If you are considering starting a new food business, you need to make sure if your idea is going to be allowed in your location. This is especially true if you are considering starting a home-based food business.
The food business regulations for some states are very complex and even knowing where to start learning is difficult and confusing.
The table below has a link to the primary food regulatory agency in each of the United States of America. If the good people running each of these agencies can’t answer your specific questions, they can get you to the agency or person who can answer those questions.
Contacting Agencies About Food Business Licensing
When dealing with a regulatory agency, your number one goal should be to be well mannered and appreciative. The people who are charged with doing these jobs are used to having a confrontational relationship with those they regulate. If you are different, they will treat you differently.
Also be patient and plan ahead. If your situation isn’t an emergency, it could take awhile to get the answers you need.
Call Or Email To Get Your Answers
I encourage you to first try email. Some people prefer to have time to answer and email gives them that. For you, you get the answer in writing which is much better than just having it told to you verbally. That written record might really help you in the future.
If you don’t get an email response within a week, then follow up with a phone call.
Regardless of how you are communicating, keep detailed notes. Every time you are in contact about your questions record: Date, Time, Name, Phone #/Email, and details of the conversation.
It will save you time later when you need to call with follow up questions if you can tell the next person you talk to exactly what has happened in the past.
Questions To Ask Before Starting A Home Based Food Business
Start by creating a written description of the business you want to start. Keep that description clear and concise. It should be a single paragraph and no more then 500 words.
Then list each question you need answered. While the answers to these questions might lead to new questions, first focus on getting all the basic questions answered.
Can I start my business in my own home?
If yes, are there any limits on where I can sell the products I produce?
If yes, what permits and licenses do I need?
If no, can I rent a commercial kitchen to start my business?
Are there any resources you can point me towards which will help me in setting up my new business here in our state?
That’s a good start. Don’t bury this person with questions. While they work for the taxpayer, they don’t work specifically for you. Treat them like a mentor and potential friend, not like an employee.
Remember, be patient and expect this process to take a couple of weeks. You could probably push it through in a few days, but then the people who are charged with oversite of your business are going to remember you and how you acted from day-one.
You got this…enjoy the journey.
P.S. The table below is as accurate as I could establish, but it’s always being updated as departments, roles, rules, and just links change. If you find a broken link or find a better starting point, please contact me so we can update the table and provide better help.
This is not legal advice, just links to the lead home-based food business regulatory agency in each state in the United States of America.
Table Of Food Business License Departments By State
With over 15 years of experience starting, running, and growing home-based food businesses, Stacey is the #1 home-based food business coach in America. Stacey is the author of the Advantage Meals: By The Numbers Book.
I'm a big fan of the concept of failing forward. So much so that my wife gets tired of hearing me say that I make more mistakes before noon than most people will make this month...but it's true so I...
We send out occasional emails packed with the four "T's" to help you start and grow your own food business. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, learn from our mistakes and successes. You got this. ~Stacey