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Commercial kitchen laws

Updated July 23, 2018

Commercial kitchens are tightly regulated by local health departments and also by construction and land-use agencies when they are under construction. These laws can be frustrating and cumbersome for owners of food service establishments, but they serve to protect the public from food and fire safety issues that can arise from high-volume food preparation.

Zoning Laws

Commercial kitchens are subject to laws designating where a business can run a food service business. Most states have strict laws that prohibit the use of a home kitchen for commercial purposes unless you produce in extremely low volume, or produce foods that pose a very low risk of food-borne illness, such as high-acid canning or baked goods that use no potentially hazardous ingredients. Many jurisdictions also allow commercial kitchens only in areas that are zoned for commercial use. Even in commercially-zoned areas, commercial kitchens must comply with zoning regulations such as laws requiring that a ventilation system's exhaust fan must be situated a designated number of feet from the property line.

Health Department Laws

By law, a commercial kitchen must comply with the regulations of state and local health departments. A health inspector must inspect a facility before it is originally approved for use, and must continue to visit it for periodic inspections. A food service operation that consistently fails to comply with health department regulations or even commits a single offence that poses a serious risk to public health can be shut down by the health department for noncompliance. Daily health department requirements include keeping surfaces clean and sanitary, storing foods at safe temperatures and avoiding direct hand contact with ready-to -eat foods.

Other Laws

Commercial kitchens must also comply with all other city and state ordinances. They must adhere to fire-safety regulations that require that they keep an approved fire extinguisher and charge it annually, and they must clean kitchen exhaust systems on a regular basis to prevent fire hazards from grease build-up. In addition, they must comply with plumbing codes requiring them to provide adequate ventilation and drainage for their plumbing systems, and an adequate number of sinks determined by the specific use of the kitchen.

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About the Author

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.