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Starting a New Food Business

Why Food Business? Do you know that food is the only thing that brings people together on the dinner table almost every single day. For many food provides emotional support including the nourishment to the body. Providing food to the society is a noble cause and expanding availability of food through your business is simply bridging the society together for a common cause. Your food business is a place to share your favorite recipes, wonderful ideas, and a smart action on food-system innovation and entrepreneurship. Starting a successful food business is commercialization of your recipe – a journey to your food vision.

How can we help you: University of Georgia, Food Science and Technology Extension provides variety of services (both technical and educational) that are available to those hungry minds who decide to launch their dream food into a food business. A team of experts from the UGA Food Science and other programs (FoodPIC, Ag. Economics, SBDC and many more) provides on a regular basis a comprehensive assistance tailored to your specific food business needs. Assistance includes:

  • Product & Process Development
  • Label & Nutritional Facts Development
  • Information on Facility Licensing and Regulatory Compliance
  • Product Classification and Process Approvals
  • Resources for Co-packing facilities
  • Packaging design and Sensory Testing
  • Ingredient Technology and Functionality
  • Food Safety and Sanitation

Most services are provided on request it is not required for you to travel or visit to our location to receive technical and educational assistance. UGA Food Science Extension has been provides several technical and educational programs specifically designed to address food entrepreneur’s key issues on starting a new food business. Our services will maintain confidentiality on all steps of support to all.

Before You Start: Starting a new food business is not an easy task. To become a successful food entrepreneur is to transform yourself into an entrepreneur. Allow yourself to analyze IF you really want to become an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur creates an opportunity with an ability to get things done. Entrepreneurs are NOT always innovators. They see an opportunity and start to build a roadmap to the marketplace. Successful food entrepreneurs are goal oriented, blending their big-picture strategy with a laser focus on execution and results. You will have to develop some attributes of a self-starter and team player. Decision making is a process and slowly develop right attitude of independent decision making power (sometime quick, under pressure and stressful times).

Licensing Your Food Manufacturing Facility: Manufacturing (or processing) facilities and food warehouses are regulated by the Manufactured Food Section within the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Manufactured Food Division. The regulations for the State of Georgia have been adopted from the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as well as several portions of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21. The Georgia Food Act requires anyone who intends to operate a food sales establishment in the State of Georgia to obtain a license from the GDA. 

When you decide to start a food business in Georgia, there are several steps you will need to take before you’re ready to begin operation. The information on this webpage serves as an outline of the recommended steps to take before becoming licensed. Please review the sidebar of “Helpful Links” on this webpage to help you get started. The “Additional Resources” may also be useful to review.

Prior to Licensing:

Review the Basic Regulatory Requirements and Manufactured Food Regulations to understand the requirements of operating a food sales establishment in Georgia. Also review this Q&A for processing regulations for additional guidance.  

Contact your city/county Planning and Zoning and/or Business Development offices and work with them to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy for your business. If you are using a private water source for your business operations, a water sample must be collected and tested annually by the GDA for coliforms and nitrates. For private sewage/septic you will need to contact the local health department to ensure the septic system can handle the output from your operations. 

Consider submitting a Business Plan early on to ensure your operation meets the basic regulatory requirements. Business plan reviews are required in order to determine whether the firm requires licensing from the GDA, if the firm’s operations are within the scope of the GDA’s regulations, and to ensure the facilities provided are adequate for the food that is being produced and/or sold on the premises. You will need to have your business plan reviewed prior to being licensed.

It is the firm’s responsibility to ensure the label(s) on all food product(s) are accurate and meet the regulatory requirements. Review the GDA’s Food Labeling brochure for advice on creating food labels, and refer to FDA’s Food Labeling Guide for additional guidance. A final, finished product label is required prior to a firm becoming licensed and operational.

Once you’re ready to be licensed, contact the GDA to schedule an inspection (remember, your business plan will already need to have been reviewed prior to this). At the time of the inspection, all additional paperwork must be completed and provided to the inspector. The packet of completed paperwork must contain copies of your: 

Manufacturing facilities are also required to register with the FDA. New businesses will have to click on “Login/Create Account” to begin. Be sure to save the information you are given at the end of your registration in a safe place. 

Special Processes

If you are producing a product that requires classification (i.e., acidified food or low-acid canned food), review the Guidelines for Food Processing SafetyDepending on the classification, you may need to take a course with a Better Processing Control School of your choice. The University of Georgia offers some in-person classes (view upcoming dates on the UGA Calendar of Events), the University of California offers an online course and there are other course offerings around the country throughout the year. Visit this FDA webpage to learn how to establish your product registration and process filing. Read this letter to AF/LACF processors for additional information.

If you are in need of a Wholesale Fish Dealer’s License, you will need to take a Seafood HACCP course. See our Seafood Safety webpage for more information and additional resources.

