Retail Food Inspection Program

The Retail Food Program works to effectively and efficiently protect public health. The MDA partners with other regulatory agencies, academia, and the public to improve food safety through education, scientific knowledge, and risk-based inspections. 

Starting a Retail Food Business

Retail food establishments including grocery stores, convenience stores, bakeries, meat markets, mobile units, and vending machines are regulated by the Retail Food Program within the MDA Food and Feed Safety Division. State statute requires anyone who intends to operate as a retail food establishment in the State of Minnesota to obtain a license from the MDA. We understand that the process to obtain a license can be challenging. Here is a guideline to help you navigate the process. 

The Food Business Roadmap contains many useful resources such as:

  • How to write a business plan
  • Information on shared or rented kitchens
  • Farmers' Market and Cottage Food requirements
  • Grant and loan information
  • Identifies the types of business that are licensed by the MDA and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)

The Food Licensing Wizard:

  • Is an interactive tool that will aid you in determining if a license is needed, if so, which type of license is the best fit for your operation
  • Contains information on the different licensing types
  • Provides helpful resources 

Our expert Licensing Liaison will:

  • Respond to questions about licensing and pre-licensing requirements
  • Direct you to the appropriate program within the MDA to obtain a license, or appropriate agency if not the MDA
  • Assist in directing you to the Retail Food Plan Review Team if you are building or remodeling a food establishment
  • Connect you to your food inspector(s) at the MDA based on your establishments location and type of business operation

The Plan Review Team can:

  • Identify when a plan review is required and what information is needed in the plan review application
  • Review your submitted application to verify the equipment and facility finishes meet the MN Food Code requirements and will be suitable for your operation based on the proposed menu
  • The Plan Review Officer will provide a copy of the completed plan review to you and your Food Inspector
  • Additional items to plan for include the establishment's water source and planning and zoning requirements. Visit the Plan Review webpage for more information

Once your area Food Inspector is identified they will: 

  • Assist in providing information and resources
  • Conduct a plan review inspection once the written plan review has been complete, approved, and the construction is finished according to the completed plan review
  • Provide the licensing application in-person during the licensing inspection
    • An exception to in-person licensing is a Special Event Food Stand License
    • You will need a Minnesota tax ID number with the name of the associated business registered under the Minnesota Secretary of State or your Social Security number if filing as an individual for the application
    • You will need an estimate for gross annual food sales for a one-year period
  • Provide an inspection report to the license holder
  • Conduct routine inspections at a pre-determined frequency based on the processes occurring within the food establishment
  • Conduct other types of inspections as needed such as sampling, consumer complaints, and foodborne illness investigations

It is your responsibility to become familiar with the Minnesota Food Code and the applicable Minnesota Statues to ensure you will be operating your Retail Food Establishment in the best interest of public health. Depending on the food being prepared in your facility, you may need to employ a Certified Food Protection Manager