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Food Safety Variance

Requesting a Variance to the Food Sanitation Rules

Restaurants must have a variance approved by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) before starting any specialized processing, such as curing, vacuum-packaging, canning or acidifying foods as described in OAR 333-150-0000 Chapter 3-502.11

Keep in mind variances are not intended for facilities that do not meet rules.  They are for facilities that can show that the rules present an undue burden to their operation and that their proposed alternative will provide public health protection equal to or greater than the measures provided for in the current rules.  All variance applications must be approved before the procedure is put into practice.

If you have facilities located in several locations statewide, send your application directly to the Oregon Health Authority, Foodborne Illness Prevention Program, 800 NE Oregon St, Suite 640, Portland, OR 97232. If you have only one location, send your application to the Local Public Health Authority, and they will forward your form to the State Foodborne Illness Prevention Program for evaluation.


Meat Processing (curing/fermenting/smoking for preservation or adding nitrates/nitrites)

Operators curing/smoking ham or sausage, making jerky or fermenting meat/sausage, must meet the guidlines set forth in the Association of Food and Drug Officials Protocols.  Applications that do not meet the AFDO guidelines will not be considered.  Operators adding nitrates or nitrites to meat products, must meet the requirements of 21 CFR 172.175Operators granted a variance for meat processing may only use the product in the restaurant and may not package for retail sale.

For more on meat processes, the University of Wisconsin Center for Meat Process Validation has a lot of helpful information.  And to learn more about food safety concerns with cured and smoked meats here.


Acidified Foods (hermetically sealed/shelf stable)

Remember:  You can avoid a variance by having a licensed copacker make and package your food for retail sale.  Before you choose a copacker for your product, here is some guidance for use in the selection and contracting process.

To Proceed with an Acidified Food Variance:

1)  Have product tested for pH at an approved food testing lab

2)  Send recipe and pH results to Process Authority for evaluation

3)  Submit Process Authority letter, variance application, and all test results to Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for evaluation

4)  If the product is determined to be an acidified food, the operator needs to successfully complete Better Process School and schedule their process with the FDA in accordance with 21 CFR 114. For more information on Better Processing School or to find a process authority for your acidified food product, contact:


Canning Fruit Jams and Jellies for Retail Sale--NO VARIANCE REQUIRED

In Oregon, these products are covered under the Combination Facilities Agreement with the Department of Agriculture.  However, there are requirements the operator must meet:

  • Facility needs to meet 21 CFR 150-Standards of Identity
  • Product must be properly labeled if retailed
  • Facility must send sample to lab for BRIX/TSS (total soluble solids) test.  There are several food testing labs in Portland to choose from. The required parameters are listed in the Standards of Identity for each product.
  • The operator should keep the lab results on file in the facility (and should re-test if recipe changes)