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processed food registrations (PFR)

Contact:

Food and Drug Branch

Main Telephone:

(800) 495-3232


Email:

FDBfood@cdph.ca.gov



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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)​​

PFR Program Information

What is the Food and Drug Branch (FDB) Processed Food Registration Program (PFR)?

General foods such as bakery products, noodles, seafood (except molluscan shellfish), fruit juices, snacks, nuts, oils, processed or packaged vegetables, candy, etc. are regulated by the PFR program.  

The registration is a basic license issued to firms that allows them to legally manufacture, package, label, or warehouse food in California.  The PFR provides evidence to your customers and regulatory agencies that you are licensed and inspected by FDB. 

The registration fee is set based on three major factors:

  1. The size of the facility,

  2. Number of employees, and

  3. Your firm's activities (e.g., manufacturing or warehousing).

The registration fees are received by FDB and deposited into a special account.  The funds are used to support the Food Safety Inspection Program.  

Are importers and brokers required to obtain a PFR?

Importers and brokers are not required to obtain a PFR unless they are engaged in the manufacturing, processing, or warehousing of food.

How long is the PFR certificate valid?

The PFR registration is valid for one year.  Renewal Notices are generally provided 60–90 days prior to expiration.  However, it is the firm's responsibility to assure that their registration remains current and renewed prior to expiration.  Registrations are not transferrable to other persons.  Any change in facility/business ownership or relocation requires a new registration.

Is a new registration needed if a firm/business relocates?

Yes. Any change in facility/business location (i.e., relocation) requires a new registration.

If you have changed facility address(es), you must submit a new application and applicable fees. Keep in mind that licenses are not transferable. The new facility will need to be inspected.

The Licensing Desk does not have access to the calendars or scheduling of facility inspections. These operations are handled by the respective District Offices. 

Is a new registration needed if a firm/business has an ownership change?

​​Yes. A facility/business ownership change requires a new registration.

Applying for a PFR

How can I obtain a PFR application?

There are three ways to obtain a Processed Food Registration application:

  1. Fill out the online application
  2. Send an email to FDBfood@CDPH.CA.GOV
  3. Call the Food and Drug Branch at (800) 495-3232 and select the option for Processed Foods.

When should I apply for a Processed Food Registration (PFR)?

The process from application through inspection and approval can take several weeks to complete.  Businesses should submit a PFR application at least 60 days before they want to begin manufacturing or warehousing of food products.

What business address should I put on the application?

The business address is the location of processing or distribution activities.  The mailing address can be any location where mail is received. 

What happens after I submit a PFR application?

Processing of an application is a multi-step process. For an application to be fully processed, it must clear all the steps including the inspection component. At the end of this multi-step process, a disposition as to licensing is made and the firm is notified of the outcome.

Applications are processed in the order they are received. Submission of an incomplete application by the firm will cause delays in processing the application until all required information is made available to FDB. The owner must sign the application and complete the business operator and correspondent information at the bottom of the application.

Processing of an application starts when the application and application fees are received by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) mailroom. All application/application fees are taken from the mailroom to the Cashier's office. The Cashier's office will make an initial processing of application fees and then will forward the application to the CDPH Accounting Office for processing. It can take up to a week before the FDB licensing desk receives the application.

Once FDB receives the application from the Accounting office, the application will then be screened for completeness. If an application is deemed complete, it will be entered into the Program's database and forwarded on to the District Office for facility inspection scheduling.

Once at the District Office, an application is screened for operational details and placed in the queue to be assigned to an inspector. An inspector will contact the firm to arrange for a pre-registration "new license inspection." You must then declare to the inspector if your firm is ready for inspection (i.e., not undergoing construction, equipment set up, not undergoing a city/county plan check, lacking required HACCP documentation when applicable, etc.). Inspection schedules are based on the priorities and workload of the Inspector assigned to conduct it.  Typically, inspections should be conducted within 30 days after the application is received by the Licensing Desk.

Once an inspection is completed, the District Office Supervisor reviews the findings, and a disposition is made. The disposition is sent to the Licensing Desk for further processing. If the recommendation is to issue the license, the Licensing Desk will generate the license and mail out to the firm. 

How long does it take to process a PFR application?

