Starting a Homebased Food Business on a Sweet Note
Q: I'd like to start a homebased
business selling homemade candy. How do I find out what regulations
I have to follow?
A: The idea of turning your recipes into a source of income right from your kitchen appeals to many people. To sell your candy, check your state's laws and regulations, because what you are permitted to do in a home kitchen varies from state to state. You may find these regulations on your state's Web site, or you may find contact information for the pertinent agency. Some states bar the commercial sale of food prepared in a residential kitchen. Others distinguish between perishable and nonperishable food. Still other states allow food prepared in a home kitchen if gross sales are under a specified dollar amount. Some states distinguish between food that is sold retail and food that is sold wholesale.
What are your alternatives if you can't get a license to make food for sale in your home kitchen? You may be able to rent a commercial kitchen in its off hours, such as in a church, a fire station or a state park. Some states offer startup food businesses the use of incubator kitchens. Once your business is producing a positive cash flow, consider installing a commercial kitchen in your home that will pass state and local health-code inspections. But before spending big bucks, make sure local zoning allows commercial kitchens in homes in your area.
Keep in mind, too, that if you want to sell food online, you'll be limited because the FDA doesn't allow food made in a home kitchen to be sold in interstate commerce. And some institutional buyers, like universities, have policies stating that no food prepared or stored in a private home may be used or sold in their food facilities.