Commercial Kitchen Certification
Food production carries inherent risk of foodborne illnesses. State and local health departments work to limit this risk by regulating, certifying and inspecting kitchens where food products are commercially produced. Commercial kitchen certification involves working with your local health department to build and outfit a compliant and safe production space. When designing and building a commercial kitchen, work with your local health department from the outset. This collaboration will help you to understand the rules and guidelines, avoiding costly mistakes and minimizing unnecessary stress.
If the process of outfitting your commercial kitchen involves renovating a space that has not previously been licensed as a food service facility, you must submit a plan review application to your local health department. This application process includes submitting detailed drawings of your proposed facility and showing its compliance with regulations such as proper hand washing and dishwashing facilities. Working with a contractor or architect to submit professional quality drawings may save you time and money in the long run, because a professional can create plans that comply with health department specifications.
Regulations for commercial kitchen construction and certification are fairly consistent across counties and municipalities. Facilities must have separate hand, dish, prep, and mop sinks. Refrigeration units must be capable of holding potentially hazardous foods at 41 degrees or colder. Dangerous chemicals such as cleaning supplies and pest control products must have designated storage areas separate from food storage spaces. Equipment and surfaces such as countertops must be made of material such as stainless steel that is easy to clean.
Before you are allowed to produce food for sale in your commercial kitchen, your facility must be inspected and approved by your local health department. When construction or remodeling is complete, contact the health department in your city or county and arrange for an inspector to come verify that you have built a facility consistent with the plans you submitted in your plan review and compliant with local health codes. Once you pass your initial inspection, your facility must be reinspected periodically for you to maintain your commercial kitchen certification.
Many states, including Arizona, now have cottage kitchen laws, or regulations that allow small-scale producers to license home kitchens for limited foodservice production. Home kitchens compliant with cottage kitchen regulations must have work surfaces that are smooth and easy to clean, and trash receptacles that are closed and separate from food prep and storage. There is no regulatory limit on the amount of food that you can produce in a home cottage kitchen, although your production may be limited by the size and layout of your facility. However, the types of food you can produce for sale in an Arizona commercial kitchen are limited to sweets and baked goods.