Ask LH: What Laws Apply If I Want To Start Selling Food From Home?

Ask LH: What Laws Apply If I Want To Start Selling Food From Home?

Hey Lifehacker, I would like to start baking from home and selling to people (probably at markets and/or on a made-to-order type basis). What regulations should I be worried about? Obviously restaurants and bakeries have strict health codes that they have to follow, but do those apply in my work-from-home case? Am I just overthinking about the situation and should just get stuck into baking delicious treats? Thanks, Half-Baked

Baking picture from Shutterstock

Dear HB,

We’d advise against selling homemade food without a licence: all it takes is a single case of food poisoning or an overzealous health inspector to land you in hot water.

The first step is to apply for a business licence from your local council. Regulations and pricing can vary depending on where you live, but it’s generally not too vigorous or expensive. As long as you’re not dealing with high-risk foods, your council will almost certainly approve the operation.

There are also different licence classifications that determine what you can cook and where. Your kitchen, storerooms and flooring all need to meet certain standards and hand-washing facilities must be within easy reach of your cooking area. If your food is packaged, state labelling laws also apply.

The following websites provide a comprehensive overview of the rules in each state and territory:

While this might seem like a lot of effort to sell a few cookies, it’s important that all commercially sold foods follow the same business procedures. It’s what keeps us all safe and healthy (for the most part, anyway).


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  • Also don’t forget about the tax implications.. capital gains tax exemptions tend not to apply to residences being used as a means of income..

  • Pretty sure in Victoria at least, the food needs to be prepared in a commercial kitchen, which would basically mean a full kitchen refit (unless you already have already done this.) probably not a cheap exercise.

    Would love to have a commercial kitchen at home, but for other reasons. 🙂

  • This is something I am currently in the process of doing myself, so I can give you some tips based on my Council’s requirements, which is the Relands Council in Queensland.

    Two procsses that I have to undergo esentially, I need QLD Heath Dept certification firstly. Now perhaps surprisingly, this was the easiest part for me. Quite basic requirements only need be met, essentially a double sink for washing and sepearte food storage areas that keep your retail produce separate from your domestic stock.

    Slightly more in depth than that, but it pretty much boiled down to those two things for me and of course it goes without saying, a clean environment as well.

    The more technical of the two processes is approval from the Planning Dept. Despite me only wanting to use my kitchen for food prep, full planning approval to use the premises as a business premises is also required here and then you have issues like available car parking on so on that needs to be taken into conisderation.

    Outside of the Council regulations you will need to meet are insurance obligations. If you are going to condcut business from your home, meaning have people enter on business. Now that could be deliveries or any activicty, you will need to look at liability insurance.

    You should also look at getting insurance coverage for your food as well, the regular coverage is a 10 Million dollar policy to cover you for the unexpected.

    You should also ideally have a Food Supervisors certicication as well. This is an online course, very basic, but required if you are working in any food production process or you must at least have someone there with that certification.

    If you live in a major centre and don’t want to go ahead or can’t in fact certify your property, then hiring commercial kitchen space may be the best option for you. Not cheap, but you should be able to get off peak rates at around 20-25 per hour in most areas.

    Regarding the commercial kitchen space, you will definitely need the Food Supervisors certification to hire that type of space or have someone with you who does have the certification. As I mentioned, it’an online course, mine cost me $129.00 and only took me a few short hours to complete.

    I don’t hold out much hope of these guys kicking off anytime soon as they seekm to have run into the strong food regulations we have in this country, but you might want to also take a look at the neighbor flavour site or facebook. They are trying to get a network of home cooks wanting to sell their food to customers in their own general area. So in the event that does get moving, that might be something that you can tap into as well.

    Good luck with it all and happy baking 🙂

  • I am interested in selling made-to-order products from home, however I don’t plan to make much of a profit nor register as a business and because I wouldn’t be making enough to tax. In this case do I still need to have my kitchen certified? Or is it just better to get my kitchen certified to protect myself. Or would it b more beneficial to get both the kitchen certified and register as a business?

  • I want to start selling coffee to my neighbours in my suburb. I am a qualified barista. I have a coffee machine and a customer based from an old coffee run I used to have.

    Any ideas of what I need to do to make this happen?

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