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Starting an NC Food Business

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Embarking on the journey of starting a food business in North Carolina opens up a world of considerations, from understanding regulations to navigating legalities. It can feel overwhelming, especially with various organizations involved. Thankfully, the N.C. Cooperative Extension is here to lend a helping hand and provide a treasure trove of resources to guide you. Food regulations are like a patchwork quilt, differing not only from state to state but also within counties. In North Carolina, you’ll find that making low-risk foods in your own kitchen is possible under certain conditions. However, to comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), you’ll need an inspection before selling from your home kitchen. But don’t worry; before inspecting, you’ll want to decide which delicious products you’d like to whip up and share with the world. These products are neatly divided into high-risk and low-risk categories, giving you a clear roadmap of what’s possible in your home kitchen.

High-risk foods must be produced in a licensed commercial facility and include the following:

  • low-acid canned foods
  • refrigerated or frozen products (including dairy products)
  • seafood

Low-risk foods are considered safe for home production and include:

  • acidified foods (such as fruit, jam, and salsa)
  • baked goods
  • candies
  • jams and jellies
  • pickles

Shelf-stable pickles, acidified foods, sauces and some liquids, are allowed, but these foods require laboratory testing.

Burke County Environmental Health: Contact your local health department’s Environmental Health for regulations related to catering, food trucks, food stands, meat markets, plus more. Phone: Burke County (828) 764-9240.

NC Beekeepers Association: Read about labeling requirements for selling honey.

NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Food & Drug Protection: For those embarking on the journey of starting a food business, it’s crucial to understand the safety and labeling standards for foods, feeds, pet foods, and cosmetics. Visit NCDA to find comprehensive information to help you navigate the regulatory landscape and ensure compliance with industry standards. Reach out to a Food Compliance Officer for personalized guidance tailored to your specific needs.
Phone: (984) 236-4820.

The Acidified Foods Manufacturing School, sometimes called the Better Process Control School, is an FDA-recognized course providing instruction primarily for operating supervisors, meeting the requirements stated in 21 CFR 114.10 and 21 CFR 108.25.

NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Home Processor
If you are interested in producing and selling food products for human consumption from your home, you will need to first have your home kitchen inspected before doing so. This includes anyone selling to retail stores, restaurants, or directly to consumers. This also includes anyone opening and repackaging food products or ingredients purchased from other locations. Find the information you need here as well as an application to become a home food processor.

NC State: Entrepreneurial Program
Offers two services –
Product Testing and Processing Recommendations
Have a shelf-stable product sample analyzed and classify it (acid, acidified, water activity controlled (low-moisture), or other) according to Federal and State regulations and provide processing recommendations for Acid and Acidified foods.

Nutritional Information
Use a Nutrition Database to input a product formulation and provide a Nutrition Facts Panel and Ingredient Statement for food products.

Do you Want to Sell in a Retail Market?

Who Will Regulate my Food Business?