A catering license in Arkansas is actually called a Food Service Permit, and it is required before making food for sale to the public. To get one, you will need an approved facility and equipment for preparing your food and keeping it at the right temperature.
Review the state of Arkansas' rules and regulations pertaining to retail food establishments to ensure your food preparation facility and methods adhere to the State's health code. Practice the procedures to prevent food-borne illnesses (p. 29-31) and diseases that can be transmitted by food (p. 32-35). Follow the rules regarding employee hand washing, appropriate uniform and grooming (p. 36-39). Only accept foods with an approved label and in a condition acceptable by the state heath department (p. 41-50). Wash and store your food items to ensure freshness (p. 51-53), using the proper techniques when storing with water or ice (p. 54). Always use the best practices to ensure food is not contaminated during preparation, serving and storage (p. 54-59).
You will be required to have the equipment necessary to keep hot foods at a temperature of 135' F or higher and cold foods at a temperature of 41' F or lower during preparation, transportation, set-up and serving at the event. In Section 3-4, the state's guide discusses the appropriate ways for cooking, freezing and reheating foods to ensure it meets these temperature guidelines. In chapter 4, you will learn which serving items are approved, how to properly sanitize them and how to protect them once clean (p. 98-102). Section 5-5 addresses the appropriate receptacles and methods for disposing trash.
Section 6-2 details the actual construction requirements for your food preparation space, primarily that it is functional and easily cleanable.
Determine whether you will need a food-service plan to obtain a permit. If you are operating in an facility that was already approved for food-service, you will not. However, if you are constructing, converting or renovating a space into a food-service facility, you must contact your local county health unit (choosing the location nearest you in the resource provided below) to make an appointment for a food-service plan review (weekly on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Contact Randy Carter with the Arkansas Department of Health at (501) 661-2171 to obtain your permit without a service plan, or to ask specific questions not addressed in the state's 175-page manual.
Refer to chapter 5 in the state's rule book to determine whether your water system complies with the state's water-quality standards. A hand-washing area, appropriate back-flow system and certain water temperature thresholds are required.
Contact the State of Arkansas' Protective Health Codes Division at (501) 661-2623 if your facility requires a plumbing review, or at (501) 661-2623 if you require a well and chlorination system review along with your service plan review.
Renew your permit online or by calling (501) 661-2171; pending twice-annual inspections your permit will be renewed and billed automatically for $200 per year (as of September, 2009).
If you are the new owner of a food service facility, the previous owner's permit is no longer valid and you'll need to get a new one.The county sanitarian can assist you with any questions you have regarding this process.
Once you have your Food Service Permit, the number must be displayed in all of your signs, online and print advertising.
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