legal After I'm legal, what do I do? (FDA)

I'm still in the process (after 2 months of paperwork so far) of starting my sauce business in NJ. It's been a long an expensive road so far with forms, LLC registering, business registration paperwork, accountant fees, tax forms, trademarking...etc.  After all of the paperwork is done, I'll still be left scratching my head on a few topics.  I'm hoping some of you will be able to point me in the right direction (whether it's a few websites or advice on who to contact next.)
 
I know each state is different, but do I just contact the FDA directly through their website for them to send me their guides or paperwork regarding safe temperatures and product handling, procedures for bottling, and labeling regulations (NIPs, best-by dates...etc)?  I've learned quite a bit on here but after everything I now know, I don't want someone knocking on my door telling me I'm doing it wrong according to new guidelines and I have to shut down or pay a fine.
 
Like I said, I'm in NJ.  
 
Thank you in advance.  :)
 

SmokenFire

Staff Member
Moderator
Business Member
Welcome to THP SibbysSauces!  We're glad to have you.  :)
 
Your local/state processing authority will have the info you seek if you're going the DIY sauce making route.  If you are going to have a co-packer make your sauce you don't have to worry about that so much other than making sure they are compliant.
 
Best of luck, and please keep us up to date with your story and sauces.  :)
 
Thank you very much.  I will be doing everything myself.  My business plans are quite small.  I will be cooking, bottling, labeling, and selling everything on my own at farmer's markets and online.  It started as a side project and I would make and give away my sauces to friends and family.  Now, I'm trying to make it official.  I'm teaming up with a local animal shelter so that a percentage of my sales are donated to them.  (I have a cat logo. It only makes sense to me to donate to a cat shelter.)  I'm hoping to draw a bit of awareness by offering a good variety of flavors to catch peoples' eyes and hopefully be able to 1) Break even for myself, and 2) Help donate more than I currently can with my 9-5 job.  I love this forum and have gotten plenty of help. People here are a wealth of information and are very respectful.  
 
This is actually the first time I've heard of a "Processing Authority", so it seems I have some research to do.  The info is much appreciated.  :)
 
Shaun
 

SmokenFire

Staff Member
Moderator
Business Member
A few quick notes:
 
1. You're making it yourself, going to need a sanitation certified kitchen to cook/process/bottle your sauces.  Can rent one from a friend in the biz, can join/book time at a local community commercial kitchen or sometimes a local grounp (the rotary club or local church) will have a certified kitchen that you use.
 
2. The processing authority will go over your recipes/methods/test your final product to determine it's pH and shelf stability.  Right now you're planning on selling locally at farmer's markets and online.  The processing authority will give you the green light (or red) to do so depending on your recipe/methods.
 
3. You said you've been doing paperwork.  Have you obtained business insurance yet?  If not, do so.
 
4. The stated goal to break even on sauces in order to donate more to a local charity - that is a worthy and great cause.  Make sure people know such in your marketing and website, etc.  You've got to have good sauce to last, but if you pair a good sauce with a good story your chances of success increase exponentially. 
 
You've come to the right place Shaun.   :)
 
If you want to start at farmers markets, some states have exemptions for processing facilities.  I know Kentucky does and folk do use it to make hot sauce.  But Lucky Dog (member / hot sauce maker) says it is very rare that a state allows acidified foods under the cottage industry rules.  Lucky Dog is very knowledgeable of the various laws.  If you want to start that way and not sell online at first, your county extension office is a good place to start asking questions.  Maybe, just maybe, your state is one of the ones that has such an exemption for farmers markets.

Even if you want to go full commercial, the Extension office can usually give you a list of local commercial kitchens that are for rent.  Often your state university offers them.  Also, if they offer courses for the exemption / cottage industry the knowledge is very good to have.  Here in Kentucky, the university will approve your recipes for five bucks.  That doesnt get you past the commercial authority Smokefire mentioned, but if you get approved by the university it is a good bet that the next step will pass also.

I dont know everyone on the forum, but from what I have read Lucky Dog seems most knowledgeable about the laws and copacking.  SalsaLady seems most knowledgeable about setting up your own approved kitchen.  She pulled it off on her own property and figured out exemptions.
 
Thank you. I am currently in talks with someone to use their commercial kitchen. He owns a local deli and is willing to let me use his kitchen on the day that he is closed. For payment, he only wants to use a few of my sauces for his wing menu. So, basically, I'd come in on a Sunday, make, bottle, and label my saices, and leave him a set amount to use for the following week. Since renting a kitchen around my area is about $50/hour with a 4 hour minimum, I feel like I would be making out better with this arrangement. I believe he said that I would be covered under his insurance since it is a fully inspected l, commercial kitchen. Is that the same as having business insurance?
I'll get back to y'all on the rest tomorrow. It's getting late and I have my regular jobjob in the morning.
 

salsalady

Business Member
Greetings and :welcome:
 
re- insurance- you would not be covered under the deli insurance.  Maybe as far as accident or whatever while on his property, but not for the product being made.  Your business is separate from the deli business, you need your own insurance which will cover your product and your business where you are selling it. 
 
Get in touch with the state dept of ag, they are usually teh ones who license food processors.  Licensing is usualy not the people who inspect restaurants as food processing is different than a restaurant.  Your state inspector will walk you through what you need for processing to get started.  Sometimes they can look at a recipe and immediately give approval to make and sell.  Most of the time they will require the process authority review. 
 
FDA- again, your local inspector and the PA will let you know if you need to be registered with the FDA as a food processor.  That depends on your recipe and process.  If you have a sauce that is low pH, no risk factors and only sell locally within your state (no across state lines even internet), you do not need to register as a food processor with the FDA.  You will need to register a free nutrition labeling exemption which needs to be renewed each year.
 
 
Good luck and keep us posted.
salsalady
 
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