Category Archives: food licenses

Notes from EWVIDCO Permits & Licensing Workshop @ BK Kitchen

Below are notes from a seminar organized by EWVIDCO, an organization specializing in supporting local north Brooklyn manufacturers, and hosted by Brooklyn Kitchen, a local purveyor of kitchen supplies, spices, equipment. The topic was about food permits and licenses. Slides will be made available and we will post as they become available.

There is some great info in here, as well as references to resources available to food entrepreneurs based in NYC.

David Lepkoff, NYS Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspections
NYS Jurisdiction

  • Restaurants and retail bakeries are under jurisdiction of New York City
  • NYS also do not regulate caterers
  • If the majority of your sales will be retail, you will fall into NYC’s jurisdiction. If majority of sales will be wholesale, you will fall into NYS’ jurisdiction. A joint determination will be made, but only one license will be needed.
  • However, if you are going to manufacture for retail and wholesale, you cannot do so in the same location with two 20-C licenses, but you can do it with a 20-C license and city license.
  • Grocery stores
  • Bodegas
  • Food warehouses
  • Wholesale manufacturers
  • Wholesale bakeries (not direct selling to customer)
  • Wineries and 3 distillers
  • Butchers
  • Live poultry market and red meat slaughter facilities

Figure out your location
If you’re under state jurisdiction, you’re going to be producing in one of three settings:

  • Home (home processing), license exempt, very limited items can fall into this category, such simple baked goods
  • Commercial kitchen, 20-C license required ($400 for 2 years, good from date of issuance, an inspection will take place in a few days and be issued within a week), prior approval needed for complex food products (acidified foods, acid foods, refrigerated foods, etc.)
  • Your own facility, 20-C license required, although meat producers (more than 3% raw, 2% cooked meat by content) will fall USDA regulation
  • Separate locations require separate licenses

Licensing Information, Article 20-C

Licensing Process

  1. You have your product.
  2. You need to have proper food labels- Improper labeling could result in serious consequences (allergens).
  3. You have a facility to manufacture that’s up to code:
  4. You get the necessary inspection, minimum once a year. Inspections are unscheduled. Inspectors are trained to look over many factors. Basics include checking for vermin, proper equipment, strict adherence to food safety. If you fail your first inspection, you will be given tips on what you need to fix within 2 months to pass re-inspection. You could be allowed to operate in the interim.
  5. If you pass inspection, you will receive notice of inspection which you can post at your business, and you will get your 20-C Food Processing License within a few business days.

Roxanne Mills, speaking on Home Processing
Home Processing

  • Home processor: a person who wants to use home kitchen, with standard kitchen equipment (not industrial).
  • You have to check if your residence is zoned for commercial activity. Check with your local zoning board.
  • You can make bread and rolls, baked goods without fresh fruit, meats, or butter. Traditional jams and jellies as well.
  • If you are producing for events, you are considered a caterer, and subject to NYC regulation.
  • Labeling requirements: name, address of manufacturer (city, state, ZIP if you are incorporated), name and type of product, ingredients (greatest to least by weight) find guidelines:
  • You cannot list prices or take orders online or by phone. You can advertise.
  • You cannot split your operation between home and commercial kitchen.
  • Get your ingredients from approved sources and maintain traceability.
  • You will receive a home processor’s license upon passing a proper inspection.
  • Home processors can sell both retail and wholesale.
  • Exemption from licensing
  • Prohibited items: food requiring refrigeration, acidified foods, not even fried plantains, no active cultures.

The Dark Side – why you shouldn’t gamble

  • No inspection and no license = unapproved source.
  • The state will seize and destroy your product.
  • The state may issue a recall for your product.
  • The state may pursue legal action.
  • You could harm or kill someone!

Steven Shallo, New York City New Business Acceleration Team (NBAT)
The City’s Fabric

  • Restaurants are integral to the city’s economy
  • 4,700 new restaurants opening yearly
  • Employs nearly 270,000 New Yorkers
  • 20,000 establishments in all boroughs
  • Manhattan has majority of all establishments

Government agencies that you have to deal with:

  • Department of Buildings
  • Department of Health
  • FDNY
  • Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Department of Environmental Protection
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Landmarks Preservation
  • Department of Planning

Services NBAT can provide for small businesses

  • Local government navigation
  • Accelerate DOB and FDNY plan reviews
  • Identify potential cross designation of agency resources
  • Streamline existing inter agency processes
  • Coordinate and sequence multi-agency inspections:
    • Dept. of Health 0 ex: food establishment
    • Dept. of Environmental Protection – ex: Grease interceptors
    • FDNY – rangehood
    • Dept. of Buildings – ex: construction, plumbing

How to utilize NBAT services
NYC Business Express: one stop online tool that makes it easier to start, operate, and expand a business in NYC

  • Provides single source of information
  • Offers instructions for meeting requirements
  • Provides a platform for businesses to offer their information
  • You can create an account and view later
  • Business owners who utlizie the wizard can submit credentials to NBAT via Salesforce

Upon enrolling in the NBAT program, each business is assigned a client manager, who provides the following services:

  • Facilitates all interactoins with the city on behalf of the business
  • Evaluate the business and identify requried items/inspections
  • Address all business specific concerns to avoid future compliance issues
  • Schedule and coordinate most required inspections
  • Address all questions, comments, and concerns

Businesses then undergoing new construction within their space can receive streamlined plan reviews through NBAT

