You’ve been successfully growing your home-based food business to the point where you’re ready to take it to the next level. You’ve tasted and tested your product, gotten rave reviews from friends and family, and done everything you can to perfect your unique recipe to fit the niche market you’re aiming for. Perhaps you’ve rented a small commercial kitchen to begin production, or you’ve made the choice to have your home kitchen certified. What next?
Education is key
When you’re ready to make the leap from homemade hobbies to commercial production on your million dollar idea, there are a ton of things to consider. Ranking at the top of the list is food handling safety practices and meeting Health Department rules for your certified home or commercial kitchen space. Nothing will kill a fledgling business quicker than a poor rating or kitchen in violation from the inspector or (Heaven forbid) a customer becoming ill from consuming your product. The best way to avoid these situations is to make certain you and your kitchen staff are aware of the dangers of contamination and educated in proper food handling practices.
Where to find information
One of the best sources for information on this topic is The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Services fsis.usda.gov. This site contains information on guidelines, regulations inspections and recalls. This is the Federal site. Your state may have further individual requirements, so make sure you look into the particulars for the state you are doing business in.
Most safe and proper food safety procedures are common sense based. Good hygiene practices, hair restraints, hand washing and wound care and covering are your best protections against contamination. You and your employees must be educated in proper handwashing techniques, work station cleanliness and overall sanitation practices. Pay attention to your employees hygiene and clothing. All kitchen staff should be clean with trimmed fingernails and clean clothes and refrain from wearing jewelry or other items that can pose a hazard if they fall into food. Train all of your employees to cover cuts with bandages and wear at least a single glove. Any open wounds should be covered with double gloves. Employees that have colds, flu or infections should be restricted from handling food or food packaging.
The Health Department can (and will) execute surprise inspections. You have to be ready every day. If you have a certified kitchen, be prepared to show the inspector that you are in compliance with all of the requirements for your state. This includes refrigeration temperatures, cleanliness, waste disposal and kitchen line operation and packaging procedures. Certified kitchens must also pass electrical inspection and smoke detectors and fire extinguishers must be present and up to date.
Home-based businesses often have pets. If you are operating a certified kitchen in your home there are absolutely no pets allowed. You must be able to prove that the kitchen is restricted from all pet activity.
Many packages carry a freshness date or “Use By” date. Make sure that the raw ingredients and supplies you are using are within those recommended dates. Things like baking powder or other staples can lose their potency and therefore their effectiveness in your recipes.
If you are producing a product with a projected shelf life, make sure that you are communicating that to your customer. A “best if used by” label is an important part of protecting the consumer and maintaining a good reputation for your products freshness and taste. If you plan to order custom labels from PBFY, be sure to add this to your label.
Cleanliness and common sense are the watchwords when it comes to food safety procedures. Stay up to speed on the latest rules and regulations and keep it clean to ensure that you not only pass your Health Department inspections, but produce a high-quality food product that will be successful in the marketplace.