Share Share
Health and Human Services

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)



person standing on a giant question markDo I need a food dealer's permit to sell food to my friends?
Except for private parties and family gatherings, anyone, who sells or serves food (edible products), is required to obtain a food dealer's permit from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. A permit is required regardless of whether the food is intended to be consumed on or off the premises and regardless of whether there is charge for the food.

How do I get a food dealer's permit?
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services inspector must inspect and approve your facility to issue a food dealer's permit. Please review the opening a food establishment in the City of Houston guidelines.  

How do I renew my food dealers permit?
Food dealers permits expire one year from the date of issue. A renewal invoice will be mailed to your preferred mail address 30-45 days prior to expiration. Your renewal payment may then be mailed to PO Box 300008 Houston, Tx 77230-0008. Your new permit will be mailed to you within 2 business days of receipt of your payment. Payments received after the permit expiration date may incur a late payment fee of $50.00. If you do not receive your renewal invoice or new permit please contact our office at 832.393.5100.

I have a great family recipe. Can I start my business in my home?
According to the Houston Food Ordinance link to this section, Section 20-21.1, food prepared in or obtained from an unlicensed private home or other unlicensed food establishment is prohibited.

Do I need other permits to operate a food establishment in the City of Houston?
City of Houston's One Stop Business Center can provide important information for Houston area small businesses. Please call them at (832) 393-0954 or click here to visit the center's web site.

If you manufacture foods for retail sale, you must also register with the Texas Department of Health as a Food Manufacturer. Please contact the Manufactured Foods Division at (512) 834-6670. 

For food establishments located in Harris County, but not Houston limits, contact the Harris County Health Department at (713) 439-6260 or click here to visit their website.

Is there a certification program for food establishment operators?
The City of Houston Food Ordinance requires that each food establishment must have a certified manager on duty at all times. The classes are offered at the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. Please make reservations to attend the class. An initial two-day certification class ($70.00 for a five year certificate) and a one-day renewal class ($55.00 for a five year renewal certificate) are offered in six languages. English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Asian, and Korean language classes are offered on a regular basis. Please call (832) 393-5100 to make reservations. Click here for more information about the certification classes

How do I file a food-safety and sanitation related complaint against a food establishment?
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services investigates consumer complaints against food establishments in the City of Houston. Please call (832) 393-5100 to register a complaint against a food establishment. Please provide the name and address of the food establishment.  You can also click here for the food establishment complaint intake form.

How does the local media obtain information about my food establishment inspection report?
All inspection related documents are public records. Through the Texas Public Information Act, anyone can review and obtain records about your food establishment inspection history.

Where do I obtain more information about the Houston Health and Human Services Department?
The Bureau of Consumer Health Services can be reached at (832) 393-5100. The Houston Department of Health and Human Services can be reached at (832) 393-5169.


I think I got sick from eating at a restaurant.  I have a portion of the food in my refrigerator at home.  Will someone from your department pick up the food from my home and have it tested?
No.  The food has left the possession of the food establishment.  The food may have been subject to time-temperature abuse or possible contamination.  It is not considered to be an “official sample.”  The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) laboratory will not accept an unofficial sample.  An “official sample” is a sample collected by a sanitarian or epidemiologist in accordance with Houston Department of Health and Human Services procedures for regulatory use.

Can I have the food tested myself?
Yes.  You may have it tested at a private laboratory.  You may find a laboratory by checking the yellow pages of your telephone directory or by searching the internet.
For this and any other food safety related information, feel free to call the Houston Department of Health and Human Services at (832)-393-5100.