Food Operations that Do Not Need Permits in NC

When starting a new food business in North Carolina, understanding the licensing and permit requirements is critical. Different types of food operations require specific endorsements and regulations designed to maintain food safety standards. However, certain food operations do not need permits in NC.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services operates the food protection program in the state. This program offers all the guidelines, sets regulations, and issues the required permits for various food industries operating in the state.

To open an online shop for your new food business, sign up for Airmart:

The food operations that do not need permits in NC include:

home food operations that do not need permits in nc

1. Home-based food businesses: Unlike other states, North Carolina does not have cottage food laws. Instead, the state allows small-scale home-based food businesses to produce and sell ‘low-risk’ foods. These are referred to as “home processors.” Although they are not required to hold a permit, these operations must be inspected and may require product testing. Low-risk foods you can sell from your home kitchen include:

  • Baked goods that do not require refrigeration
  • Jams, jellies, and preserves
  • Candies
  • Dried mixes/Spices
  • Some liquids (i.e. ice tea, coffee, lemonade, etc. )
  • Some sauces (i.e. balsamic dressing, etc. )
  • Acid and acidified foods (i.e. pickles, bbq sauce, etc.)
  • Freeze dried fruits/vegetables

All low-risk foods made in home kitchens must be labeled with the following:

  1. Product name
  2. Manufacturer name and address
  3. Net weight of the product in ounces/pounds and the gram weight equivalent
  4. Complete list of ingredients in order of predominance by weight

These products can be sold directly to consumers via pickup, delivery, or shipping, and wholesale to retail stores, distributors, or restaurants.

It’s important to note that you may not run a home-based food business if you have pets inside your home at any time.

For information on how to apply for a home processor inspection for your home-based food operation, visit this page.

2. Certain non-profit food establishments: Non-profit organizations such as churches and fire departments are exempt from obtaining food permits.

3. Farms: Farmers do not need business licenses to sell the food grown on their land or the commodities they produce there.

4. Certain temporary food establishments: In some scenarios, vendors at fairs, carnivals, or other temporary events may be exempt from obtaining a food permit. This, however, is contingent on what food they offer. Low-risk items that don’t require refrigeration, like most baked goods, popcorn, or cotton candy, generally fall under this category. Vendors selling potentially hazardous foods must obtain permits for events.

food operations that do not need permits in nc

5. Private clubs: This largely applies to members-only institutions where food is not a primary line of business or available to the general public. For instance, a hunting club serving meals only to members does not need a food service permit.

6. Bed and breakfast operations: Smaller scale bed and breakfast operations that prepare meals only for their guests might be exempt from obtaining a food service permit.

Before jumping into any food-related business, including those that do not need permits in NC, it’s important to understand all related rules and regulations. For operations that do not need permits, NC mandates certain guidelines, which are critical to maintaining public health and safety. Regardless of whether your business needs a permit or not, knowledge and adherence to food hygiene and safety protocols are paramount.

To clarify the details, it’s wise to contact the NCDACS or consult with a knowledgeable attorney before starting any food operation. The intricacies of the rules must be thoroughly understood, particularly when it comes to food operations that do not need permits in NC, as failure to comply with rules can lead to serious penalties.

Once you meet the legal requirements, sign up for Airmart to start selling directly to customers and wholesale partners.