How to Get Licenses to Sell Homemade Foods

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Manufacturing food at home for sale provides professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts with a low-cost means to operate a small business. Generally speaking, your business set-up needs include only a stove, refrigerator, food storage facilities and cooking utensils. Potential retail outlets for homemade foods include farmers' markets, grocery stores and online catalogs. Whether you need licenses and which licenses you need to sell homemade food depends on your state's and local jurisdiction's food handling laws.

Read your jurisdiction's home-based food service manufacturing rules. You can find such rules in several places, which could include your state and local government's public health, agricultural, taxation, business licensing or zoning websites. Although most states require commercial food manufacturing to take place in commercial food manufacturing facilities, some states provide exceptions for rural-based entrepreneurs and those operating food manufacturing businesses that earn limited income.

Set-up your food manufacturing kitchen. Organize your food manufacturing facility based on information gathered from your public health department. Purchase and install separate kitchen counters, additional equipment such as a stove or refrigerator, and sanitation equipment such as a three-compartment sink, if required by law. You may be required to set-up a completely separate kitchen for your home-based food manufacturing facility, even if it is located on your home premises.

Contact the public health department for an inspection. The health inspector visits your kitchen to determine the facility's fitness for food manufacturing. The health inspector either passes your kitchen upon initial inspection or gives you a list of items required to bring it up to standard. You receive a certificate which you can post and provide to farmers' market managers and retail stores with vendor applications. You may also be required to take a food-handler's course, depending on your jurisdiction.

Apply for other jurisdictional business licenses as required. You may be required to register your business and apply for a resale license, depending on how much product you manufacture and sell on an annual basis. Some businesses may also consider buying from you only if you have a business license. Additionally, "Entrepreneur" magazine reports that having a resale license allows you to purchase manufacturing products wholesale and tax your customers, which positively impacts your bottom line as your business grows.

Tips & Warnings

  • Selling food comes with risks that are sometimes beyond your control, such as ingredient spoilage. You can purchase business liability insurance from the same company that provides your auto or homeowner's insurance policy to protect yourself and your business from injury claims.

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