Typically, application processing times can take up to 60 days. In 2021, there has been a noticeable increase in processing times of applications. FDB is experiencing delays in processing of applications; in part due to the Covid-19 emergency coupled with an increased influx in applications and the Program's limited resources. Firms are advised to submit their fully completed application as soon as possible.

How can I verify that FDB received my application?

Due to the high volume of licensing/registration applications, FDB cannot verify receipt of your specific application. The fastest way to know if FDB received your application is to contact your bank and confirm if your check has cleared. Also, FDB is unable to provide a contact person or phone number to CDPH's Accounting department to see the check has been processed.

Can I check the status of my application?

Yes. However, FDB cannot share information on application/renewal status if not an owner and/or an approved signer/authorized individual for the business.

If requesting a status of application/renewal, and the check has cleared, please provide a copy of the front and back of the check.

Application/License status inquiries should be submitted to FDBInfo@cdph.ca.gov. Please allow two business days for a response. 

Can I expedite processing my application?

A firm may choose to send its application to FDB as an expedite. However, processing of the application will not be expedited. While FDB understands a firm may be eager to have its license as soon as possible, FDB is serving other stakeholders and applications are processed in the order they are received.

To avoid delays in processing an application, it is important that the firm/business submits a fully completed application without missing information. This includes fees and any required documentation. 

If my check is cashed, is processing of my application complete?

No. Processing an application is a multi-step process that involves different offices. The processing steps are explained in detail under the question "What happens after I submit my PFR application?"

If my check is cashed, is my firm registered?

No. Cashing the check does not mean the firm has a registration and/or is licensed to operate. Cashing of the firm's check is one of the initial steps in processing an application. Processing an application to register a firm is a multi-step process. The processing steps are explained in detail under the question "What happens after I submit my PFR application?"

Is a firm authorized to begin food processing once a PFR application is submitted?

No. Submission of the PFR application does not authorize a firm to begin food processing.  Additional steps must be completed before a firm is authorized to process and distribute food products.

Fees

How do I determine the proper PFR fee (Manufacturing, Repacking, Labeling and Salvaging)?

The PFR fee for these activities is based on the facility size and number of employees.  Payment codes for this category can be found on the instructions page of the application, designated D–M. 

To find the proper fee:

  • Locate the size of your facility.  There are three distinct size categories:
  1. Operations that have no facilities (Code D)
  2. Operations with facility sizes from 0–5,000 sq. ft. (Codes E–G)
  3. Operations with facility sizes greater than 5,000 sq. ft. (Codes H–M)
  • Locate the code matching the number of employees at your facility.  The payment code is located on the line to the far right.  For example: A 7,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility with 29 employees has a fee corresponding to Payment Code "J." 

Note: Please include the bottom portion of the billing invoice when sending in payment for the Cannery Inspection Program Invoice.

How do I determine the proper PFR fee for warehouses?

The PFR fee for warehouses is based on facility size only.  Payment codes are located on the instructions page of the application and designated as A, B, or C. To find the proper fee:

Locate the size of your facility and determine the appropriate Payment Code (A–C).  The proper fee is located to the right.  For example: A 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse facility has a fee corresponding to Payment Code "B."

What is the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) fee?

State and Federal law requires Seafood dealers and Juice processors to develop Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs to assure the safety of their products.  The HACCP regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations:

  • Seafood HACCP Regulations (21 CFR, Part 123)
  • Juice HACCP Regulations (21 CFR, Part 120)

The HACCP fee supports with the review and evaluation of HACCP plans for these commodities.  There are no exemptions to the fee.  

What is the Food Safety Fee?

The legislature established a Food Safety Education and Training program in the Food and Drug Branch to provide food safety education and training for the processed food industry.  The program is supported entirely by the $100 Food Safety Fee (California Health and Safety Code, Section 110050).

Are there exemptions from the Food Safety Fee?

The legislature provided the following exemptions from the Food Safety Fee:

  • Firms involved exclusively in flour milling, dried bean processing, or the drying or milling of rice are exempt from paying the Food Safety Fee.

  • Small firms with gross annual wholesale revenues from their registered processed food business of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) or less are exempt from paying the Food Safety Fee.

How do I apply for the Food Safety Fee exemption?

Firms must submit a "Food Safety Fee Exemption Request" with their Processed Food Registration (PFR) application.  The exemption request must be submitted annually when the PFR is renewed. 

