The process of obtaining commercial kitchen certification is mostly a matter of getting the facility put together. This is because the local health department or food safety agency must inspect the kitchen before it issues the certification. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends that you verify zoning and code requirements before beginning work on your kitchen.
Commercial Kitchen Requirements
Although state and local ordinances can vary, they follow the same general guidelines. Storage areas for food and potentially dangerous chemicals must be separated. Refrigeration and freezer units have to comply with code requirements. A commercial kitchen must have separate sinks for mops, dishes, hand washing and food preparation areas. Prep tables and other food contact surfaces should be made of stainless steel or an equivalent material that is smooth and easy to keep clean. All of this work should be done before you submit an application for certification.
Inspection and Certification
Submit the application to the health department or agency in charge of food safety. Response times will vary depending on your location. For example, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture says to allow two weeks for an inspector to arrange an inspection of a home-based facility. The inspector will determine if the kitchen is in compliance with regulations, and, if it is, will approve the certification. In some places you can start operations as soon as you pass the inspection.
In-Home Food Production
For some entrepreneurs, making and selling food from home is a good option. In some jurisdictions there are restrictions on the types of food home kitchens can produce. For example, Arizona only allows home kitchen owners to make and sell confections and baked goods. As with regular commercial kitchens, they must get their equipment in place first, then follow local regulations and submit applications to the agency that oversees home-based food businesses.
Requirements for Home Kitchens
A cottage law sets up guidelines for home-based commercial kitchens to insure safe operation and keep the certification. For example, Pennsylvania law allows you to cook for your family in the same area as long as you don’t do commercial cooking at the same time. You have to store commercial food separately from non-food items and food intended for your family. Work surfaces must be smooth and easy to clean. Small children must be kept out of the kitchen area, and pets may not be inside the home at any time.
- Maricopa.gov: Environmental Health Frequently Asked Questions
- Penn State Extension: Home Food Processing
- Food Service Warehouse: How Commercial Kitchen Operators Can Obtain a Food Handler’s Permit
- Forager Cottage Food Community: Arizona
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services: Starting a Home-Based Food Business
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about small business, finance and economics issues for publishers like Chron Small Business and Bizfluent.com. Adkins holds master's degrees in history of business and labor and in sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.