Requirements for Food Establishments

Plans, Specifications, Permits and Inspections

  1. Submit blueprints or floor plans, equipment list and proposed menu to the Health Department for review and approval at least 30-days prior to the beginning of construction or extensive remodeling.
  2. Comply with all building, electrical and plumbing codes (air gaps, vacuum breakers).
  3. Complete and submit an application and fee for a food establishment license to this office.
  4. A pre-opening inspection and approval by this office are required before opening of business.
  5. Each time a licensed operation changes ownership, the facility must be brought into compliance with current laws and regulations.
  6. All licensed facilities must comply with state/local fire and building code regulations. If you have any questions, you may contact their office at (515) 281-5821.
  7. If you have some questions concerning the type or need for handicap facilities, you will need to contact the local coordinator for the Americans with Disability Act(ADA) or your local building official.

Food and Food Protection

  1. All food items must be obtained from a licensed or approved source.
  2. Adequate lighting, with shielded fixtures, is required in food preparation, dishwashing areas, service areas and storage areas containing exposed food and equipment.
  3. Provide thermometers in all refrigeration units, as well as a thermometer to test food holding temperatures.
  4. Customer self-service operations must be provided with proper sneeze guards over serving lines.


  1. All equipment must be properly constructed, located and installed to avoid contamination and to allow for easy cleaning.
  2. All coolers/refrigeration units used in the facility must be capable of maintaining 41 F.
  3. Proper and approved equipment is necessary for cooking, storing, displaying and serving hot foods.
  4. Provide adequate ventilation and exhaust systems (hoods, canopies, make-up air, etc.). All grease producing units must have ventilation. The ventilation system must be adequate to meet the needs of the facility.

Plumbing, Sinks and Restrooms

  1. A 3-compartment sink or automatic glass washer is required in bars and taverns.
  2. A 3-compartment sink or an approved commercial dishwasher with a booster heater or chemical rinse is required for facilities doing food preparation.
  3. Hand washing sink with mixing faucet, hot and cold running water is required in food preparation areas and behind each bar area.
  4. Hand sinks must be provided with soap, disposable towels, continuous towels or a mechanical, heated hand-dry system.
  5. A separate sink is required for the disposal of mop water. The sink must be provided with hot and cold running water.
  6. Restrooms must have self-closing doors, have a hand sink with soap and approved hand drying devices, be vented and have covered trash containers.

Walls, Floors and Ceilings

  1. Walls and ceilings need to be smooth, cleanable and light colored.
  2. Floor surfaces in food preparation areas and behind customer service areas need to be commercial grade vinyl or tile (quarry, terrazzo, ceramic). No carpet is allowed in work areas. Dry storage areas may have sealed concrete floors. The use of carpet around customer self-service areas such a salad bars is discouraged.

Other Operations

  1. All outer openings must be protected (screens or air curtains) and all doors tight fitting and self-closing.
  2. Outside trash storage containers must be located on a paved surface and have lids.
  3. Outside premises must be properly maintained at all times (no weeds, junk, etc.).
  4. An area which is separate from food and food items must be designated for the storage of chemicals.
  5. An area separate from food and food items must be designated for the storage of employees' personal items.
  6. Mops must be air dried (hung up).
  7. Provide storage areas that allow the separation of clean and soiled linens.
  8. Provide proper sanitizer and test strips for sanitizing utensils and work surfaces.
  9. If the establishment has an on-site septic system (non-municipal), the septic system must be approved by the county sanitarian for use with a food operation.
  10. If the establishment has a well for its water supply, the well must be registered and inspected by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In addition, one safe bacterial and nitrate water sample must be provided before the establishment goes into operation.
  11. Food establishments are to be separated from any living or sleeping quarters by complete partitioning and with solid, self-closing doors.

Non-profit Exemption

"Food establishment" means an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends or otherwise provides food for human consumption and includes a salvage or distressed food operation, nutrition site as defined in 321—7.1(231), school, summer camp, residential service substance abuse treatment facility, halfway house substance abuse treatment facility, correctional facility operated by the department of corrections, the state training school or the Iowa juvenile home.

"Food establishment" does not include premises regularly used by a nonprofit organization which engages in the serving of food on the premises as long as the nonprofit organization does not exceed the following restrictions:

  1. The nonprofit organization serves food no more than one day per calendar week and not on two or more consecutive days;
  2. Twice per year, the nonprofit organization may serve food to the public for up to three consecutive days; and
  3. The nonprofit organization may use the premises of another nonprofit organization not more than twice per year for one day to serve food.