Domestic/Commercial Kitchens?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by MichelleB, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. MichelleB

    MichelleB Well-Known Member

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    Has anybody built and had licensed a USDA-inspected commercial kitchen facility on their property?

    I'm researching this opportunity for creating value-added products from food grown on our property, and for the possible rental to area caterers, small events, and possibly a B&B.

    Finding the actual guidelines on the USDA site is a pain in the butt, and I'd like to hear from any of you who may have experience in this area--inspection issues, construction costs (we've got a lead on second-hand fixtures), etc.
     
  2. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    I have a suggestion. After you check USDA...check with your state. Mine requires that I turn in recipes for canned goods such as jelly or jam. Then they alter the recipe to make it pH balanced, and put additives to make it more shelf stable...and that's the recipe you must use. Not me!!

    Meg
     

  3. MichelleB

    MichelleB Well-Known Member

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    That's silly! I wonder if you follow guidelines for labeling requirements and make sure to have them printed with "no preservatives, best if used by xx/xx/xx" you could circumvent that? Was the red tape so bad that you threw in the towel?

    The whole point of setting up such a kitchen is to get my product to customers who are trying to AVOID additives. Yuck. I'm so sick of the government treating us as if we can't be trusted to make our own decisions on the products we consume. I have NO issues with having to disclose ingredients, but I had no clue Uncle Sam was a chef.



    :no:
     
  4. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    While I can understand them making you have it a certain ph, OR making it be pressure canned.

    I don't understand making you add things to give it a longer shelf life!
     
  5. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    My kitchen is licensed for home food processing but not licensed as a commercial kitchen through the USDA.

    I cannot sell anything that must be pressure canned. That requires a commercial license in a kitchen better equiped than my home kitchen. Before I can sell the preserves that I make I have to have one jar from a batch analyzed by the lab at UMaine. The sample must be in the same kind of jar I will be selling it in and be properly labeled. I must include the recipe and the procedure followed. As long as I don't change the recipe or procedure once a recipe is approved I do not have to have another sample analyzed.

    Jars must be labeled properly.

    Every jar must have a batch code. If you have a recall and don't have a batch code on the questionable jar every jar on the shelves must be pulled. Batch codes must be recorded and records kept for a specific amount of time.

    Preserves must be water bathed for a specific amount of time. They have to have a standard seal. Sealing with wax is not allowed.

    Other food items have their own set of rules. I can't sell anything with hazardous foods. This means I can't sell the pickled eggs I wanted to license the kitchen for. No mayonnaise or meat products. There's a short list of things I can't do.

    I don't have to have baked goods tested but can't make certain things. Mincemeat pie is an example.

    There are categories on the license application. I can't sell anything that isn't included on my license. I'm licensed for preserves and other foods that are jarred but not pressure canned, baked goods, bread, cake and such.

    About the kitchen: the trash can must have a cover at all times. I have to have a stainless steel double sink. The water must be a specific temperature. The floor, counters, cupboards, etc. must be a washable surface and be in good repair. No peeling paint any where. Lights must be covered to keep glass out of food if a bulb breaks. The counter has to be disinfected with a water/bleach solution before starting to work with food.

    I can have pets living in the house but not in the kitchen when I am processing food. This varies from state to state.

    The bathroom is right off the kitchen (not allowed in new structures) so I have to keep a spring on the door to make it close automatically. The bathroom must stay clean at all times.

    The kitchen, including appliances, must be clean, of course.

    The entry to the house must be kept clean and clear at all timess. That includes my entire back porch because the porch leads to the kitchen door.

    I have to have the septic system tested yearly. The house has a private well. The drains must be drainly correctly and the leach field must be functioning properly. $0.

    I have to have the water tested yearly for nitrates, nitrates and coliform. $30.

    My kitchen is open to inspection at any time while it's licensed. The Dept of Ag inspector is entitled to knock on the door and ask to come in. He hasn't.

    The septic and water test results are sent to the Dept of Ag with the application and application fee. The USDA inspector calls to make an appointment. He comes out, looks everything over, signs my form and I'm good to go for another year. The license comes in the mail. It has to be posted in the kitchen. It's a very simple process in my state (Maine). My ag inspector is a good source of information. If I have questions I can call him. He's also our farmers market inspector and handles the certifying of my legal for trade scales I use to sell the vegetables and fruits we grow. I try to have him do everything at once so that I don't have to drag him out here often.
     
