Panel Discussion Highlights Types of Food Enterprises and How To Meet Food Safety Rules

Looking to start your own value-added food business? Confused by rules and regulations? A recent workshop held at the Country Barn in Millersville on January 26th, answered some challenging questions for new food enterprises.

Sponsored by PASA and led my Extension Educator, Winifred McGee, the “Food Enterprise & Safety Panel Discussion” session featured a four member panelist group. Panelists included Jim Stauffer, owner and operator of the Country Barn Market, Dale Stoltzfus, of Oasis at Bird-in Hand, Rachel Armistead, owner and operator of Sweet Farm in Frederick, Maryland, and Sam Kennedy, head cheesemaker at the Farm at Doe Run in Unionville, PA.

Program Highlights:

What is the most basic food business? A limited food establishment (LFE)

A limited food establishment is the most basic food business. It refers to a home-style kitchen, residential style kitchen, or personal use kitchen, regardless of location, in which the handling/processing of allowable foods occurs.

What can be made legally in a LFE?

  • Home baking
  • Jams & Jellies
  • Beverages/juices/ drinks
  • Canning/acidified foods
  • Candy making
  • You are not permitted to produce Time/Temperature Controlled for Safety (TCS) foods in a limited food establishment. These include goods such as cheesecakes, pumpkin pies, cream, custard, meringue pastries/desserts

LFE Considerations:

  • Ingredients must be stored and prepared separately from family’s food
  • Check your zoning laws; some townships can make it very difficult to start a home food business
  • No pets allowed in the kitchen!

If you want to sell your products out of state, you must operate in a commercial kitchen. The FDA will not register products made in home kitchens. Commercial kitchens require increased investment through licensing, overhead costs, and price structure, but are also create the option to allow you to expand your customer base over state lines and via internet sales. The biggest challenge utilizing a commercial kitchen would be if you want to make gluten free or organic foods. Other renters of the kitchen could be using inputs that would be restricted for your products; therefore you would have to show proper cleaning procedures to ensure your production practices.

In addition, most commercial kitchens and events such as farmer’s markets require a certificate of insurance that your insurance agent can provide for a nominal fee.

Whether you use a home or commercial kitchen, your food-making procedures must be approved by a person called a “process authority.” Process authorities are available through Cornell Extension or private consultants.

All food businesses get inspected by the FDA or state regulators. Sam Kennedy assured attendees to not be afraid of the FDA. “It’s a symbiotic relationship, they’re not there if you’re not there” Kennedy stated.

Other Types of Food Registration:

  • Retail Food Facility & Restaurant
  • Temporary Retail Food Facility
  • Farmers Market Vendor
  • Food Establishment

Questions about labeling? View labeling requirements here: Labeling Requirements Retail Food.

For more information regarding food enterprises visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s eatsafepa.com.

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