I just wanted to pass on what I learned this week about the licensing process in PA. I called Harrisburg's Dept of Ag and they gave me the local exchange for my area and this is what I learned after grilling two of their poor reps.
Two seperate rules apply first off. 1.) If you are planning on licensing your existing home kitchen you need to have everything spotless, no pets indoors, no children allowed in the kitchen while processing and all business related ingredients and wares MUST be seperate from your normal everyday items. Bulk ingredients must also be labeled. All wares must be sanitized after use...here is gets a little hinky. They didn't clarify if just regular chlorox would work in this situation or if you had to buy the special stuff as with the next option.
2.) If you are going to add on, convert or build a business somewhere in your home you MUST HAVE the following..... A fiberglass utility sink for mop water only, a hand sink for hand washing only and your choice of a 2 or 3 compartment sink for your "wares" only. If you chose a 2 compartment sink you must buy a special cleaner/sanitizer that you use in BOTH compartments. The inspector told me this is quite pricey to purchase. If you chose the 3 compartment sink then you can use plain chlorox in one compartment. All 3 sinks are mandatory but only apply if you are constructing a seperate kitchen somewhere.
3.) Those with wells must have their water tested.
4.) You must obtain a letter from your local municipality stating that you may have a business in your location and that you don't violate any zoning laws.
They also informed me that both counties and cities, townships, ect. often have seperate rules and requirements above what is necessary at the state level. It is our responsiblity to be sure we get that information as well.
For those of you in the Philly area, I was told your Dept. of Health is completely seperate from the rest of us who deal out of Harrisburg. Apparently you have your own with a different set of rules and requirements so you would have to call them. Sorry I couldn't be more help to you
I know that it seems that everyone who has gotten licensed has had a different experience with both what the laws are and with their individual inspectors. When I called I attempted to get the best over all advice I could get...not just for myself but to pass along to my fellow CCer's that are comtemplating the same thing. I live in NEPA and this was the best info I was given thus far....including from the Dept of Ag website. I would suggest to anyone interested to call the Dept of Ag in Harrisburg, get your local office and grill the heck out them before even starting. My experience was that they were very polite and helpful.
A couple other things....They told me to start the application process BEFORE my shop was built so that it gets in the system in time to be inspected as soon as it's completed and I wouldn't have to wait. Also, this information is based on someone doing custom orders only. Not bulk or retail. Their are other more stringent rules for those types of kitchens.
Lastly, if funding is an issue (and lets face it we could all use a little more) call your local county commissioner's. I learned that thousands and thousands of dollars are alloted by the gov't to counties to start up businesses and they go unclaimed each year. I know it's a lot of work to get the proper stuff around for a loan but it's an option out there that is apparently going unused. I personally can't afford another payment but the money is out there for those of you who would maybe benefit from it!
I live in Allentown, which also has it's own health department, so Harrisburg's rules do not apply here, either.
But thanks for the info on the funding through the counties. I was not aware of that.