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What is a Specialized Process Variance?

Retail food specialized process banner featuring meat, sausages, sushi and canned vegetables


**Attention: Contact the HACCP Team prior to submitting your Variance Application at 651-201-6194 or by email at **

A variance is a written document issued by the Regulatory Authority that authorizes a modification or waiver to a requirement within the Minnesota Food Code. Exceptions to specific parts of the Minnesota Food Code are granted on a case-by-case basis. Equipment, facility construction requirements, and food processes or practices that require a variance may represent a heightened risk for foodborne illness if not conducted under strict operational procedures. Variances may require the person in charge and food employees to use specialized equipment and demonstrate specific competencies.

When is a variance required?

Specialized Processing Variance Requirements outline when a Specialized Process Variance is required as shown below:

Contact the area retail food inspector or the HACCP Team prior to submitting your Variance Application (PDF) at 651-201-6194 or at  to help determine if a specialized process variance is required based on your process.

How are variances granted?

The decision to grant a variance is based on the best available science submitted by the applicant at the time the decision is made. The regulatory authority will make the decision if in their assessment, a health hazard or nuisance will not result from allowing the activities detailed within the modification or waiver from the Minnesota Food Code.

What is the process to submit a variance application?

Variance applications must be completed to include the Minnesota Rule(s) from which the applicant is requesting a variance as well the reason the rule cannot be met to include the alternate measures that will be taken to ensure equivalent protection is in place.

Anyone submitting a variance should work with their inspector or reach out to the email, to discuss the best options and assistance in completing a variance application.

Completed applications are sent to, and must be approved prior to conducting operations which vary from the Minnesota Food Code.  Once the variance application is submitted, MDA staff will notify the applicant if the variance has been approved or denied. If the variance is approved, a letter will be sent stating the approval and any conditions of the variance. The variance letter must be available for review during inspections.   

Variances must be renewed at a prescribed frequency. The application to renew the variance must be accompanied by documentation that shows the hazards are being controlled as outline in the requirements of the variance.