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Just as cooking directions are followed to create the perfect dish, there’s a wide array of regulations that need to be upheld to gain the privilege of serving food to the public. There’s no one-size-fits-all set of rules for foodservice businesses to follow, as each state has their own food codes and regulations that you need to abide to in order to stay open.

If you’re ready to jump right in, find your state’s regulations here.

  1. How do regulations work?
  2. Who’s regulating this?
  3. What matters more: state or local regulators?
  4. What’s some big-ticket items I need to know?

How Do Regulations Work?

Each state has it’s own food service codes to follow. We’ve already compiled the full list of all state regulations. Here’s how these codes work, and why each state has a different set of regulations.

Regulations Process

Who’s Regulating Me?


While your regulations may vary based on the state you’re in, we’ll break this down simply. This is typically how the regulation process works:

A business that stores, prepares and serves food get inspected by both state and local health departments. While conducted differently in each state, typically the inspection is done by the County’s Health Department.

Consider this: even if your bar or restaurant is temporarily closed, you’ll still need to pass this inspection in order to open again!

What Matters More: State or Local Regulators?

food safety

State and local regulators work together to ensure the public is being served safe food. Per this article on the U.S. structure of food safety, here’s an overview of how this partnership works:

Local regulators (cities): are the first to address food safety, especially concerns about milk and flour/bread.

  • Local government oversight was supplanted by state and federal regulations, but cities still have authority to regulate food businesses within their jurisdiction, such as dairy processing and food service businesses (e.g. restaurants).

State regulators: have authority to regulate food businesses within their jurisdiction and primarily regulate food processing (even though much of that oversight has been supplanted by federal law) and the retail sector, such as, restaurants (food services) and grocery stores.

What’s Some Big-Ticket Items I Need to Know?


The main items within food regulations that deserve mention (and that we haven’t covered already) are as follows:

Food Storage—food borne illness can be caused when food is stored improperly. Here’s a few tips to follow:

  • Label food by the date you received it—this will prevent spoiling and selling expired food. Need labels? Look at these.
  • Regulate fridge and freezer temperatures—bacteria starts to grow on food at 40 degrees, so always keep your cold equipment under this temperature.

Pro tip: keep a thermometer on hand—this digital feature makes temperature reading easy.

Employee Cleanliness

  • Perhaps most important since you’re handling food, handwashing is critical in your business.

For a complete guide on proper handwashing, check out this article.

  • Encourage employees to keep hair pulled back and cut nails to avoid falling into patron’s food.
  • Advocate for employees to take off from work if they’re feeling ill.

Employee Safety—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates safety standards to ensure safe working conditions are being met.

  • Check out this guide for more info on laws, rules and regulations set by OSHA.
  • Regulate fridge and freezer temperatures—bacteria starts to grow on food at 40 degrees, so always keep your cold equipment under this temperature.

Selling Alcohol—state and local regulations must be met before gaining access to selling alcohol. There are different tiers of licenses too, depending on what you’re serving. For example, a cocktail bar selling hard liquor will need a different license than say, a brewery. You can find answers to all your questions by visiting this website.

2021 Food Service Codes and Regulations by State

The privilege to serve food to the public doesn’t come easy. Whether you’ve been in the foodservice industry for years—or if you’re just interested in opening your own restaurant or bar—there’s a set of rules and regulations that must be followed. Read below to find your state’s specific food service codes.


Retail Site(s)

Food Code

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