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Processed Food Registration, Low Acid Canned Foods, Co-pack, Olive Oil

OBTAINING a Processed Food Registration

Preserved foods
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issues the Processed Food Registration (PFR) to wholesale food processors and storage facilities.

Processed Food Registration is an assurance that the food is being made to current health standards and that the process has been inspected and stored appropriately.  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. Note: extracts made with alcohol should be submitted to ABC but will most likely end up just needing a PFR.

The kitchen must be located in a licensed facility such as a business, no-profit, restaurant, and so on. Department of Health Services has a list of Certified Commercial Kitchens.

Here is where to obtain the PFR from California Department of Public Health (CDPH):   

The permit is required for location(s) of:

  • Processing/manufacturing and storing of product
  • Warehouse/storage if separate location


Product Types:

  • Baked goods
  • Snack foods
  • Refrigerated foods
  • Noodles
  • Oils
  • Fruit juices
  • Processed Fresh vegetables that are naturally higher acid:
    Tomato sauce (without any sweet or hot peppers added)
    Many fermented fruits/vegetables

Permit Process:

  1. Send in completed PFR application + check for fee
  2. Send in food safety fee exemption request + check for fee (if applicable)
    Less than $20K wholesale gross annual income
    Exclusively milling and/or drying flour or rice
  3. Food and Drug Branch Inspector will perform pre-registration facility inspection
    Inspections typically cover these areas: business & product information, production & process controls, sanitation control, product labeling and advertising
  4. Pass inspection & PFR certificate issued.

NOTE: It is best to follow up with CDPH to make sure your permit is moving through.


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:


See: Food Safety Modernization Act

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.” About LACF.

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.

Pressure cooker commercial

Cannery process requires pressure processing to sterilize and kill clostridium botulinum spores, which causes botulism. 

Exceptions (exemption examples require PFR):

  • Low water activity products (aw <0.85) e.g. jams/jellies
  • Naturally acidic e.g. peaches, apples
  • Traditional fermented e.g. sauerkraut, fermented dill
  • Others: small amounts of low acid (~<10%) e.g. some dressings 


  • Training in Better Process Control School or Acidified School
  • Cannery license from CDPH
  • Product and process submission and evaluation
  • "S" letter filed with FDA
  • Batch and record inspection for each batch at manufacturers cost

Testing pH of a food product:


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.

If you plan to store co-packed product, you will need to obtain a Processed Food Registration for the storage facility.

Olive oil pexels CROP

The following are provided as resources and are not endorsements.


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.