Restaurants & Grocery Stores


Retail Food Establishment- means a food establishment that sells to consumer customers food, or food products, intended for preparation or consumption off the premises.

Retail Food Service Establishment- means a food establishment where food is prepared or served for individual portion service intended for consumption on the premises or is subject to Iowa sales tax


“Food establishment” means an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends or otherwise provides food for human consumption and includes a food service operation in a salvage or distressed food operation, nutrition program operated pursuant to Title III-C of the Older Americans Act, school, summer camp, residential service substance abuse treatment facility, halfway house substance abuse treatment facility, correctional facility operated by the department of corrections, the state training school and the Iowa juvenile home. Assisted living programs and adult day services are included in the definition of food establishment to the extent required by 481—subrules 69.28(6) and 70.28(6).  “Food establishment” does not include the following:

1. A food processing plant.
2. An establishment that offers only prepackaged foods that are not potentially hazardous.
3. A produce stand or facility which sells only whole, uncut fresh fruits and vegetables.
4. Premises which are a home bakery pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 137D.
5. Premises which operate as a farmers market.
6. Premises of a residence in which food that is not potentially hazardous is sold for consumption off the premises to a consumer customer, if the food is labeled to identify the name and address of the person preparing the food and the common name of the food. This exception does not apply to resale goods. This exception applies only to sales made from the residence in person and does not include mail order or Internet sales.
7. A kitchen in a private home where food is prepared or stored for family consumption or in a bed and breakfast home.
8. A private home or private party where a personal chef or hired cook is providing food preparation services to a client and the client’s nonpaying guests.
9. A private home that receives catered or home-delivered food.
10. Child day care facilities and other food establishments located in hospitals or health care facilities that serve only patients and staff and are subject to inspection by other state agencies or divisions of the department.
11. Supply vehicles or vending machine locations.
12. Establishments that are exclusively engaged in the processing of meat and poultry and are licensed pursuant to Iowa Code section 189A.3.
13. The following premises, provided they are exclusively engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages in a prepackaged form:
  • Premises covered by a current Class “A” beer permit, including a Class “A” native beer permit as provided in Iowa Code chapter 123;
  • Premises covered by a current Class “A” wine permit, including a Class “A” native wine permit as provided in Iowa Code chapter 123; and
  • Premises of a manufacturer of distilled spirits under Iowa Code chapter 123.
14. Premises or operations that are exclusively engaged in the processing of milk and milk products, are regulated by Iowa Code section 192.107, and have a milk or milk products permit issued by the department of agriculture and land stewardship.
15. Premises or operations that are exclusively engaged in the production of shell eggs, are regulated by Iowa Code section 196.3, and have an egg handler’s license.
16. The premises of a residence in which honey is stored; prepared; packaged, including by placement in a container; or labeled or from which honey is distributed.
17. Premises regularly used by a nonprofit organization which engages in the serving of food on the premises as long as the nonprofit organization does not exceed the following restrictions:
  • The nonprofit organization serves food no more than one day per calendar week and not on two or more consecutive days;
  • Twice per year, the nonprofit organization may serve food to the public for up to three consecutive days; and
  • The nonprofit organization may use the premises of another nonprofit organization not more than twice per year for one day to serve food.

Click on the Gray Tabs above for additional information on:

Laws and Regulations
• Iowa Food Code and FDA Food Codes

Basic Requirements
• Information on the basic requirements of operating a Food Establishment in the State of Iowa

• Retail Food Service Establishment license application

Food Manager Resources
• Guidance documents for running your Food Establishment

Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) Requirements

HACCP/Special Processes Requirements





  • Completed license applications and documents must be submitted to the appropriate Regulatory Authority at least 30 days prior to the anticipated opening date.

  • A separate license must be applied for at each location where food production, sales or service take place.

  • A license is non-transferable between locations or ownership.

  • Once the application, other required documents and fees are received and processed, the Department will review the documents.  Once the application is processed the applicant will be mailed or e-mailed the assigned inspector’s contact information.  The applicant is responsible for contacting the inspector to schedule a pre-operational inspection.

  • Plan submission is required; the Department will review the plans and communicate the results of the plan review to the applicant. Plan reviews generally take 3 to 4 weeks. It would be beneficial to submit the application prior to beginning construction, remodeling, or alteration of a facility. There is no fee for plan review. Please note, failure to provide all required information could delay plan approval. If you are remodeling a licensed facility already owned by you, submit plans only and notify your inspector.

  • Operating without an approved license and inspection may result in penalty fees of double the amount of the annual license fee.


 Please check the Regulatory Authorities map to determine the appropriate food inspection and licensing agency for your area. 

Only individuals who will be operating a food establishment under the jurisdiction of the Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) should submit their license application and corresponding fee(s) to DIA at the address below.  All other applicants should mail their license application and fees to their local regulatory authority.



For information on License Application Fee Refunds click here:  IAC 481.30.3(2)


If your food establishment is licensed and inspected by the DIA's Food and Consumer Safety Bureau, send your application and fee(s) to the address below:

Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals

Food & Consumer Safety Bureau

Lucas State Office Building

321 East 12th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319-0083



Food Manager Resources

This page contains food safety guidance documents that are associated with a routine inspection in a retail food establishment.

  • The guidance documents below are categorized the same way as an inspection report
    • Several documents are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
  • Food safety videos in English, Spanish, and Chinese can be viewed HERE.

Food Safety and Inspection Guidance Documents

2017 FDA Food Code

Consumer Advisory
Highly Susceptible Populations
Conformance With Approved Procedures


What is the Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) requirement?

  • FDA Food Code 2-102.12 requires that the Person in Charge of a Food Establishment be a certified food protection manager who has shown proficiency of required information through passing a test that is part of an accredited program.

Code 2-102.12(A) does not apply to certain types of Food Establishments deemed by the REGULATORY AUTHORITY to pose minimal risk of causing, or contributing to, foodborne illness based on the nature of the operation and extent of FOOD preparation.


Additional information regarding CFPM exceptions:




A “Variance” is required, and should be requested, when the Retail Food Establishment has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that does not meet the requirements of the Iowa Food Code or FDA Food Code

An “Approved Variance” is a written document issued by the Regulatory Authority that authorizes a modification or a waiver of one or more requirements of the Iowa Food Code or FDA Food Code.


Specailized Food Processes- HACCP

The following document outlines the 2017 FDA Food Code requirements regarding food produced in Retail Food Establishments using special processes such as curing, smoking for preservation, acidification, reduced oxygen packaging, sprouting seeds, etc.


Blank HACCP Forms