Skip to main content

Food Establishment Licensing Details, FAQ, and Step-by-Step Guide

  • Expires: All licenses, except temporary, expire on April 30, and must be renewed at least 30 days prior to that date.
  • Fee: Fees vary. See fee schedule, below, for more information.
  • Contact: Central Licensing 517-284-5771

Frequently Asked Questions

What categories of food establishments are licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD)? 

  • Retail grocery store, convenience store, party store
  • Bakery, fish market, butcher shop, candy store, produce market
  • Food warehouse, distribution center, transfer station, public cold storage facility
  • Large or small food processing plant including:
    • Ice, water, juice or soft drink plant
    • Winery, brewery, or distillery
    • Egg grading & packing plant
    • Fruit & vegetable repacking operation, or brining station
    • Flour mill or cereal plant
    • Cider mill, maple syrup or honey house
    • Food salvage or reclamation center
  • State or county fair concession

What laws and regulations should I be familiar with prior to requesting a license? 

In addition, one or more of the following regulations may be applicable to your specific establishment plan:

Do I need a plan review? 

New establishments should contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development Lansing office at 800-292-3939 to speak with a plan review specialist. The plan review specialist can provide a Plan Review Worksheet and Plan Review Application. Review the plan submission instructions and manual. When plans have been reviewed and approved, and construction is complete, contact the MDARD Lansing office to set up a final inspection. A Food Establishment Licensing Application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to opening.

Are there any exemptions in terms of needing a food establishment license in order to conduct business? 

The following firms do not require a food establishment license but are still subject to inspection by MDARD agencies. It's a good idea to call MDARD and verify if you think you are exempt from a food establishment license.

  • Produce stands selling only whole, uncut, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Bake sales or potlucks run by a charitable, religious, fraternal or other non-profit organization and serving only home-prepared foods
  • Non-profit cooperatives
  • Retail honey and maple syrup outlets (for honey and maple syrup sold by a licensed producer)
  • Vending machines dispensing only packaged soft drinks or candy
  • Fishing guide service serving lunch to 12 clients or less
  • Temporary establishments with no food preparation using single-service articles and serving only non-potentially hazardous food or beverage Examples include beer tents, soft drink stands, or snack bars at school sporting events
  • A temporary, satellite, serving location of a licensed food service establishment where no food is prepared, and food is served by the employees
  • Retail businesses selling only pre-packaged, non-potentially hazardous foods in incidental amounts
  • Some firms licensed under other, specific dairy or agricultural acts
  • Certain bed and breakfast operations

When do Licenses expire? 

  • All licenses (except temporaries) expire on April 30 each year and must be renewed 30 calendar days before they expire.
  • New license applications must be submitted 30 days in advance. This includes a change of ownership.
  • Late fees will be assessed if a license renewal is postmarked May 1 or later. New firms must also pay late fees if its operations begin prior to submitting an application. Late fees are $150.
  • Temporary food establishments are only allowed to operate for a period up to 14 consecutive days and are issued a temporary license for a specified, limited time period.

What are the costs for the various licenses?
All licensing fees are non-refundable, per statutory requirement.

  • A.1 Retail Food Establishment (License Fee: $186)

An operation that sells or offers to sell food directly to a consumer. Examples include a grocery store, convenience store, party store, retail bakery, fish market, butcher shop, candy store, and produce market. Note: If the business has both food service and seating for the food service, go to B.1.

  • A.2 Limited Wholesale Food Processor (License Fee $186)

A wholesale food processor (see B.2) that has $25,000 or less in annual gross wholesale sales made or business done in wholesale sales in the preceding licensing year, or $25,000 or less of the food is reasonably anticipated to be sold for the current licensing year. Only the food sales from the wholesale food processor operation are used in computing the annual gross sales. Examples may include a small maple syrup operation, a small apple cider mill, a small honey processor, and a small poultry or rabbit slaughterer.

  • A.3 Food Warehouse (License Fee $186)

A food establishment that stores or distributes prepackaged food. This may include a small or large food warehouse, distribution center, transfer station, public cold storage facility, or reclamation center.

  • B.1 Extended Retail Food Establishment (License Fee $471)

A retail food store that does both of the following:

  • Serves or provides an unpackaged food for immediate consumption.
  • Provides customer seating in the food service area.
  • B.2 Wholesale Food Processor (License Fee $471)

An operation that processes, manufacturers, packages, or labels food for wholesaling. Examples include an ice manufacturer; wholesale bakery or bread plant; winery; brewery; water, juice, soft drink, or beverage plant; canning plant; flour mill, cereal plant; specialty foods processor; wholesale fish or seafood processor, wholesale fish smoking operation, fruit & vegetable packer, egg grading plant.

  • B.3 Mobile Food Establishment (License Fee $192)

Operating (grocery sales) from a vehicle or watercraft and returning to a commissary for servicing at least every 24 hours. An example may include door to door frozen food sales from a truck. Note: the commissary must obtain a Mobile Food Establishment Commissary License.

  • B.4 Mobile Food Establishment Commissary (License Fee $192)

An operation that services a mobile food establishment.

  • C.1 Temporary Food Establishment (License Fee $73)

A food establishment which operates at a fixed location for a temporary period not to exceed 14 consecutive days. Example: concession stands at state or county fairs.

  • D.1 Special Transitory Food Unit (License Fee $159)

"Special Transitory Food Unit" means a temporary food establishment that is licensed to operate throughout the state without the 14-day limits, or a mobile food establishment that is not required to return to a commissary. If the first operating location is a state or county fair, contact MDARD; otherwise, contact the local health department for that location. Additional fees associated with Special Transitory Food Units includes a $197 initial plan review fee as well as a $90 a year inspection fee.

 Find locally offered Food Service Licenses here.

What is needed if there is a change of ownership? 

Food establishment licenses are not transferable to new owners or new locations. When the ownership of a food establishment will be changing hands, the new owner must apply for a new license. It is important to know that a new license will not be issued until an inspection takes place and a plan review has been conducted, if applicable. Applications must be made at least 30 days in advance of any change to allow time for inspection and processing. Often questions arise asking what constitutes an ownership change. Here are some examples to assist you in determining if an ownership change has occurred.

  • Corporation name change only - No
  • Same corporation but change in corporate officers - No
  • New partner in a partnership - Yes
  • New owner - Yes
  • Change in type of ownership (from one to another type; individual, partnership, joint tenant, or corporation) - Yes

Find more information on Food Establishment Licensing here.

Food Establishment Licensing Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Determine which agency licenses the food establishment. If the food establishment in question falls directly under Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) jurisdiction, continue with the rest of these steps.

Step 2: Before construction on the food establishment begins (when applicable) make sure to check local zoning ordinances to ensure local regulations allow for such an establishment. Complete the New Food Establishment Checklist.

Step 3: Acquaint yourself with the following.

In addition, one or more of the following regulations may be applicable to your specific establishment plan:

Step 4: Contact MDARD to set up a plan review by mail or phone as shown below.

Step 5: Go to the Plan Review Resources webpage. Fill out a Plan Review Worksheet and Plan Review Application. Be sure to review the plan submission instructions and manual.

Step 6: Once plans have been reviewed and approved, and construction is complete, contact MDARD by mail or phone as shown below, to set up a final inspection. At this point you should also fill out the Food Establishment Licensing Application.


For questions or further information mail or phone:

Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
Food and Dairy Division
PO Box 30017
Lansing, MI 48909