If you wish to wholesale/distribute juice products, you must meet the requirements in the 21 CFR 120 regulations. Please note: Unpasteurized juice cannot be sold through wholesale in Georgia. Find additional information and resources online via FDA Juice HACCPPenn State University ExtensionCornell University College of Agriculture and/or the University of Florida Citrus Extension.

Meat & Poultry: If you plan to make meat or poultry products you will need a license from the Division of Meat Inspection.  The Georgia Department of Agriculture – Division of Meat Inspection regulates and inspects operators who intend to:

Slaughter any livestock or poultry for resale, or who intend to provide a slaughtering service to individual livestock or bird owners. (Slaughtering livestock or poultry of one’s own raising for personal use is exempt from inspection.)

Process any meat or poultry products for wholesale which may also include certain activities associated with retail operations. Fully inspected facility responsibilities include: ante-mortem inspection, post-mortem inspection, sanitation inspection, humane handling verification, labeling verification, verification of the plant’s food safety plan (HACCP plan), residue sampling and product and environmental sampling for common foodborne pathogens.

Things that every entrepreneur should consider

  • Product and Process Development – How do you develop your recipe into a commercial market ready food product? What are important steps of making, packaging, and storage of your product?
  • Food Regulation – What regulatory standards you will need to follow and what agencies (GDA, FDA, USDA) govern your food business? How certain regulatory provisions of USDA/FDA will affect your business?
  • Food Packaging and Labeling – What are your food packaging options? What is the basis of selecting glass, plastic, or metal containers? What goes on my labels and is required by regulations on a food label?
  • Food Safety Issues – What are the basics of food safety?
  • Target Market – What are your target market options? What is market research and how do you use it?

Please do not hesitate to contact me or my team at EFS@uga.edu or call us at 706-542-2574. Please visit our website for www.fste.uga.edu for technical services information.

Bison meat and E. coli outbreak

Ground bison meat has been linked to an E. coli outbreak in seven states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Twenty-one people in Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been infected with the E. coli O103 and O121 strains. CDC and FDA has launched an investigation into cases of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O103 and O121 strains.

According to CDC, 21 people infected with the outbreak strains and eight of those people were hospitalized. So far, no deaths or cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, have been reported.  HUS is a disease condition that can occur when blood vessels in the kidneys become damaged and cause clots to form in the vessels. The clots in the kidneys can lead to kidney failure, which could be life-threatening. Some of the initial stage sign and symptoms  of HUS may include:

  • Diarrhea, which is often bloody
  • Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. Food contaminated with E. coli O121 and O103 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die. If you known someone who may be experiencing similar, please ask them to talk to their healthcare provider, write down what they ate in the week prior to becoming sick, report their illness to the health department and assist public health investigators by answering questions about their illness.

FDA has posted the details of Food Recall Warning on their website. The FDA also posted photos of the bar code labels on its website. They show the products, packaged between February 22 and April 30, under the names of Fossil Farms, Northfork Canadian Bison Ranch and SayersBrook Bison Ranch. Please visit: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2019-07-16/eng/1563315202785/1563315204824

For your information: FDA regulates bison meat because the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) has NOT been assigned authority to inspect bison meat under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

What you should do?

If you are a food service and/or food processing operation and believe that you have handled recalled or other potentially contaminated meat products in your facility, you should:

  • Contact your local health department and let them know regarding your possible exposure to a pathogen.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and counter-tops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods;
  • Sanitize everything all contaminated all food contact surfaces with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

 

PHOTO: Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. of St. Leonard, Quebec is recalling its Bison Burgers & Bison Ground because they have the potential to be contaminated with E. coli: O121 and O103.

 

Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli 103 Infections

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 17 cases of E. coli O103 infection in Georgia. Because this is an ongoing investigation, the number of cases is expected to increase. These illnesses are part of a multistate E. coli outbreak sickening nearly 100 people in five states. There are no reports of death in the outbreak.

A specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of these infections.

People usually get sick from E. coli O103 an average of 3-4 days after swallowing the germ. Symptoms of E. coli O103 include diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see their doctor. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing complications from E. coli infection.

CDC, several states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O103 infections. This investigation is still ongoing and a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections.

Highlights of the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O103 Outbreak:

Ways to prevent E. coli infection include:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
  • Cook meats properly.
  • Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160˚F. Cook steaks and roasts to at least 145˚F and let rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
  • Keep raw meats separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with soap after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and other dairy products, and unpasteurized juice.
  • Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.

For more information about E. coli O103 log on to https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/index.html.

For more information about safe food handling and preparation log on to https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/index.html.

Hygienic Zoning for Sanitation Preventive Control

Zoning or segregation of food processing areas presents a unique environment for the food processors to identify area of potentially risk for microbiological cross-contamination. The facility design outlines offers risk-based hazard assessment to determine potential sources of contamination, traffic patterns, employee hygienic practices, and suitable preventive control measure for these areas.
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