Please go to link: Food Safety Fee Exemption form(PDF).

PFR Exemptions

Are small businesses exempt from PFR?

No. The law provides no exemptions to PFR based on the size or annual sales of your firm.

Am I exempt from PFR if I am registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

No.  California law requires that your firm be registered with FDB if you manufacture, process, or store food products in California. 

Per California's Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Laws, Section 110105: All good manufacturing practices regulations for any food, drug, device, or cosmetic and any amendments to the regulations adopted pursuant to the federal act in effect on November 23, 1970, or adopted on or after such date, are the good manufacturing practices regulations of this state.

The FDA registration is a requirement of the federal Bioterrorism Act.  The FDA registration will provide information on the origin and distribution of food products to aid in the detection and response to threats to the U.S. food supply.  This registration information also will help FDA notify firms that may be affected by an actual or potential threat.

There are no fees for the FDA Registration. For details, please visit FDA's website.

What processing activities are exempt from PFR?

Pursuant to California Health and Safety Code, Section 110480, you are not required to have a PFR if your activities only consist of food processing activities covered under another license issued by FDB.  These licenses include:  

  • Cold storage or Refrigeration Facility
  • Frozen Food Locker Plant
  • Low-acid Food Cannery
  • Shellfish Handling & Marketing Certificate
  • Water: Bottled Water Distributor's License
  • Water: Bottling Plant License
  • Water: Hauler's License
  • Water: Private Water Source Operator's License
  • Water: Retail Water Facility License
  • Water: Vending Machine Operator

Additionally, you are not required to have a PFR if your activities only consist of food processing activities including:

  • Producing, packing, labeling, or holding (warehousing) agricultural food products in their raw or natural state.  This includes fruits or vegetables that are washed, colored, or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form.
  • Retail food facilities, (e.g., restaurant or grocery store) that sell food directly to consumers and have valid permit issued by a local health department.
  • Processing under a Winegrower's license or Wine Blender's license issued by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
  • Processing milk and dairy products or meat and poultry products under a valid license issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
  • Temporarily holding, non-potentially hazardous, processed foods for up to 7 days. 
  • If you are making beer, specifically, AB 746 exempted businesses if: 1) They are exclusively involved in the manufacturing of beer, and 2) They hold a "beer manufacturers" license issued by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control. 

Other FAQs

Why am I receiving a renewal notice?

Renewal notices are mailed from our office as a courtesy to firms approximately two months prior to when current year licensing will expire. By mailing in this timeframe, it gives the firm enough time to gather information/testing (if applicable), send forms/fees via USPS as indicated in the submission instructions and receive updated licensing within expiration dates. 

The licensing renewals are processed on a flow basis as they are received in our office.

To renew the license, a firm must submit the completed application form, required documents, and fees to the address on the application form.

It is unlawful to operate without a valid license, pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 112750.

What laws and regulations govern the manufacture, storage and distribution of food?

For a list of laws and regulations, please visit the Food Safety Program page.

What information is required  to obtain an Organic License?

To obtain an Organic license, firm must submit a fully completed organic application, the annual gross sales, organic certifier, and commodity code page with the number of pounds handled.  These items are required for your application to be complete and processed. 

What will the inspector be looking at when they conduct the new license inspection of my business?

The new license inspection may include both a physical inspection of the facility & equipment being used as well as a review/assessment of the written food safety procedures and documentation pertaining to the specific business operations. These documents may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Food Safety Plan/Process Flow Diagram

  • Production Records/Logs

  • Sanitation Plan (including but not limited to Pest Control measures)

  • Allergen Plan (if applicable)

  • Product lists and associated ingredient suppliers

Note: these documents are dependent on the unique operations of each facility. They may or may not all be required for your business.

Please refer to the guidance document Procedure for Obtaining a PFR (PDF) located on our website for additional information. 

Can an inspector or department personnel provide consultation on my business?

Our staff do not provide consultation services. Our staff are focused on the inspectional process and compliance with the applicable laws and regulations. Staff can explain to a firm non-compliance issues.  Our website, guidance documents and helpful links are available to assist businesses in preparation for the licensing and inspectional process.

For additional food safety guidance & resources please refer to the FDA's website.

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