How do I get a Certificate of Acceptability - COA?

By Food Focus on 30 November 2023

You want to open a food business, but don't know where to start... you need to start by complying with the law.

A business licence is generally required for businesses that need to comply with health and safety regulations. As making, selling and serving food can impact on public health, you’ll need a licence to do so.

If you’re a hawker selling food and meals using a food truck, which you take from place to place or sell from a vehicle, you’ll need a permit.

You may not begin trading in a business that requires a licence before the licences has been issued. Trading without a valid licence is punishable with a fine. Licensing is governed by the Business Act No 71 of 1991.


Depending on the type of business, you may need to comply with the following requirements:

  • zoning
  • health
  • safety (particularly fire)

If you comply with all the requirements, you’ll be issued with a licence. If not, you can apply for a 14-day grace period, during which you can make changes to your premises so that they meet the requirements.

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What is a COA and do I really need one?

Where do I apply for a business licence?

Your local municipality handles business licences and you can contact them for details on licensing procedures and the various health and safety regulations required for different kinds of business. The requirements for food businesses are laid out in regulation (62 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972 and the municipal by laws.

The requirements for a business license may differ from one local municipality to the next, so it is advisable that you contact your particular local municipality to find out the specific requirements applicable to your restaurant. These regulations require a food business to possess a certificate of acceptability.

For a certificate of acceptability, you will generally be required to provide information regarding the nature and type of food being handled on the premises, the nature of the handling (e.g. preparation, packing, processing etc), and certain other information.

What is the procedure to apply for a licence?

There may be slight variations but in general you will need the following:

  • In case of a company, certificate of incorporation reflecting company’s ID number, full names and surname of owner, residential and postal address.
  • ID and full name and surname of responsible manager
  • In case of close corporation, CK1 or CK2 must be attached
  • In case of a partnership a separate schedule reflecting full name and surname, identity number and address of each partner must be attached
  • In case of a proprietor, a copy of the owner ID must be attached
  • In case of a restaurant or café keeper, a menu must be attached
  • Application fee

It is best to apply for your certificate of acceptability (COA) at the same time. This will be issued after an inspection of your facility. This certificate must be displayed in a prominent place.


Selling liquor

If you want to sell or manufacture liquor, the law requires you to apply for a liquor licence before you do.

Bear in mind these are not the only legal requirements you should consider.


EHP Contacts

If you are looking for contact details of your local EHPs - please refer to our article below, called:

Environmental Health Department Contacts



Regulation 638 has been in effect since 2018 and will explain
more on the regulatory requirements: R638 view more

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