Starting a Home Food Business
What Type of Permit Should I Apply for?
This depends on what type of food items you want to prepare and where you intend to sell them. The MDPH Guidance document Residential Kitchens: Questions and Answers (PDF)If you wish to apply for a Residential Retail Kitchen, complete the Residential Retail Kitchen Application, Form G3 (PDF) and submit the application with a detailed list of your proposed food products along with sample labels for each food product. Once The Health Department receives your application and approves the types of foods you wish to prepare an inspection of your home kitchen will be scheduled.
Residential Retail Kitchen Permit
Non-Potentially Hazardous Foods
Massachusetts limits the types of foods that can be prepared in a licensed home kitchen to non Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHF). On a very basic level this generally means you can make any food that is not perishable and does not require refrigeration. Technically, it must have water content of 0.85 or below, or a pH level of 4.6 or below.
Types of foods that are allowed include baked goods (cakes and cookies), jams, and jellies. It is acceptable to use PHF products (such as eggs and milk) in the preparation of food as long as the final food product is a Non-Potentially Hazardous food. Not allowed are foods like cream-filled pastries, cheesecake, or custard, in addition to cut fruit and vegetables, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, pickled products, relishes, garlic in oil, and salad dressings. Anything requiring state or federal processing approval, like acidification, curing, smoking, hot fill or vacuum packaging, is prohibited. If your product is not on the approved list, you can have it tested by a facility for pH and water activity, and it might be approved.
- Purchasing - You must buy your food only from a vendor approved by the state.
- Storage - A separate dry and cold storage for your business and personal food items in your kitchen are required. This means that you need a separate shelf or designated spot for your business food that is separate from your personal food.
- Labeling - If you package your food it must also meet requirements set forth in 105 CMR 520.00 for labeling, which differ for Retail and Wholesale. See also MDPH's brief summary of Labeling Requirements for packaged food.
- Hygiene - You must follow the same health, hygiene, hand washing, and toilet use requirements as if you were using a standard commercial kitchen.
- Equipment and Utensils - These need to be made of safe materials and kept in good repair. Generally standard kitchen equipment is sufficient, as long as it is in a condition where it can be properly sanitized.
- Food Contact Surfaces - All surfaces that may come into contact with food, like counters, sinks, work surfaces, and more, need to be made of smooth, non absorbent materials that are easily cleanable. Again, this requirement is generally easily met in a home kitchen as long as you don't have cracks in your counter top and you can properly sanitize everything that food will come into contact with.
- Cleaning and Sanitizing - The same rules apply for cleaning and sanitizing as for a commercial kitchen, but there are some looser exceptions that allow for the use of a residential dishwasher, as long as the highest setting of sanitizing possible for that machine is used, and the temperature rises to 150 degrees, which needs to be tested every day, with records kept for 30 days. Although this is on the books, it seems unlikely that these records would be requested.
- Employees and Brokers - Only immediate family members residing in the household can prepare food for sale. No outside employees can be used. Brokers, wholesalers or warehouses also can not be used.
- Insects and Rodents - As in any kitchen, you need to take steps to avoid having insects and rodents in your kitchen.
- Pets - Massachusetts does allow a household with pets to license their home kitchen, but those pets must be kept out of the kitchen and preparation areas during food preparation.
- Laundry - If there is a clothes washer or dryer located in the kitchen, it can remain there but can not be used during food preparation.
- Guests - The cooking facilities can not be used by guests while food is being prepared for the business.
- Trash - Cans used for trash need to have lids that seal securely.
Massachusetts and U.S. Food Drug Administration Regulatory Requirements
- Specialty Operations and Residential Retail Kitchens
- Wholesale Operation
- Applications, Best Management Practices,105 CMR 500 Regulatory Requirements and Product Labeling
- Retail Operation
- Applications, 105 CMR 590 Regulatory Requirements and Product Labeling
- Merged Food Code (PDF)
- Food Processing
- Applications, Best Management Practices, Regulatory Requirements and Specialized Processes(Thermal Processing, Slaughter Operations, and more.)
- Mobile Poultry Processing Unit MPPU (PDF)