Contaminated, tainted or bacteria-covered food can sicken and kill. To keep food-borne illness to a minimum, Texas regulates food sales and requires permits from most businesses and individuals making and selling food. The exact requirements for a license to sell food in Texas vary between restaurants, food trucks and home-baked goods.
Retail Food Establishments
Retail food establishments are any business that prepares individual portions of food for on-site or off-site eating. The definition covers restaurants, snack bars, jails, bed and breakfasts with more than seven rooms, bars and cafes.
You apply to the state Health and Human Services Department for a license to sell food in Texas. You can do this online, or download and print out a hard-copy application. The food license in Texas cost ranges from $258 to $773 depending on sales volume.
Retail food stores such as groceries or delis fall into this category and use the same application process.
Local Health Permit in Texas
Texas exempts you from applying for a state permit if your city or county inspects your establishment and issues you a local permit. Austin, for example, inspects thousands of retail stores, restaurants, bars and school cafeterias every year. A score of 100 means no problems; a score below 70 triggers non-compliance penalties.
Local governments each set their own rules and guidelines for getting a health permit in Texas. Contact your local health department for instructions on the requirements.
Food Truck License Texas
Texas law refers to food trucks and pushcarts as mobile food units. After you pay the $258 permit fee and submit your application, your unit will have to undergo an inspection before you get your food truck license in Texas. A roadside vendor counts as a type of mobile food unit.
- Your unit has to be mobile, rather than a truck that doesn't run.
- Food trucks must be enclosed, with tight-fitting doors and windows that are secure against insects and rats.
- Sinks must have a steady water supply. Your truck must have sinks for washing hands and for washing utensils.
- Your equipment must be able to maintain food at hot or cold temperatures, as necessary.
- Food is prepared at a central location from which the mobile unit picks it up before going out.
- Like retail food establishments, your mobile food unit doesn't need a state permit if it gets one from your local government.
Making Cottage Foods
If you're making food for purchase in your home kitchen, you may not need a license to sell food in Texas. The state doesn't require a "cottage food" business take out a food permit, and your kitchen isn't subject to any sort of inspection. You do need to complete a course in food safety or a food-handling training course.
To qualify for the lighter regulations you have to meet the state standards for a cottage food business:
- You make $50,000 or less from food sales.
- You sell directly to consumers at your home, a farmers market, the consumer's home or any other location the consumer requests.
- You don't sell food online, by mail order or wholesale.
- You sell food the state considers non-hazardous such as fruit pies, nuts, baked goods, popcorn, cereal, mustard and vinegar.
You have to label your food packages legibly. The label gives your name and address, the ingredients on the food and a statement that your kitchen isn't subject to any state inspection.
Cottage food businesses aren't the only ones exempt from needing a license to sell food in Texas:
- Daycare facilities that serve food to children.
- Produce stands that offer only whole fruits and vegetables.
- Food processing plants.
- Bed and breakfasts limited to less than seven rooms.
- Catered food at a private home.
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