Frequently Asked Questions 

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 or this link Retail Food Plan Review Guideline.

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: https://www.ark.org/dhhs_permits/index.php

Q: What is the procedure for Plan Review?

Answer: A Retail Food Plan Review Guideline 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. Cost Estimate Worksheet. 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 Guideline 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 specs, 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 is 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 food handler certification required for me to manage or operate a food establishment?


Answer: No. While it is recommended all food handlers/management receive some type of food safety training, Arkansas does not currently require certification.

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 potentially hazardous food from your home you are required to be permitted by the Arkansas Department of Health unless covered under the Cottage Food Guideline . 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 Department of Health. However some cities and counties may require a license. If you have questions or need more information, please contact our Environmental Health Specialist at your local health unit.

Q: What is Cottage Food?


Answer: Act 72 of 2010 defines a "Cottage food production operation" as food items produced in a person's home that are non-potentially hazardous foods such as bakery products, candy, fruit butter, jams, and jellies. Only these 5 products are covered in ACT 72 and are the only products allowed to be sold under ACT 72 of 2010. Cottage food items can only be sold direct from the manufacturer to the consumer either from the site where the food is made, a farmer’s market, a county fair, or a special event.

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 Cottage Food Guideline

Q: Can I sell my homemade candies at a convenience store or local market?


Answer: Not unless you have a permitted kitchen. The sale of homemade candies can be allowed directly to the consumer by following the Cottage Food Guideline.

Q: I would like to sell my homemade salsa or pepper sauce, but they are not covered under the cottage food laws. How do I go about getting a permit to sell these products?


Answer: The first step is submit a Manufactured Food Plan Review Guideline
For more information on permitting your facility contact the Arkansas Department of Health at (501) 221-2171.