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Complying with State Cottage-Food Laws for Home-Based Food Businesses

| 4/5/2016 2:56:00 PM

Students working at the food lab, Cornell.

Most, if not all States at least at some level, require training and licensing of individuals that wish to produce and market food products for sale. While this article was written specifically with New York State residents, it was also prepared to make the general public aware of the issues associated with improperly prepared and packaged food products, which are offered for sale. Anyone interested in going into this business, check with county and state agencies that administer food processing licenses and regulations. In addition to county/state regulations, preparation and packaging of certain food products, such as pickles, may require involvement with the Food and Drug Administration.

When I began thinking about starting a small specialty-food business using my home as a base, I had little knowledge of food processing regulations. Like many folks, I enjoyed cooking for friends, and over the years, developed a number of recipes in which I was encouraged to package and market some of them.

Who Certifies Cottage Food Businesses?

So began the process of finding which agency had jurisdiction over the types of products that I wished to make and sell. I learned that the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets had that responsibility. I called their offices in Albany, explained my intentions and was advised to contact the inspector for my region. I made that call and a representative came to my home to review my proposal with me.

During his visit, I not only learned that a second kitchen would be required, but I would need a Food Processing License and my recipes would have to be reviewed and approved by the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship (NECFE), also known as the New York State Food Venture Center, a part of the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, before production and sales could begin.

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