Starting a Home-Based Food Business in New York

If you are looking to create a home-based food business in New York, then you should become familiar with what you can and cannot make, as well as other rules and regulations that exist.

Food Business

Before you even think about launching your home-based food business, check with your city or town to see if you will be able to comply with local zoning laws that govern where you can run a business and,thus, if you can run a business from your home. In many cases, there are limitations on the percentage of your square footage within your home that you may dedicate for a home business. There may even be a complete restriction on running certain businesses in your neighborhood. Obviously, this can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, so consult with an NY attorney before taking any further steps.

Also, before you can operate a home-based food business in New York, you must follow the rules of safe food handling and processing. For instance, New York City requires commercial food preparers to have a Food Handler License. Home processors can apply for a “home processing exemption” to the food handling license.

Also known as a “20-C exemption,” home processors must first have this exemption approved before starting to operate a New York home-based food business. The application can be found on the website of the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. Also note that, if your home is on a private water system, such as use of well water, home processors must arrange for a potability test of their water source, the results of which must be included with your application. Also be aware that your kitchen will also be subject to inspection by the NYS Department of Agriculture.

Once your application is processed and approved, the exemption allows home processors to make the following food products in your home kitchen:

  • baked goods that don’t require refrigeration, including breads, rolls, cookies, double crust fruit pies, brownies, and cakes
  • traditional fruit preserves, such as jams, jellies, and marmalades
  • candy, except for chocolate candy
  • repackaged commercially dried spices and herbs
  • snack items, such as popcorn, caramel corn, and peanut brittle

You can find more information about the foods you can and cannot prepare in a home kitchen by visiting this section of the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets’s website.

Home processors should, also, know that your home-based food business will be subject to a number of restrictions on where and how you sell your products. Home-based food businesses are:

  1. limited,usually,to selling only within the state of New York;
  2. restricted to local venues such as farmers markets, farm stands, or by direct delivery for selling products; and
  3. prohibited from selling directly from your home or through the Internet.

Home processors must also follow rules and regulations requiring them to keep food packaged cleanly and properly. 

Clearly, starting a home-based food business may seem like an appetizing option at first, but like most prized recipes, it is important that you measure the risks, expenses and rewards before getting started. A New York lawyers can, often, assist in getting your business off the ground.

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