  6. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    I have a state-inspected kitchen, and my state requires adherence to the USDA Food Code, so it would pass USDA as well. My home kitchen is licensed, but I'm grandfathered, and most states including mine will no longer license home kitchens--you'll need a separate facility.

    The red tape is pretty thick in these parts, but the stakes are also high. In addition to researching your kitchen requirements, make sure you research your state laws on retailer licenses, state tax collection, and water testing if you're on a well. If you'll be selling from your house, your town may require a DBA certificate and a Building and Land Use Permit. You'll also want to see about getting a rider on your homeowner's for liability, as well as setting up an LLC to protect your family's assets in the event of a lawsuit. It makes me sick that there has to be so much hullabaloo over food, but that's the world we live in these days, and I cover my butt. Thought I would let you know what needs to happen to do it right.

    I'm a caterer, and I also use the kitchen to do value-added products from my farm. As already mentioned, you will almost certainly need to get your recipes tested if you're planning on canning anything. They won't necessarily make you add preservatives, but they will evaluate your processing methods and pH to make sure it's safe. It's usually done by your state extension service. You'll have very specific labelling requirements. If you're only looking to do canned goods and non-perishable food items like breads, cookies, etc. (read no refrigeration required) your state ag. department may have a home food manufacturer's license available. They're geared more toward cottage-y type things like that, and the license is much easier to get.

    You can view the Maine Food Code at the link below. Sure, it's not valid for your state, but I believe it's essentially the same as the federal code, and you can at least look at it to get a sense of what you need to do. If you have any more specific questions, you can post them on this thread or pm me. I'll be around the boards until this weekend.

    Here's the code. Click the link, scroll down to Chapter 200 and click. It's a huge file--almost 100 pages.
    http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/10/chaps10.htm
     
  7. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    Wow--wierd. Just for clarification, Maine Farm Mom has the home food license I was talking about. I have a catering license, which allows me to process any food products--except all canned items must be tested for safety.
     
  8. homestead2

    homestead2 Member

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    We are building our commercial kitchen now. In our county, it cannot be in the home. Must be a separate building. Has to have 3 sinks, and several other listed things. Our purpose is to cater and some small on site dinners - and to move my cheese making out of the house.

    Our county health department sent us the specs. We are working from those specs and will call them when we are done to have our inspection.

    homestead2
     
  9. Chas in Me

    Chas in Me Well-Known Member

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    I want to thank fin29 and MaineFarmMom for their info. My wife and i have talked about doing this and your info is a great help.
    You gotta admit it, Maine folks are great.
    Chas
     
  10. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    BTW, I just remembered that the only reason you would need USDA certification is if you plan to cross state lines with your product (and that includes mailing it). Otherwise, I'm fairly sure you only would need state inspection.
     
  11. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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    In Ohio you are required to have a separate facility for processing any food that is not included in the definition of "Cottage Industry" (which can be processed in your kitchen as long as you only have one stove). These foods are basically baked goods and jams and jellies. If I want to can, freeze or dehydrate foods it requires said separate facility and would require 5 (thank you very much) sinks - three for cleaning food prep utensiles and two for the raw ingredients. So I design the facility (they - County Health Dept. - provide guidelines) and submit said plan to them along with my check for $485 and they review it, suggest revision and after we get to an acceptable configuration - we build it. Then they come out to kick the tires on it (inspect...) and collect another $450 for the inspection which they repeat annually. The cost of jerky just went up!!
     
  12. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    fin, some where in this with state lines is something to do with vinegar. Does that sound familiar? I make/sell pickled beets. As long as I don't sell them across state lines I don't have to file a form with the feds. I don't remember exactly what it is about this. I can't keep up with local demand yet so the paperwork wasn't useful to me.
     
  13. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    Only thing I can think of is the acidity level. I know with some pickled beet recipes the acidity's actually pretty low and the feds might want to have a test done. Other than that, I can't think of any specific vinegar issues off hand, though as I'm sure you know, you never know with these guys.

    One of my catering cohorts has a rockin' pickle business and he sells all over the world. He's USDA and state inspected. Jack's Pickles.