local health unit.

Q: What foods can be prepared from home without a permit?

Answer: Act 1040 of 2021 (Arkansas Food Freedom Act) allows the sales of non-time/temperature control for safety foods direct to the informed end-user provided certain criteria are met. For more information related to the manufacture and sale of homemade foods in Arkansas please refer to the Homemade Food Production Guidelines.

Q: I want to replace my 3 compartment sink with a dishwasher is this o.k.

Answer: No. Arkansas Department of Health regulations minimum requirement is that food establishments be equipped with a 3-compartment sink (4-301.12). The use of mechanical dishwashers is accepted as an addition to the minimum requirement.

Q: Am I allowed to do my own plumbing in my retail food establishment?

Answer: No. Only a licensed plumber may install plumbing in a food establishment as according to Section 5.201.11.

Q: Can my organization sell baked goods at a fundraiser?

Answer: Yes. Baked goods and the regulations concerning them can be found in the Arkansas Homemade Food Production Guideline.

Public Health Accrediation Board
Arkansas Department of Health
© 2017 Arkansas Department of Health. All Rights Reserved.
4815 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR 72205-3867