Retail Food Permits and Inspections: Questions and Answers

This page has been automatically translated from English. MSDH has not reviewed this translation and is not responsible for any inaccuracies.

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, or if certain changes have been made that affect food preparation, a plan review is required. The cost of a plan review may be found on our Permits and Fees page

Full Plan Review is required under the following circumstances: new facility owner; new facility location; any removal or addition of equipment, walls, doors, surfaces, or menu that significantly alter the food prep area, or any action determined by MSDH that would directly create an environment where food safety could be compromised. The facility may not operate until these plans are approved by the Plan Review Team and are either permitted or inspected by Environmentalist. Before making any changes to your facility that may affect a plan review, please email the MSDH Plan Review Team at

To obtain information on plan review you can call the Regional Environmental Office for the area where your facility will be located. The Application for a permit and the plan review packet will be mailed or e-mailed to you. A certified food manager is required in all food facilities. A list of approved courses for ANSI accredited food protection manager certification can be found by visiting Additionally, you may visit the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association website, or you can check with your local community college for tests and test dates. 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If the facility is an existing food facility and you are a new owner, the existing owner's permit is no longer valid.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 or a regional environmentalist for information on how to obtain a food permit. You will receive 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.

Are there specific permit requirements regarding drinking water?

Yes. The Mississippi Food Code requires that your source of water be approved prior to operation. If your food service business will be served by an approved public water supply, concerns are minimal. If a public water supply is unavailable, additional steps will be required. The source water (e.g. well) will need to be designed and constructed in accordance with the MSDH Bureau of Public Water Supply's Minimum Design Criteria for Public Water Supplies guidance document. Beginning July 1, 2017, no new water sources will be approved for use unless they have been designed and constructed according to these criteria. Appendix D of the document outlines the procedure that must be followed to have a water source approved.

It should also be noted that if the food service business meets the federal definition of a public water supply, then the business will be regulated in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act as a public water system.

Are there specific requirements regarding wastewater disposal?

Yes. The Food Code requires an approved source of wastewater disposal for your business. If the site is connected to a sewer system (by a municipality, county utility authority, or some other centralized system), no further action is required. If the site is NOT connected to a sewer system, an application must be made to the MSDH Division of On-Site Wastewater. You can apply online at

You will need to apply for either "Commercial Establishment + Final Approval" (if a new on-site wastewater disposal system is required) or "Existing Commercial Inspection" (if an existing on-site wastewater disposal system is to be used). Please be aware that if an existing septic tank with underground disposal is to be used and the system in question has not been in use for some time, the system may not be appropriate for use. If you have any questions regarding the application, please contact the Division of On-Site Wastewater at or 601-756-7150.

How much does a food permit cost?

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

How do I pay my food permit fee?

Food permit fees must be paid online before an inspection will be scheduled. Online payment requires the permit ID number on your invoice. (If you have not received an invoice, call the Division of Food Protection at 601-364-2832).

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 Food Protection Office at 601-364-2832 or email


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.


Should an owner request it, we can conduct a re-inspection if they believe that issues have been corrected that may result in an improved inspection grade. The re-inspection fee can be found on our Permits and Fees page


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 email or visit to enter your complaint. All reports of possible food-borne illness are investigated.

How do I make a complaint about a grocery store?

While 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, email or enter the complaint at

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

Contact the Regional Environmentalist in your area or email 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, call your Regional Environmentalist or the MSDH Food Protection Division at 601-364-2832.

Last reviewed on Sep 6, 2023 request edits
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866‑HLTHY4U Contact and information

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