The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) oversees the licensing of residential commercial kitchens, while restaurant and catering kitchens are licensed by the County Health Department (CHD). Residential commercial kitchen regulations include such things as requiring screens on all windows and requiring that all doors used by the public be self-closing. The ODA also regulates employee cleanliness, food transportation, food labeling and protocol for residential kitchen floors and walls.
Domestic Kitchen Requirements
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If you want to make food at your home that you will process and package to later sell to the public, you need to license your home kitchen as a commercial kitchen. Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 603-025-0200 sets out the specific requirements for domestic kitchens; for example, no doors to the rest of the house can be open while you are cooking in a residential commercial kitchen and no pets or people other than employees are allowed in domestic kitchens while food is being prepared for sale. You are not allowed to use your kitchen for residential purposes at the same time it is being used commercially. The activities must be separated by time. Thermometers must be easily visible in all refrigerated areas, and your kitchen must be open for ODA inspections every day of the week and at all times it is in use.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division
635 Capitol Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-2532
Building Specifics and Employee Cleanliness
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The ODA outlines "general standards of food establishment construction and maintenance," which basically say the areas around the commercial kitchen must be clean and free of trash or anything that would contaminate food. Property drainage is important, and ventilation needs to meet the state fire marshall codes. Floors, walls and ceilings must be made of a substance that is easy to clean, and there needs to be adequate water, toilet and handwashing facilities, and waste disposal. Employees are expected to wear hairnets for head and facial hair, they are to wash their hands before work, after any absence from work and at any other times their hands may be contaminated.
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The ODA has complex rules about labeling food from commercial kitchens. Certain foods such as meats, dairy, eggs and seafood require expiration dates, while other foods are exempt from date labeling, such as candy, soft drinks, fruit juice, nuts and some dairy products. The ODA specifies the type of labeling required, including instructions on how to list the pull date, stating a year is not required unless the product is intended to have a shelf life of six months or more. Placement of labeling is also addressed by the ODA.
The ODA posts a list of all the laws and regulations for the handling of retail food in addition to rules for bakeries and the commercial handling of meat, eggs, shellfish, dairy, nonalcoholic beverages and refrigerated lockers on its website. The ODA also posts license information regarding buying an existing food business, starting a new food business and the protocol for more than one person sharing a commercial kitchen. In addition to the licensing requirements listed here, you will need to contact your local government for information about local regulations and sales licensing.