Agriculture Ombudsman
University of California
Agriculture Ombudsman

Processed Food Registration


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OBTAINING a Processed Food Registration

Preserved foods
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issues the Processed Food Registration (PFR) to wholesale food processors. Processed Food Registration is an assurance that the food is being made to current health standards and that the process has been inspected.  The entity making the product is required to obtain a PFR for the kitchen(s) they use to make the product(s). The PFR is required for general food commodities (e.g. baked goods, noodles, processed fresh vegetables, seafood, snack foods, dietary supplements, etc.), there is no exemption.

The kitchen must be located in a licensed facility such as a business, no-profit, restaurant, and so on.  Here is how to obtain the PFR from California Department of Public Health (CDPH):   


Food Safety Certification is required when processing food on-site/at food facility; one employee/owner with food safety certification whenever un-packaged perishable food prep is occurring.

In addition, you (and anyone assisting you) will need to obtain a Food Handler Card - this verifies you are trained to handle food safely and is available online as a course.  Included here are links to a flyer that talks a bit more about Food Handler Card and compares it with a Food Safety Certificate as well as a link to the list of companies that offer certification courses:



FDA: United States Food & Drug Administration is the agency that created the law. California Department of Public Health and Sonoma County Department of Health Services are the regulators.

FSMA: Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in 2011, they created the first ever food safety requirements for farms producing fruits and vegetables.

Produce Safety Rule (aka Produce Rule): food safety standards for farms to follow in an effort to reduce the risk of microbiological contamination that may occur during growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce.

Preventive Controls Rule (aka Facility Rule): food safety standards for facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for human consumption.


The following links are to National Sustainable Ag Coalition's website. They have thoroughly studied FSMA.

Use this handy flowchart to determine how you are affected; scroll to Preventive Controls (Facility) Rule - pages 4 and 5.

PACKAGE LABELING – Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption

Per US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “The nutrition labeling exemptions found in 21 CFR 101.9(j)(1) and 21 CFR 101.36(h)(1) apply to retailers with annual gross sales of not more than $500,000, or with annual gross sales of foods or dietary supplements to consumers of not more than $50,000.” “These exemptions pertain only to nutrition labeling information, and have no effect on all other mandatory information (i.e., statement of identity, net quantity of contents, ingredient statement, and name and address of manufacturer, packer or distributor).” Read more about the Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption.

Labeling information: CDPH Close-up on Food Labels

"Organic" can only be used if you are registered organic with CA Department of Public Health. Read USDA Guide for Organic Processors to learn more.


By regulation a LACF product is defined as, “any foods, other than alcoholic beverages, with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85. Tomatoes and tomato products having a finished equilibrium pH less than 4.7 are not classed as low-acid foods.” 

California Department of Public Health food safety laws require that low acid food products be processed in a food facility with a Cannery License. Low acid foods have a higher risk for food borne illness. If your product is low acid, or you suspect it might be, please visit CDPH Cannery Inspection Program to learn more.


If you aren't ready to undertake the processing yourself, or perhaps would like a way to test market or to get started more quickly, using a co-packer may be the option you are looking for.  Using a qualified contract packer could enable you to devote your time to farming, while eliminating the enormous expense and responsibility of operating a production facility. The following are provided as resources and are not endorsements.

Olive oil pexels CROP


Decanting oil into bottles for sale, as innocuous as it seems, requires a Processed Food Registration (PFR) from CDPH-Food & Drug Branch and there is currently no alternative option to do this under a Cottage Food license. If add dried herbs or roasted garlic or any other additive to “spice up” your oil, then you would need a Cannery License.

You can contact the help desk for PFR’s, the contact info is under Additional Resources on the link above.

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