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What's Cooking? Food Preparation Options for Home-Based Food Businesses

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What's Cooking? Food Preparation Options for Home-Based Food Businesses

By JamieD
Published: November 9, 2009 Updated: February 17, 2011

If you're starting a food-based home business, you have several options when it comes to the food preparations. Check out this quick guide to help you navigate the laws on commercial kitchens, co-packing arrangements, and home kitchen conversions.

Why can't I prepare my food products in my home kitchen?


Food preparation laws vary from state to state. In most states, it is illegal to prepare any food or beverage intended to be sold to the public in your home kitchen. For specific information on laws and regulations in your area, contact your state's Department of Health.

What are my options?

You have several options when determining where to carry out the food processing operations of your business:

  • Rent a commercial facility

  • Hire an approved co-packer

  • Convert a space into a health department approved kitchen

Are you producing or selling Organic foods? Read on for more information for a regulatory checklist.

What is a commercial kitchen?

A commercial kitchen is approved and certified by your state health department for preparing and manufacturing food products that will be sold to consumers. Commercial kitchens are always subject to public health laws and are periodically inspected by public health officials. A business should use a commercial kitchen if they personally intend to prepare and manufacture their food products.

Facilities that rent commercial kitchens give businesses a place to carry out their food preparations but aren't involved in the actual manufacturing of the food.
Many local community centers and churches h

ave commercial kitchens that can be rented for use by a small business. In some cases you may be able to make a business arrangement to use a local caterer's commercial kitchen. Search for commercial kitchens in your area and contact their management for more information. State and local small business experts may be able to help you locate a commercial kitchen near your home.

What is a co-packer?

A co-packer, also known as a contract packer, produces and packages food products for another business. Co-packers are equipped with raw ingredients and packaging materials on site, making it easy for them to follow instructions and recipes given to them by a business. Home-based food businesses often hire co-packers to produce their food products to simplify operations. Co-packers enable businesses to take care of their administrative responsibilities at home without having to worry about the strict laws that regulate food manufacturing. Contact the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade* for more information on co-packers in your area.

What is involved in converting a home space into a health department approved kitchen?

Although state laws generally do not allow any commercial food preparation to be carried out in a home kitchen, many states allow for a separate home space to be approved for commercial purposes. In simple terms - your home kitchen cannot be used for commercial purposes but you can build a separate kitchen in your home that can be approved and used specifically for commercial purposes.

State laws vary on what they do and do not allow in regards to a home-based commercial kitchen. States that allow commercial kitchens to be constructed at home enforce strict regulations on these facilities. Laws can include requiring your kitchen to be sealed off from the living portions of your home, installing additional sewage precautions, and  detailing the necessity of specific kitchen features, such as a 3-compartment sink and a separate hand sink. If you're considering constructing a commercially approved kitchen in your home, contact your state health department.

For more information on starting a home-based food production business, see "Making Your Culinary Hobby Your Job."

What's the Community saying about food preparation businesses?

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Would these same rules apply for making dogs treats?
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