There are strict requirements for home-based food businesses, and several regulations that must be followed for such a business to even begin operation. Though laws vary from state to state, there are many common standards that home-based food businesses are required to meet.
If you plan to manufacture food in your home, your work area must be separated from all living areas (including dining rooms) by a door. In addition, the utensils, storage areas (including freezers and refrigerators) and ingredients used to make commercial food products must be different than those used to make food for those living in the home. In many states, no pets are allowed to live in a home where commercial food products are produced, not even outside.
Your home must be in an area that allows for a business to operate. If your zone doesn't allow for a home owner to operate a business from her home, then you won't be able to get the required permits and inspections from your city. In some cases you can appeal this, but you most likely will not be able to do so.
Those working (preparing food) for the home-based food business must take state-approved food-handling courses. In some states, these courses can be taken online. They're typically four to eight courses in length that go over proper food storage, heating and cooling requirements, proper sanitation procedures and the other various requirements of the state regarding home-based food production.
After successfully completing your food-handling course, you will need to request a state inspection. The inspector will ensure the space you're preparing food in has clean work surfaces, proper storage and labeling and no infestation problems; is separated from the home's living areas and allowed to exist in your zone; and you have proof of completing a food-handling course. They'll also inspect your cleaning area; you will learn the requirements for washing equipment and utensils in your food-handling course.
After the inspection is completed and your work area passes, you must then file an application for a license to produce food in your home and pay the required fees; the fees vary by city. Once your fees are paid and your license is granted, you will be required to display it along with your inspection certification and food-handling permits. Also, be prepared to undergo regular health inspections to keep your license to operate.
Though these are not required to obtain a license to prepare food in the home, they are required to run your business. Obtaining a resale license will allow you to buy ingredients and equipment at wholesale cost, and obtaining a DBA (doing business as) license will allow you to operate under an assumed name as a sole proprietor. Being a sole proprietor is the best and least expensive option for a home-based food business. A DBA and resale license typically cost less than $45 each.
Melinda Gaines has been a freelance writer since 2006, with work appearing online for YellowPages and other websites. Her areas of expertise include business, beauty, fashion and sports. Gaines attended the University of Houston where she earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration.