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#28 Becoming a Small-Scale Food Processor

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Information prepared by Dr. Olga Padilla-Zakour and Dr. Bruno Xavier from the NYS Food Venture Center at Cornell University ( – for educational purposes only – please contact pertinent regulatory agencies for further detail.

The Federal government, individual states, cities and municipalities govern the operation of food processing facilities whether home kitchens or commercial facilities. Regulations differ from state to state and are determined by the type of food product being prepared and the processing methods used. When considering starting up a home or commercial kitchen, it is important to research which agencies regulate licensing of the product, inspection of the facility, foods allowed and not allowed to be produced in each facility, local zoning laws governing the use of the building, and building codes. All food facilities are required to register with FDA (based on he Bioterrorism Act of 2002) and to renew registration every other year (to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, website:

Foods that are regulated and require a Processing License in NY – Article 20-C License from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

This regulation applies to anything that is altered by baking, canning, preserving, freezing, dehydrating, juicing, cider making, pickling, brining, bottling, packaging, repackaging, pressing, waxing, heating or cooking, smoking, roasting, or manufacturing. Requirements vary depending on product. A scheduled process must be developed which outlines recipe testing/formulation, critical control points (to avoid contamination and control hazards), processing steps, storage requirements, distribution and selling conditions/restrictions.

Featured Resource

Assistance for developing a scheduled process is available:
NYS Food Venture Center

For a complete list of products that require an Article 20-C license visit the following website:

Food Safety

HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) Plans are mandated by FDA regulations for certain products and processes, specifying procedures to be followed to minimize contamination and to minimize/eliminate chemical, physical and biological hazards when processing foods. HACCP plans are required for wholesale sale (not for retail) of seafood, dairy, meat and poultry products, juice and cider processing facilities.  Other sectors of the food industry are coming into voluntary compliance. For more information check:

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) enacted in 2011, requires that most of the food manufacturers enhance food safety and quality by implementation of Food Safety Plans, which include Preventive Controls for all aspects of food processing, from incoming ingredients through processing itself to storage, distribution and sale of the final product. Specific requirements for continuous training programs are also part of FSMA requirements, including that food safety personnel receive specific training on Preventive Controls. Some manufacturers are exempt, in parts or completely, from having Food Safety Plans, depending on size and types of products manufactured. More information on the FSMA and on how to get Preventive Controls training can be obtained on the FDA website:

Home Processing Exemption

New York State allows non-hazardous foods such as candy, cakes not requiring refrigeration, cookies, brownies, two-crusted fruit pies, breads and rolls, standard fruit jams and jellies, dried spices and herbs, and snack items to be produced in home kitchens. A review of processing procedures may be required for certain products before exemption is granted.

Anyone seeking a Home Processing Exemption must:

Some types of foods may not be produced in a home kitchen, as mandated by Federal regulations. These foods are considered potentially hazardous:

  • Low acid and acidified (pickled) foods packed in hermetically sealed containers must be registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Meat products with more than 3% raw or 2% cooked meat ingredients in a completed product are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Vacuum packaged and any other reduced oxygen packaged products

Zoning Regulations

Local municipal zoning and planning boards determine the scale of operations permitted in an establishment. They regulate the number of employees allowed on premises and whether a second separate kitchen facility is allowed to operate on site. Check with local building inspectors to determine what operations can take place in the kitchen chosen for food production. There are local building codes that govern the volume of business in a building and egress from a building, drainage issues such as back flow protection, and grease traps.  Commercial equipment must comply with fire codes, FDA and USDA requirements as appropriate.

Minimum Food Processing Facility Requirements for New York State

Procedure Home Kitchen Home Annex Commercial
Inspection Yes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water Yes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water Yes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water
Licensing Non-potentially hazardous foods for wholesale market exempt from licensing by NYS Dept of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM)

20-C license (obtained from NYSDAM)

