initial steps
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Initial Steps to Consider When Starting a Food Business
Before you invest time and resources in a product or seek technical advice, we suggest you start working on a business plan. Please see State and Federal Resources for Small Businesses for further information.

Regulation requirements vary according to the category of the product and how it is preserved. Read the following questions and what applies to your business situation.

How will your product be sold?
Ready-to-Eat Foods
Prepared and ready-to-eat foods are regulated by County Health Departments under statewide rules adopted by the Food and Lodging Sanitation Branch of the NC Department of the Environmental Health.


Regulation of Packaged Foods
Which category best fits your food product?

Fluid milk product
Regulated by NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Milk Sanitation Branch

Fresh shellfish product
Regulated by NC Division of Marine Fisheries, Shellfish Sanitation Section

Raw or processed meat or poultry-containing product
Regulated by NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Meat and Poultry Inspection Division


Most other processed foods are regulated by NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Food and Drug Protection Division.

All must meet Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards.

Raw or minimally processed fruit or vegetables
Click here for US FDA Produce and Plant Product Guidance for Industry

Non-shellfish seafood products
Regulated by NC Food and Drug Protection Division and must meet FDA Seafood HACCP Standards. Click here to visit the Seafood Network Information Center for more information.

Dried product or baked product such as a cookie, a syrup or chocolate sauce
Download Low Water Activity Foods

Canned vegetable product or soup (other than tomato products)
Download Low Acid Canned Foods

Shelf-stable sauce, marinade, beverage, pickle, fruit or similar product
Download Acid or Acidified Foods

Refrigerated or frozen product
Download Refrigerated Foods: Some Rules for Handling


In addition to the above information, visit Publications for Developing a Food Business or contact the department for more information.