  • NBAT Plan examiners will review most e-filed plans
  • Schedule meetings with applicants to discuss objections or compliance issues
  • Work in conjunction with DOB and FDNY to address/resolve complex code requirements

NBAT coordinates multi-agency inspections:

  • Inspections are conducted to ensure satisfactory compliance with all health and fire codes
  • Scheduling available online at
  • Results are provided immediately
  • Re-inspections are conducted when necessary

Mobile Food Vending Units (food trucks, carts)

  • NBAT does not deal with this process
  • Number of permits is fixed
  • Permits are issued on a lottery basis, permits can be freed up from deaths, seizure, but are very limited

Question and Answer

  • Q: Can you be in a commercial kitchen and do wholesale as well as catering? A: Yes, you could be licensed to do both.
  • Q: What is the general difference between State and City licensures? A: City regulates almost all direct to customer food service establishments. State requirements are so extensive that it’s not easy to generalize. Contact a consultant to help differentiate what is required of you in terms of regulation, or something like NBAT.
  • Q: What licenses does the city offer? A: Mobile food vending license. Non-retail food establishments permit. Food protection certificate (safe handling of food). Restaurant and food handlers license.
  • Q: Beer and wine licenses? A: These are regulated by the state, although if you are a bar, you need certification from the City’s department of health
  • Q: Out of state producers, if you are storing here in New York State? A: You’d have to obtain a warehouse permit. If you’re selling direct to customer then you’re subject to City regulation.

Here are the slides:
NYS Ag and Markets Presentation


Food Law

Lei attended the Just Food Conference today and was in a food law workshop. Here are some notes from the workshop that might be of use to you. When slides are available, Lei will post them here.

The presenter was Jason Foscolo, Attorney at law, founder of Food Law Firm, a private practice that specializes in all aspects of food regulations and laws.

Food is subject to unique regulations

  • Legal exceptionalism, special rules for food producers
  • Unique obligations for food producers
  • Exemptions to broadly applicable laws that confer advantages

Sources of food law

  • Clean Water Act – food producers are exempt and as much as 40% of water pollution is related to food production
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Capper Volstead Act – exempts food producers from anti-trust laws
  • Farm Bill
  • Chapter 12 Bankruptcy
  • Packers and Stockyards Act
  • Civil Liability
  • Forward contract leases, labor laws, contracts, trademark

Types of risk

  • Regulatory risk, absolute quantity of penalty known ahead of time
  • Civil liability risk, there’s really no known quantity ahead of time. Depends how big your scale is and how many people you can get sick
  • Economic risk, producers need to manage risks of planting crops

Strict liability

  • Civil liability, the entire burden falls on you as food business
  • Liability without regard for negligence
  • If you make someone sick, you are liable. In a chain of distribution, all parties in the distribution chain can be collected from, the parties then need to settle what each party’s relative liability
  • Litigation moves quickly, since it is strict liability
  • If you are a small business, you have zero margin for error, since you have no defense and can quickly get bankrupted
  • Does consumer have any liability? If they fail to follow instructions, it depends what makes them sick


  • Contracts are promises that stimulate the economy
  • Interlaced promises are key to promoting trust among businesses
  • Agreements facilitate risk management

Food product liability: risk management
How do you manage risk?

  • Procedural controls, be preventative, invest heavily upfront in food safety all along your production chain
  • Corporate shield, get limited liability, be careful and don’t abuse it
  • Product liability insurance: you need it. If your business is new, go with the minimum $1M standard policy required by retailers. If you have a larger company and personal assets, buy more insurance, don’t go too minimal if you have a lot to protect.
  • If you’re thinking of a home based business, you need commercial insurance. None of your existing homeowners insurance covers this. You need to be extra scrupulous to prevent food safety problems
  • Top three things you need: legal incorporation (based on what benefits you most from a tax perspective), insurance, trademark your brand.
  • Product recall plan: how do you get faulty product back as quickly as you can? Met a farmer who spent $500k to recall 800 lbs of beef. Traceability is key.
  • Recall insurance
  • Contracts with suppliers, know the rules, read contracts. Most retail outlets will not adjust their contracts to suit you. Most retailers will also try to direct all liability to you.

Why compliance is important in food labeling (retail and packaged food)

  • Anything non-compliant is “misbranded”, it could be as little as a misplaced font!
  • Warning letters, administrative detention
  • You may face criminal sanctions
  • Allergens, see below
  • Wholesale buyers are gatekeepers to your success
  • Small scale producers often get exempted

Allergen labeling, really really important (email for slide)

  • 8 major food allergens: milk, egg, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, soybeans
  • Declarations in plain English
  • Labeling exemptions: less than $500k gross a year, but a wholesaler may require labels. Fresh produce, zero nutrient foods, deli and bakery goods are exempt
  • You don’t make functional claims: nutrient content, health claims, qualified health claims

Why file a trademark?

  • Offense, carving out a space, easier to issue cease and desist if someone treads on your toes
  • Defense, don’t step on other people’s toes, do your homework with other brands or you’ll get a cease and desist
  • National registry: check it for names

Statement of identity

  • Product name as plainly and simply as possible
  • Acceptable names may even be determined by law or regulation


  • Fanciful: Xerox
  • Arbitrary: Apple (computers, try it for cider and good luck)
  • Suggestive: Brewla Bars
  • Descriptive: International Business Machines
  • Generic: Hard Wood Flooring

Here are the slides:
Just Food 2013