Food prepared for sale to the public must be prepared, processed and preserved in a hygienic manner, in order to avoid potential contamination. Kitchens used for the preparation of commercial foods must meet strict standards. The State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as well as local public health agencies regulate more than 30,000 food service establishments and food processing facilities throughout the state.
Retail food establishments, including grocery stores, fast food chains, bakeries, delis, restaurants, cafes, schools, mobile-concession stands, food trucks, caterers and any other establishments that sell food to the public must comply with the 1999 Missouri Food Code, which was adapted from the Federal Drug Administration's 1999 Food Code. The mission of the code is to “safeguard public health and provide to consumers food that is safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented.” It “establishes definitions; sets standards for management and personnel, food operations, and equipment and facilities; and provides for food establishment plan review, permit issuance, inspection, employee restriction, and permit suspension.“
Chapter 196 of the Missouri State Code pertains to food, drugs and tobacco and sets down laws that allow state-authorized agents to have free access to inspect all facilities where food is produced and to secure samples for inspection. The inspection of establishments throughout the state is divided into three categories: 23 cities in Missouri have city food ordinances that allow city inspectors to complete inspections under local authority; 31 counties have county food ordinances that allow county health department inspectors to complete inspections under local authority; and 83 counties comply with state food ordinances, which allow county health department inspectors to complete inspections under state authority. A food service ordinance map and information is available at the DHSS website.
Chapter six of the 1999 Missouri Food Code pertains to the commercial kitchen standards required for sanitary food production. A cook planning to produce and sell food from her home must ensure the kitchen complies with all regulations. It can be extremely costly to bring a home kitchen up to code standards. It may be cheaper to approach an established commercial kitchen, such as that of a restaurant or bakery, and ask if it is possible to rent their kitchen facilities at times when they are closed for business.
Dependent upon where the establishment is located, a local authority may require plan reviews, pre-opening inspections, food-handlers training, licenses, permits and the payment of fees prior to the opening of the business. Anyone interested in opening a food-related business is advised to contact the local health department to check the specific requirements. Opening an establishment without complying with all the necessary requirements can result in the business being closed and fines being imposed.