Food Protection Program

The Food Protection Program is responsible for ensuring that all retail food service facilities in Howard County serve food that is free from disease or contamination. Our Program licenses facilities such as restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and school cafeterias. Licenses are also issued to mobile and temporary food vendors operating within Howard County. In addition to inspecting and monitoring retail food facilities, we assist State and Federal authorities with food recalls and illness investigations.

waitress taking order

Opening a New Restaurant or Food Service Facility

Are you interested in opening a food service facility but your operation/plans don’t seem to fit the information outlined in the Plan Review Construction or Remodeling of Permanent Food Service Facilities FAQ? The Howard County Health Department is currently offering Wednesday morning time slots for restaurateurs/potential operators to discuss unique plans, operational procedures, or plan review process questions with a member of the plan review team. Please call the Food Protection Program at 410-313-1772 to sign up for a time slot from 8:30am -12pm. Note: these meeting slots are not intended for projects already under review by the plan review section. Contact the plan reviewer for questions regarding projects that are currently under review.

Food Safety Reminders for Summer Picnics  

The warmer weather not only invites us to enjoy a meal outside, but it also can invite unwanted party guests. If you’re packing a picnic this season, keep foodborne germs away from your spread by following some food safety tips from the CDC.

 Before packing up the picnic basket, divide food cooked in advance into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer; this encourages rapid, even cooling. At your picnic, keep hot foods hot (at 140°F or warmer) with slow cookers or warming trays, and keep cold foods cold (at 40°F or below) in a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs until just before serving. Perishable food, like meat, dairy, and cut fruit, should be thrown away after 2 hours (after 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F).

Read more from the CDC about picnic food safety here.

Cannabis and Food

Maryland voted to legalize some amounts of cannabis use and possession. Under the enabling legislation, adults 21 and older may possess, use, and grow cannabis. Marijuana is now referred to as cannabis by Maryland laws. Cannabis possession and use became legal on July 1, 2023.

The Health Department would like to remind all residents that Cannabis and it’s derivatives remain an unapproved food additive. Under Maryland Health General §21-256 it is unlawful for any establishment to manufacture, sell, offer for sale or receive in commerce any food that is adulterated.  Any food or beverage offered for sale in Maryland that contains CBD or THC products is considered adulterated. Any food or beverage that contains Cannabis, CBD or THC should not offered for sale, purchased, or given away from any retail grocery store, convenience store, restaurant, or farmer’s market or event.

For more information about Adult-Use Cannabis visit the Maryland Cannabis Administration webpage.


I want to report an issue at a restaurant


Foodborne Illness Complaint: Call us immediately at 410-313-1772. After business hours, leave a message with callback information.

Non-illness Complaint at a Restaurant/Food Facility: Fill out a Health Related Issues Complaint Form.


I want to operate a Restaurant/Food Service Facility


Request a Food Facility Inspection Report

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