Food and Safety Requirements at California Breweries

Beer is considered a food product by the California Health Department and all California breweries must comply with food processing requirements and are subject to federal, state and local health department oversight.

In addition, state health code requires brewery tasting rooms to comply with food service (restaurant) requirements if you are selling, serving or preparing food in the tasting room. A brewery tasting room is exempt from food service requirements according to the California Retail Food Code (CRFC) if…

  • Only pre-packaged snack foods are sold or served AND the display does not exceed 25 square feet (note: this size limitation includes the display for retail sales of beer)
  • Customers bring in their own food that was prepared, served and purchased off the brewery premise (such as a food truck in the parking lot, a pizza place nearby, etc.)

If you are exempt from the CRFC, California breweries must still provide or be subject to the following:

  • Adequate and suitable space for food storage
  • Subject to enforcement and inspections during facility’s operational hours
  • Subject to fines ranging from $25-$1,000 if breweries are not in compliance with the CRFC requirements

If food is prepared, sold or served within the brewery tasting room or anywhere on the licensed premise  – by a caterer or staff – your brewery is required to comply with state health department regulations for restaurants, including having a mop sink, triple sink, adequate electrical outlets to power portable refrigeration units, etc. These regulations are statewide and can be found within the State’s Health and Safety Code. There may be additional regulations in place on the county level as well.

San Diego County recently passed an ordinance requiring a permit for operating as the “Host Facility” for a caterer. The Host Facility would provide access to potable hot and cold water, approved sinks for warewashing, hand washing and mopping, electricity to power portable mechanical refrigeration equipment, and a commercial restroom. Host Facilities would be subject to plan check requirements and an annual inspection. This county ordinance reflects statewide regulations, but requires additional paperwork, inspections and a permitting process for San Diego breweries. CCBA is working with the San Diego Brewers Guild for clarity on this process and regulations.