Separate cleaning, sanitizing, and hand wash facilities
Fee: $400.00/2 years

20-C license
Fee – $400.00/2 years
Inspection Agency NYSDAM
May request review of processing procedures by recognized processing authority. Only normal kitchen facilities can be used.
Dept. of Health- fresh-serve foods only. Kitchen held to restaurant standards (see below).
Dept. of Health- fresh-serve foods only. Kitchen held to restaurant standards (see below).
Foods Allowed
  •  Candy (non-chocolate)
  • Fudge
  • Cakes not requiring refrigeration
  • Cookies
  • Brownies
  • Two-crust fruit pies
  • Bread
  • Rolls
  • Fruit jams
  • Jellies
  • Spices, herbs
  • Snack items
  • Baked goods (i.e. bread, rolls) for wholesale distribution
Any processed food
Low acid and acidified foods packed in hermetically sealed containers. Must register and file with FDA
Any processed food
Low acid and acidified foods packed in hermetically sealed containers. Must register and file with FDA
Foods Not Allowed
  • Cakes which require refrigeration
  • Pies containing milk, eggs or meat products
  • Chocolates
  • Low acid/acidified foods
Meat products – if more than 3% raw or 2% cooked
meat ingredients – USDA regulated
Meat products – if more than 3% raw or 2% cooked
meat ingredients – USDA regulated

Check with city/town Zoning/Planning Board

Issues: Scale of operation, number of employees

Check with municipality Zoning/Planning Board

Issues: scale of operation; number of employees

2nd kitchen may not be allowed on premise

Check with municipality Zoning/Planning Board

Issues: scale of operation, number of employees


Basic Requirements for a Small-Scale Food Processing Establishment

State of NY Department of Health (DOH) – Restaurants

  • Submit kitchen drawings before construction
  • Three-bay sink with stainless steel drain boards or two-bay sink with a commercial dishwasher
  • Separate hand washing/mop sink
  • Washable materials on walls and work surfaces
  • Restaurant grade, commercial tile floors- painted concrete not allowed
  • Commercial coolers/refrigeration
  • Water from non-municipal water supply must be tested quarterly.
  • Review DOH “Checklist for New or Remodeled Establishments”
  • Some locales require food worker certification.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets – Food preparation and processing

  • Kitchen requirements based on food item(s) being produced- Determined upon inspection
  • Easily cleanable, smooth work surfaces
  • Non-absorbent, smooth and easily cleanable floors, walls and ceilings
  • Review of processing procedures including hand washing, sanitizing, equipment sinks, water potability and food preparation
  • Review NYSDAM Circular 951 -Pursuant to the Licensing of Food Processing Establishments
  • *Circular 938 – Rules and Regulations Relating to Food Processing Establishments
  •  *Circular 933-Good Manufacturing Practices

*Circulars are available through local Dept. of Agriculture and Markets
NYSDAM, 10B Airline Drive Albany, NY 12235
518-457-3880 or 1-800-554-4501

Helpful Resources for Small Scale Food Processors

For assistance in developing a scheduled process for your recipe or developing a processed food product, contact:

NY Food Venture Center
NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva
315-787-2259 or

To request the publication Small Scale Food Entrepreneurship:  A Technical Guide for Food Ventures”, contact:
Elizabeth Keller, 315-787-2273 or
Access the online version:

Product development, processing and distribution assistance is also available from:
Nelson Farms at SUNY Morrisville
315-655-8831 or

To learn about small scale food processing activities in NYS:
Join the NYS Small Scale Food Processors Association
Become a member of Pride of NY
800-554-4501 or

Regional Offices of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Food and Inspection Services
Contact Information
55 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217-1583
Electric Tower Building
535 Washington Street, 2nd Floor Suite 203
Buffalo, NY 14203
900 Jefferson Road
Rochester, NY 14623
NYS Fairgrounds – Art and Home Center
Syracuse, NY 13209

United States Food and Drug Administration

300 Pearl Street, Suite 100
Buffalo, NY 14202

New York District Office
158-15 Liberty Avenue
Jamaica, NY 11433

United States Department of Agriculture – Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS)
5 Washington Square
Albany, NY 12205


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18 thoughts on “#28 Becoming a Small-Scale Food Processor

  1. christopher lawrence says:

    where can i find information on starting a poultry processing for a small scale. we are trying to expand from a hobby farm but can’t seem to find the best way to do so. thank you in advance

  2. Carli Fraccarolli says:

    Hi Christopher, thanks for reaching out! The poultry section of our resources page ( has a bunch of resources about poultry processing. Our livestock resources page ( has poultry information as well, including a summary of poultry processing regulations. Good luck on your expansion!

  3. Madinat says:

    Hi , I am trying to begin processing of juices from nuts from home what are the best resources that will guide me or if I will be able to use an incubator which I may not qualify for. And certifications needed, resources for nutritional labeling also.

  4. Talia Isaacson says:

    Hi Madinat, thanks for reaching out! The “Getting Started” section of Cornell’s Food Venture Center could be a good place to start ( Take a look at the services provided by the FVC at, and if you’d like to get more information or schedule a consultation, you can call the FVC office at 315-787-2273. Hope this helps, and good luck!

