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  • Writer's pictureRonn Van Dusen

When is a Commercial Kitchen Required?

I frequently hear from businesses in Butte County "what is required to start a food business?". Whether it be a food truck, a caterer, bakery, or prepackaged food business you must be aware of the requirements from the State of California and your county health department. The California Department of Public Health requires you to have a PFR (Processed Food Registration) if you are using ingredients that are on the Cottage Food Operator restricted list, you plan to wholesale your product, or you plan to sell outside the county. To find the restricted food list you will need to check with your local county health department. Generally, if you are using any ingredients that contain dairy, meat, or fresh vegetables then you will most likely be required to have a PFR and a commercial kitchen. When you apply for your PFR you will be asked the address of your kitchen. This must be a state certified commercial kitchen. If your facility is not a certified commercial kitchen then you may have difficulty getting your PFR.

If you plan to start a food truck or catering business the county health department will require you to have a certified commercial kitchen also known as a commissary kitchen where you can prep your meals and store your raw materials and leftovers. Many food trucks purchase their ingredients the same day they cook them so storage is not a concern. However, if you plan to buy large quantities and use them up over time you will be required to store them in a certified commercial kitchen. Whether you plan to do everything on your truck or not you will be required to have a commercial kitchen. The county will require the commissary kitchen owner to sign a form verifying that you are using them as a commissary kitchen.

If you are a bakery and plan to sell your baked items at the local farmers market then you may be eligible for the Cottage Food Operator permit as long as your ingredients are not restricted. Otherwise, if you plan to sell to a restaurant, or retail outlet then you will be required to have a PFR.

If you plan to make prepackage food items then you may have some options. As long as your products do not contain items on the restricted ingredients list, your annual revenues from the sale of your products are under $50,000, and you plan to be the one selling your product to the end user then you may be eligible to apply for the Cottage Food Operator permit. This permit is the only time you can operate a food business in the county without a commercial kitchen.

For more information you can contact the local county health department or contact the State of California Department of Public Health. For a link to the Butte County website you can visit the Resource page on

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