Food Permits and Inspections: Questions and Answers

Food Permits

Who needs a food permit?

If you prepare, hold, transport and/or serve food for pay you are required by state law to have a food permit. Charitable, non-profit organizations and private schools are not required to have a food permit.

How do I get a food permit?

In order to obtain a food permit you must have an approved facility. If this is a new establishment, a plan review is required. To obtain information on plan review you can call the county health department in the county where your facility will be located. The Application for a permit and the plan review packet will be mailed to you. A certified food manager is required in all food facilities. A listing of approved courses is available from the county environmentalist. You must have a food permit before you begin operation.

What if I purchase a facility that has a current permit?

If the facility is an existing food facility and you are a new owner, the existing owner's permit is no longer valid. You should contact your county health department environmentalist for information on how to obtain a food permit. The county will send you an application packet containing the information required for permitting. You must have a food permit before you begin operation.

If you are an existing food facility with a valid food permit, you will have a permit inspection up to 60 days prior to the expiration of you current permit. In order to renew your food permit, you must be in compliance with all items on the inspection report.

How much does a Food Permit cost?

The cost of an annual food permit is determined by the risk level assigned to your facility.

  • Risk 1: $30.00
  • Risk 2: $100.00
  • Risk 3: $150.00
  • Risk 4: $200.00

If I want to cater food, what do I need to do?

Food must be prepared in an approved food facility. A home kitchen is not an approved facility. If you are interested in starting a catering business, you may call the county health department environmentalist in the county where you are located, or you may call the Food Protection Office at 601-576-7689.


How often are food facilities inspected?

Food establishments in Mississippi are inspected a minimum of one to four times yearly. The number of times a food facility is inspected is determined by the risk level of the facility. The more likely that a food-borne illness could occur, the higher the risk level of a food facility. We have four risk levels: risk level 1 is the lowest risk and level 4 is the highest. Risk level 1 would be a facility that does not serve any foods that are considered at risk for food-borne illness. Risk level 4 would be a facility that does a large volume of food service and has multiple food processes such as cooking, cooling, reheating and processing. Additional inspections are made on complaints, follow-up inspections, training requests and enforcement actions.

What do inspectors look for when doing an inspection?

Our food protection program approaches the inspection process with two objectives. The first is to identify all risk factors, critical violations or problems that are present at the time of the inspection. Critical violations are problems that consist of practices that could, if not controlled, result in a food-borne illness. If critical violations are found, the environmentalist tries to get immediate corrective action. If that is not possible, then a plan of corrective action is required. The facility is given a specific time to correct the violation. If the violation is not corrected in the specified time, then enforcement action will be taken.

The second objective of the inspection process is to educate the food establishment management and staff on the risk factors, potential problems, and preventive measures that need to be taken to eliminate the violation. Our goal is to get active managerial control of all risk factors in the food establishment. We want to ensure that all managers know what the critical problems are, and how to make sure they don't happen in their facility.


Whom should I call if I think I got sick from food I ate in a restaurant?

If you think you became ill after eating in a food establishment, please call and report it to the county health department in the county where the food facility is located. All reports of possible food-borne illness are investigated.

How do I make a complaint on a grocery store?

The Mississippi State Department of Health regulates all food service in Mississippi. The Department of Agriculture and Commerce regulates retail grocery stores. If your complaint is in regard to retail store, contact the Department of Agriculture at 601-359-1148. If the complaint involves the food service or deli in a retail store, contact the county health department in the county where the retail store is located.

How do I make a complaint about a problem I saw in a restaurant?

Contact the county health department in the county where the restaurant is located. The Health Department will follow-up on all complaints received. We take complaints very seriously. We appreciate the consumer making us aware of any unsafe conditions in the food facilities.

More Information

When you have a question or need information you can call your county Health Department, or call the Food Protection Division at 601-576-7689.

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Last reviewed on Jan 4, 2016
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866-HLTHY4U web@HealthyMS.com
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