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Food Protection

The Food Protection Program is responsible for enforcing Article 13 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code. The purpose of Article 13 is to protect public health by establishing safeguards for the control of food and preventing consumption of unwholesome, adulterated or otherwise unfit food.

Each year the Food Protection Program issues approximately 7,000 food service establishment permits, conducts more than 6,000 inspections and investigates approximately 600 consumer complaints.

Click here to view Article 13 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code



Food Establishments

Do I need a permit to operate my business? If you plan on opening any business whose primary activity is selling ready-to-eat food for on- or off-premises consumption, you need a permit from the Department before you open for business. If you plan on opening a market or wholesale food business, you should contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at (718) 722-2876.  Answers to questions on starting a food business in Suffolk can also be found on the Department’s Business Resource Center webpage.

How do I obtain a permit to operate my business? If the establishment has a current permit from the Department and you are assuming ownership without making any structural changes to the operation, you must submit a permit application and fee prior to operating the business under your ownership.  Food establishment permits are not transferable. Permit fees may be paid by check, money order, or Visa/Master Card.

If you plan on making structural changes to an establishment that has a permit issued to a previous operator, or if the establishment has never had a Department permit or has not been issued a Department permit within the last 2 years, applications and floor plans must be submitted to the Department for review and approval before construction is started.

How long does it take to obtain a food permit? If the establishment had a Suffolk County Department of Health Services permit that was issued to a previous operator within the prior 2 years, and you make no structural changes, as soon as a permit application and fee are received by the Department you may operate the business in your name. A Department representative will conduct an unannounced operational inspection soon after your permit application is received, but you are free to operate your business while the permit is being processed. If the establishment has never had a permit issued by the Department, or has not had a Suffolk County permit within the prior 2 years, plan review and approval, including review of the sanitary waste system, and a pre-operational inspection may be required before you are permitted to operate.

If you are making cosmetic changes, cleaning, or do not plan to open the business immediately, call the Food Protection Program at (631) 852-5999 to schedule a pre-operational inspection when you’re ready to open.

If the submission of plans is required, the process may take several weeks and will depend on the completeness and accuracy of your submission.   All plan submissions are reviewed within 5 business days.  Once your plans are approved by the Department, the establishment must be constructed according to the approved plans.  When construction is complete, you must request and obtain a satisfactory pre-operational inspection.   Before requesting a pre-operational inspection all equipment should be cleaned, sanitized and operational.  No food should be stored or prepared at the establishment until a permit to operate is issued by the Department.  Call the Food Protection Program at (631) 852-5999 to schedule a pre-operational inspection.

Do I need a permit to operate a food concession at a temporary event such as a feast, fair, festival, carnival or fundraiser? Yes. Both organizers and individual vendors must obtain permits. Permit fees may be paid by check, money order, or Visa/MasterCard.

Event organizer applications must be received by the Department and permit fees paid at least 21 days prior to the event, and individual food vendor applications must be received and permit fees paid at least 14 days prior to the event in order to avoid late fees.

Do I need a permit to sell or provide food at a church or fraternal function? Yes. A permit is required if a fraternal or charitable organization wishes to sell food at a fair or carnival from a booth or trailer. Non-profit organizations are exempt from permit fees.  Fraternal and charitable organizations are allowed to sell baked goods that do not require temperature control for safety (i.e., a “bake sale”) without obtaining a permit, as long as a sign is posted informing the public that the foods were prepared in a kitchen without Department regulation.

How do I get a permit to sell food I make at home? The Sanitary Code prohibits the use of home-prepared food.  Food prepared in a home kitchen may not be offered for sale, and must be prepared in a facility permitted by the Department.  The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets however, exempts from licensing certain foods prepared in the home under a Home Processor Exemption.  Further information on this exemption can be obtained by calling NYS Agriculture & Markets at (718) 722-2876.

Do I need a permit to operate a mobile/limited food concession? Yes. If you plan on operating a mobile food concession such as an ice cream truck, coffee truck or hot dog truck, you need a permit to operate before you open for business.  Forms, applications and “packages” of information for each type of mobile/limited food establishment can be found on the Documents & Forms webpage.

Is it illegal to operate a food establishment without a valid permit issued by the Department? Yes. The Department will take measures as permitted under the law to protect the citizens of Suffolk County from unregulated food establishments.

What postings and notifications are required in Food Service Establishments? The following postings and notifications are required:

Are applications, forms, signs and educational materials available online?
Downloadable forms, signs and educational materials can be found in: Documents & Forms

How do I get additional information about operating a food service establishment in Suffolk County? Visit, contact the Department by e-mail at, or call (631) 852-5999.

Food Manager’s Certificate

How do I get a Suffolk County Food Manager’s certificate?
Article 13 of the Sanitary Code requires that a “person-in-charge” who holds a valid Food Manager’s certificate be on a food establishment premises during all hours of operation.

Please visit the Food Manager's Course webpage for detailed information regarding Suffolk’s Food Manager’s certificate program.


When are food establishments inspected?

Routine, unannounced inspections of food establishments are conducted at frequencies determined by the type of establishment. Delis, diners, catering halls, and full service restaurants are typically inspected one or more times per year, and "fast food" restaurants, taverns and ice cream stores are inspected every one to two years. Inspections are also conducted when the Department receives complaints of illness or improper/unsanitary operation.

What happens during an inspection?

During inspections of food service establishments, sanitarians (inspectors) observe procedures followed by kitchen workers, as well as measure food temperatures, and determine compliance with requirements for food storage, plumbing, sewage disposal, sanitation, and functionality of required equipment, such as refrigeration. Food establishment operators are cited for violations of the Suffolk County and New York State Sanitary Codes, and New York State Public Health Law. If violations are observed, the violations are documented on an inspection report and a timetable for compliance is determined. Two types of violations may be cited, Risk Factor violations and Good Retail Practice violations.

What is a "Risk Factor" violation?

A Risk Factor violation is more likely than other violations to be associated with foodborne illness, and most violations must be corrected at the time of inspection. Examples of Risk Factors for foodborne illness include ill food workers not restricted from working, bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, and foods that require temperature control for safety not maintained at proper temperatures. Click here for a list of Risk Factor violations and their PUBLIC HEALTH REASONS to understand the significance of the violations and the science behind the need for compliance.

What is a "Good Retail Practice" violation?

A Good Retail Practice violation refers to the cleanliness and maintenance of a food establishment, or to improper sanitary practices. Examples of Good Retail Practice violations include accumulated grime on floors or equipment, unlabeled food containers, and improperly stored utensils.

When is a food establishment required to close?

Food establishments must close when an “imminent health hazard” exists, and may not reopen until the hazard no longer exists. An imminent health hazard is a violation, condition or combination of conditions that make it probable that continued operation with the condition(s) will cause illness. Conditions that require a food establishment to close include:

  • Probable disease transmission
  • Lack of potable water under pressure
  • Major vermin infestation causing adulterated food
  • Sewage in food storage/processing or public areas
  • Lack of refrigeration (extended power outage)

How can I find the results of inspections?

Results of inspections of Suffolk County food establishments are available here.

The public health significance of Risk Factors for foodborne illness are available here.

Consumer Information and Home Food Safety

Who do I call if I think I became ill from food poisoning?

Call the Food Protection Program at (631) 852-5999. 

How do I make a complaint about a Food Service Establishment?

Contact the Department by e-mail at, at 360 Yaphank Ave, Suite 2A, Yaphank, NY 11980, or call (631) 852-5999. 

Where can I find Home Food Safety Information?

Basics for Handling Food Safely.

Where can I find information about Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency?

Click here to view information about Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency.

Suffolk County Government

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