28: Becoming a Small-Scale Food Processor

28: Becoming a Small-Scale Food Processor

The following information was 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 the Bioterrorism Act of 2002) and to renew registration every other year (to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, website: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FoodFacilityRegistration/default.htm).

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.

Assistance for developing a scheduled process is available:

NYS Food Venture Center https://cfvc.foodscience.cals.cornell.edu/

For a complete list of products that require an Article 20-C license visit the following website: https://agriculture.ny.gov/food-business-licensing

Fact Sheet Overview

    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 (not for retail) sale 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: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/HACCP/

    The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted in 2011, requires that food manufacturers enhance food safety and quality by implementing Food Safety Plans, which include Preventive Controls for all aspects of food processing, from incoming ingredients through processing 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 the size and types of products manufactured. More information on FSMA and on how to get Preventive Controls training can be obtained on the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm461513.htm

    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 (see full list of “‘approved’ non-potentially hazardous home processed foods” on information sheet below). 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

    New York State Home Processor Registration Information Sheet: https://www. agriculture.ny.gov/ FS/consumer/ FSI-898D_Home_ Processor.pdf

    Note: Internet sales (Fact Sheet #26 in this Guide) are only considered exempt under the Home Processors Exemption if buyers are also within the state.

    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:

    Home KitchenHome AnnexCommercial
    InspectionYes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well waterYes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well waterYes, Potable water required (documented) – municipal or treated well water
    LicensingNon-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: $175.00/2 years
    20-C license

    Fee – $175.00/2 years
    Inspection AgencyNYSDAM May request review of processing procedures by recognized processing authority.

    Only normal kitchen facilities can be used.
    NYSDAM Dept. of Health (for fresh-serve foods only)

    Kitchen held to restaurant standards (see below).
    NYSDAM Dept. of Health (fresh-serve foods only)

    Kitchen held to restaurant standards (see below).
    ZoningCheck 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
    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. If you are producing an acidified food (i.e. you are adding lemon juice or any type of acid), you will need to take part in an official Acidified Food Manufacturing Training, either in person or online, for $400
    Any processed food

    Low acid and acidified foods packed in hermetically sealed containers. Must register and file with FDA. If you are producing an acidified food (i.e. you are adding lemon juice or any type of acid), you will need to take part in an official Acidified Food Manufacturing Training, either in person or online, for $400.
    Foods Not Allowed• Cakes that 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 regulatedMeat products - if more than 3% raw or 2% cooked meat ingredients – USDA regulated

    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:

    Cornell Food Venture Center
    Cornell AgriTech
    315-787-2273 or cvfc@cornell.edu

    To request the publication “Small Scale Food Entrepreneurship: A Technical Guide for Food Ventures”, contact the CFVC using one of the options above.

    The center has a number of other helpful guides available for download in a public Box folder:


    The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell provides a number of programs, courses and services to help reduce food safety risks from farm to fork. They are a good resource for small farm processors across the board from dairy, produce, and craft beverages looking for general food science extension and food safety programs. A schedule of current offerings can be found on the training page of their website:


    Among them is an online Good Manufacturing Practices course which reviews GMP requirements that are part of the FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation in 21 CFR Part 117 Subpart B.


    To learn about small scale food processing activities in NYS:

    Join the NYS Small Scale Food Processors Association www.nyssfpa.com

    Regional Offices of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Food and Inspection Services:

    • 10B Airline Drive
      Albany, New York 12235
    • 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

    Additional Resources: