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Starting a NC Food Business

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Resources to help get your food business started in north carolinaThere are many things to consider and learn when starting a food business in North Carolina. Understanding the regulations, laws, legalities, and more can become quite complex since several organizations are often involved. N.C. Cooperative Extension can help you navigate and find resources to get you started.

Food regulations vary across states and even across counties. North Carolina law authorizes the production of low-risk foods in home kitchens under certain circumstances. Under the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) developed by the FDA, an inspection is required before selling food from a home kitchen. However, before an inspection occurs, one must decide which products to make and sell. Foods that can be prepared in a home kitchen are broken down into two categories: high-risk foods and low-risk foods.

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. 

Interested in selling at local farmers’ markets? If so, contact the Market Manager at each location since guidance will vary from market to market. 

Resources to help in starting a NC food business: 

  1. Gaston 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:  704.853.5200
  2. NC Beekeepers Association: Learn more about labeling requirements for selling local honey
  3. NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Food & Drug Protection:  Assures consumers that foods, feeds, pet foods, drugs, cosmetics, and automotive antifreezes are safe, wholesome and properly labeled. Contact a Food Compliance Officer to learn more about requirements for specific foods. Phone:  984.236.4820
  4. Application for Home Processor (NCDA)
  5. Steps for Starting a Home Food Business (NCDA)
  6. NC State:  Acidified Foods Manufacturing School
  7. NC State:  Entrepreneurial Program (Product Testing & Labeling)
  8. NC State:  Food Business Resources
  9. NC State:  Retail Food Safety Programs:  These training programs are designed to provide consistent, evidence-based programs targeted to specific audiences. Contact your N.C. Cooperative Extension County Center for programs available near you.
  10. Selling Eggs, Meats, and Poultry in NC
  11. NC Farmers Market Network:  Resources for starting a farmers market near you
  12. Retail Food Safety Programs