  5. Elenimaite says:

    Hello! Where can I find information regarding starting a small baking business, but only using commercial kitchen rentals? Is the process for applying for license the same? I can’t seem to get specific information on that since I will not have a commercial kitchen of my own. Thank you very much!

  6. Carli Fraccarolli says:

    Hi there,
    I did some research and it seems that every person using shared kitchen space and equipment needs to obtain a permit to operate a food service establishment unless you are licensed or regulated by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets pursuant to Article 20-C, or any successor
    provision, of the Agriculture and Markets Law. If you hold a non-retail processing establishment permit to operate a shared kitchen, you are responsible for maintaining the condition of the establishment, its equipment, surroundings, water supply, waste handling, furnishings and other appurtenances in accordance with this Code. I found all of this information here:

    The Cornell Food Venture Center also has a list of Shared-Use and Commercial kitchens:

  7. John Letourneau says:

    I’m planning to build a structure on my farm to house a hard cider tasting room/ cafe/event space. I would like to install a commercial kitchen to make food available. I assume I would have to build the kitchen to commercial standards. Are there different guidelines if the establishment serves alcohol?

  8. sue says:

    What licenses are required to sell cheese and eggs and baked goods at a retail licensed plant nursery ? Thank you

  9. Talia Isaacson says:

    Hi Sue,
    Thanks for reaching out. This page gives a good overview of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ sanitary regulations for direct marketing: It specifies that roadside stands, on-farm outlets and farmers markets are NOT considered by the Department to be “retail food stores” and are consequently NOT required to meet the strict sanitary guidelines required by regular retail food stores or food processing establishments. I don’t, however, know how a retail-licensed plant nursery is classified by NYSDAM. I’d recommend getting in touch with your local NYSDAM Food Safety office, whose numbers can be found at the bottom of the website’s page, to verify whether or not you’ll be considered as a retail food store. Hope this helps, and best of luck!

  10. Talia Isaacson says:

    Hi John, I’d recommend getting in touch with the Cornell Food Venture Resource center at 315-787-2259 or at They might have some helpful resources for you. This page also gives a quick overview of the NY Farm Winery license, as well as some contact information for the New York State Liquor Authority, which might also be helpful: Hope this helps, and best of luck!

  11. Mark Gademsky says:

    Hi. I am interested in starting a Kimchi business. My new wife is a South Korean national and Korean chef. Can you give me any leads on the laws and permits needed to set up the manufacturing facility?

  12. Talia Isaacson says:

    Hi Mark,
    I’d recommend checking out the Cornell Food Venture Center, which provides a number of free resources, including a free business consultation. They can be contacted at 315-787-2259 or Additionally, you can check out this page on NYSDAM’s website, which gives a good overview of the licenses needed for different business types. Since you’ll be a small scale processor, you will probably need a 20-C License. To double-check and get more information, you can contact NYSDAM at 800-554-4501. Hope this helps!

  13. Emma Whittaker says:

    Hi there,
    I recently took over the kitchen manager position of a juice processing business, including setting up a brand new kitchen, and the only information I have is that the 20-C application has been filed. Do you know of some sort of checklist that I can use to figure out exactly what else I need to do in order to begin production? Thank you!

  14. Talia Isaacson says:

    Hi Emma,
    I’d recommend taking a look at the Cornell Food Venture Center, which provides a number of free resources, including a free business consultation. They should have some good insight for you. You can contact them at 315-787-2259 or Hope this helps!

  15. David Whiteman says:

    Hi. I’m interested in making small batch artisanal vinegar n my farm. Can you help me determine what licenses are required? The description of the 20-c license does not specifically include vinegar.

  16. klr235 says:

    Hi David. I would recommend reaching out to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and/or the Cornell Food Venture Center for your inquiry. The website with general food licenses and contact information for the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets is here: and the NYS Food Venture Center is here:
    Good luck!

  17. Gregg says:

    Hello, I currently have a Home Processor Certificate in NY to sell baked goods I make in my home at craft shows, bake sales, etc. I’d like to get into supplying my baked goods through catering or wholesale. I was wondering at what point would I need to apply for a business license or get a commercial kitchen. I’m not at that point yet sales wise but I’d like to expand my market base to hopefully get there. Thank you.

  18. klr235 says:

    Hi Gregg,

    I would recommend reaching out to your local health department which can be found at this listing: They should know the relevant policies and procedures regarding food sales!


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