Regulations regarding commercial food production in the home vary by city and state, but there are a few common regulations shared by all home food businesses. Most of these rules do not apply to catering but to those who make food in the home and sell it in other venues, including online.
The area used to produce food must be separated from living areas. In most cases, this means there must be a door blocking the kitchen from the living room and dining room. Some states specify that the kitchen and tools used for preparing food commercially must be separate from the kitchen and tools used to prepare food for those in the home.
The area to be used for commercial food preparation in the home must clear an inspection. The inspector will ensure that the commercial food preparation area is separated from living areas, that all appliances and tools are thoroughly clean, that the floors and work surfaces are thoroughly clean and well-maintained, and that there are no insect or rodent infestations. Once the home food business has passed inspection, you will be granted a certificate, which must be displayed in the commercial work area.
A resale license is needed to purchase food and ingredients at wholesale cost, as well as to purchase commercial cooking utensils and equipment. While you could purchase these items a full retail cost, the savings gained from having a resale license are well worth the time and money it takes to get one. In most cities, a resale license costs no more than $50.
The owner of the home food business, and any employees, must take food-handling courses. These courses review the proper way to clean cooking utensils, equipment and work areas; proper sanitation; proper food storage; food packaging requirements; and how to safely transport food. Usually, only one course is required, and it can last from two to eight hours (this varies by state). In some states, food handlers can take their required course online.
A food-handling permit is essential not only to prepare food for commercial retail sale, but also to sell it (catering is the exception to this rule). If you want to establish wholesale accounts with food stores, bakeries or other related businesses, you need to have this permit. To obtain a food-handling permit, you must successfully complete a state-approved food handling course and pay a fee for the permit. Typically, this permit must be displayed in the food-preparation area, and it must be carried with you when selling food commercially (such as at a festival or fair).