Navigating the maze of food safety regulations…

Starting and operating a food business can be very rewarding, but it also requires a great deal of attention to details, including meeting food safety regulations. But which regulations do you need to meet?  In my work as UVM Extension Food Safety Specialist, I try to help small-scale meat and food producers and processors navigate this maze of food safety regulations and also implement other food safety best practices.

Food products that will only be sold in Vermont only need to meet the requirements of the State of Vermont. However, some buyers, such as certain grocery stores or distributors may have stricter requirements, so you will need to check with your buyer. It is a good idea for food producers to meet stricter food safety standards regardless of the required regulations, in order to assure customers that you are committed to producing the highest quality product possible. This should also increase your product shelf life and help to reduce the likelihood of food borne illnesses.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture regulates the in-state sale of meat and poultry, dairy products, maple, and pet food, as well as food labeling.  UVM Extension has fact sheets available which outline the requirements for meat and poultry inspection and labeling, as well as general food labeling.

Basically all other food products sold in Vermont are regulated by the Vermont Department of Health, including the sale of seafood, juice, baked goods, restaurants, catering, and all other food products. All seafood handlers, restaurants, and caterers must meet specific requirements. However, only home bakers selling more than $6500 of baked goods/year and food processors selling more than $10,000 of product per year, or those selling to restaurants or caterers, are required to have a license.

Any food products that are sold outside of Vermont need to meet federal food safety regulations, in addition to state regulations. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates meat and poultry while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates most other food products, including dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed foods, candies, maple syrup, etc.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January 2011, but further details of the legislation are still under federal review. Many food businesses in Vermont will be impacted, although some will be exempted due to their small size.

Meat sold at Farmers Markets must be kept at the proper temperature.

The UVM Extension Food Safety program has prepared a fact sheet on this topic of food safety regulations , as well as Good Manufacturing Practices for foods, and other topics, including selling at Farmers Markets.

The Vermont New Farmer Project provides resource materials and training opportunities  on marketing and other aspects of business planning for people interested in starting an ag-related business.  As part of this project, we will also be holding a food safety training course on HACCP on October 26, 2012 in BrattleboroStay tuned for information on courses in other locations.

Please feel free to email me at if you have questions on this information or any other areas of food safety.

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