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What is a variance?

A variance is a written document issued by the Regulatory Authority (RA) that authorizes a modification or waiver of one or more of the requirements of the Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER), Health and Safety code and the Texas Administrative code as they relate to Public Swimming Pools and On-Site Sewage Facilities. A variance may be granted by the regulatory authority if in the opinion of the regulatory authority a health hazard or nuisance will not result from the variance. If a variance is granted, the regulatory authority shall retain the required documents for the food establishment, public swimming pool or on-site sewage facility.

The most commonly requested variances for Food Establishments are:

  • Smoking food as a method of food preservation rather than as a method of flavor enhancement;
  • Curing food;
  • Using food additives or adding components such as vinegar: to preserve/render non-time/temperature control for safety food;
  • Packaging time/temperature control for safety food using Reduced Oxygen Packaging method
  • Operating a molluscan shellfish life-support system display tank used to store and display shellfish that are offered for human consumption;
  • Custom processing animals that are for personal use as food and not for sale or service in a food establishment;
  • Preparing food by another method that is determined by the regulatory authority to require a variance; or
  • Sprouting seeds (such as alfalfa or wheat grass) or beans in a retail food establishment. 

The most commonly requested variances for On-site sewage facilities are:

  • Distances to property lines and foundations;
  • Overall system size;
  • Property size.


Variance Request Application