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So You Want to Start a Food Business in Catawba County?

Do your co-workers, family or friends enjoy your homemade cakes or jellies so much that they have encouraged you to make and sell them? A good-tasting product is just the beginning. If you decide to start a food business, there are some steps you must take to ensure that you operate legally and that the food you sell will be safe for public consumption. If you are an aspiring food entrepreneur, you may have many questions regarding starting your own food business, so we have developed this page with you in mind.

Whether you are interested in selling baked goods at a local farmers market, getting your special barbecue sauce ready for retail sale or opening a restaurant, we have compiled information and links to resources to begin the research necessary start your food business,

This page is for educational purposes and we will do our best to keep it current. Make sure to contact the agency that regulates the food that you wish to sell so you will be in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

I want to open a restaurant

Starting a restaurant can be a major investment of both time and money. Before you jump in to the food service business, there are some people you should contact who can offer suggestions to help you avoid problems. Begin by contacting Catawba County Environmental Health. Environmental Health inspects and regulates restaurants. The Environmental Health Specialists can offer suggestions that will help you open your establishment, operate legally and serve safe food.

Maybe you are thinking about leasing a building that once housed a restaurant. Do you know why the previous restaurant is no longer there? Were there problems with the facility that could have impacted inspection scores? Is the owner willing to make improvements so that the building complies with Environmental Health regulations? Are there any zoning issues? Was the last business in that spot successful? These are questions you should ask an Environmental Health Specialist. Are you thinking of building or remodeling a structure to house a food service operation? Your plans will need to be evaluated and approved by an Environmental Health Specialist at Catawba County Environmental Health.

I want to operate a catering business from my home

Catering businesses are regulated by your local Environmental Health Department. Catered meals must be prepared in an establishment that is inspected and permitted by Environmental Health. If you are thinking of building a structure on your property to use for catering, you should talk with an Environmental Health Specialist at Catawba County Environmental Health first or an Environmental Health Specialist in your county of residence.

I want to start a food truck

Did you know that food trucks must be associated with a restaurant or commissary? That’s right. You can’t simply buy a transport vehicle and outfit it as a food truck and take your show on the road. You must comply with the rules for food truck operation. Before you invest in a food truck, contact an Environmental Health Specialist at Catawba County Environmental Health.

I want to to prepare food in my home for retail sale

There are some products that you may be able to make in your home and sell to the public, however due to food safety concerns, foods produced at home for retail sale must be low-risk for causing food borne illness. Before you invest resources into a home-based food business, your first step is to contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. NCDA staff will provide the information you need to determine whether you can prepare your product at home. Before you can make and sell your product, your kitchen must undergo an inspection by an NCDA Regulatory Specialist. You may reach NCDA by phone by calling 919-733-7366. Click here to see a document that outlines what you need to know before you start your home-based food processing business.

I want to bottle and sell my own sauces

First, you will need to speak with a regulatory specialist at NCDA. Call 919-733-7366 or click here to visit the website. Your sauce may need to be produced in a commercial facility. You may need to attend the Acidified Foods Manufacturing School.

Where do I go to process my products that if I cannot do it in my home?

The NCDA website has a list of shared-use kitchens where you can go to process your products for a fee and co-packers or companies that can produce and package your product for you.

I need a nutrition label for my product

NC State Extension’s Entrepreneur Initiative for Food can help you with nutrition labeling, including generating a Nutrition Facts Panel and a Statement of Ingredients.

I need to have a product analyzed

NC State Extension’s Entrepreneur Initiative for Food provides analysis of products to help entrepreneurs meet local, state and federal regulations. Once samples are analyzed, you receive processing recommendations.

What is the Acidified Foods Manufacturing School?

The Acidified Foods Manufacturing School provides instruction primarily for operating supervisors, the individual who is in the plant or kitchen at the time an acidified preserved food product is packed and processed. The school is particularly intended for operators or operating supervisors involved in production of thermally processed acidified foods” (N.C. State University).

I want to sell produce at a local Farmer’s Market

If you are interested in selling produce at a local farmers market. Contact the manager for the market where you would like to sell. Some markets have guidelines regarding local foods and other items that you might want to sell. Below are links to some area Farmers Markets where you will find vendor information and guidelines. For additional information about other markets or opportunities, contact the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Office at 828-465-8240.

Catawba County Public Health Farmers Market

Conover Farmers Market

Downtown Hickory Farmers Market

The Farmers Market at Catawba Farms

Winter Market at Hollar Mill

I want to sell baked goods that I make at home

If you are considering selling baked goods or other items made at home, you must contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and  to determine whether you can sell those foods. NCDA must inspect your kitchen and approve those products for sale. You cannot have animals in the home if you prepare baked goods or other items to sell to the public.

I want to sell food at a fundraiser

If you are selling baked goods such as bread, cakes, and pies or serving dipped ice cream, contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service at (919) 733-7366 regarding the food you plan to sell. If you plan to sell a food that needs time and temperature control to keep it safe, contact the Catawba County Environmental Health Department as soon as you set your date for your fundraiser to determine if you need a temporary permit. Explain what you plan to sell and how often. An Environmental Health Specialist can answer your questions. Be prepared to answer some questions regarding preparation, serving and how you will keep food safe.

I want to sell meat at a farmers market

You should contact NCDA’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Division at 919-707-3180. Staff at NCDA will determine whether you needs a Meat and Poultry Handlers Registration. If registration is appropriate for your situation, NCDA staff will schedule an on site visit to review your operation.

I want to sell eggs

Any business or individual who sells eggs is subject to the North Carolina Egg Law. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.regulates the sale of eggs. Check out the North Carolina Egg Law or call 919-733-7366.

I want to operate a catering business from my home

Catering businesses are regulated by your local Environmental Health Department. Catered meals must be prepared in an establishment that is inspected and permitted by Environmental Health. If you are thinking of building a structure on your property to use for catering, you should talk with an Environmental Health Specialist at Catawba County Environmental Health first or an Environmental Health Specialist in your county of residence.

I want to make artisan cheese

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and N.C State University have partnered to offer an online course on Artisan Cheesemaking.

I want to take a Food Safety Protection Manager Certification Course

In Catawba County, Cooperative Extension currently offer the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification Course. The two-day certification course covers what you need to know to comply with North Carolina’s food safety laws. If you need to recertify or feel confident in your ability to study independently, you may purchase a book and study materials and participate in the review session and exam on the second day of class.

When you pass the exam, you will be a recognized as a Certified Food Protection Manager and a Person-in Charge of food safety in your establishment. By applying what you learn in the class you can avoid having 2 points deducted from your inspection score. Call 828-465-8240 to learn when the next class is available and register.

Another certification option is the NC Safe Plates program offered in some N.C. Counties. The information presented in the NC Safe Plates Curriculum was developed at NC State University and is comparable to ServSafe. When you pass the exam you will be a Certified Food Protection Manager.

I am interested making and selling pet food or treats

If you plan to make pet food or treats and sell them to the public, your business will be regulated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

I need to develop a business plan

Your local Small Business Center is a resource for help with business plans. Located at Catawba Valley Community College, the Small Business Center offers the following services: counseling to help you develop your business plan, seminars workshops, and assistance with licenses and permits.

Where do I get information about taxes and legal issues?

Begin with the North Carolina Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services website. You can click on this link to access a “List of legal things to think about.”