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When people want to do good, we must let them know how they can do good safely and legally.

Environmental Health Supervisor Carolyn Bassett
by Carolyn Bassett05/11/2020 11:48 a.m.
Updated: 05/11/2020

We’ve seen a recent increase in good news social media posts and news stories about people who are making food in their home kitchen to donate.

We understand people want to help, and food is a love language for many, but preparing food in a home kitchen—to give away or to sell—is not permitted under state food safety laws. People must use a permitted commissary kitchen to prepare food safely and prevent people from getting sick.

Home kitchens are great for family meals, but they are not designed to support commercial food preparation, like large scale food preparation for the public. They are typically small with not enough storage and prep space, and without the proper equipment and refrigeration space to cook and store food safely. This causes food to stay in dangerous temperatures for too long. Most restaurants operate with at least an 8x8 foot walk-in cooler.

Fresh water and wastewater systems need to be approved to support preparing larger amounts of food.

Homes often have children and pets. And as much as we love both children and pets, they may present challenges to adequate sanitation in a food preparation area.

Home kitchens are not permitted commercial kitchens, so we don’t inspect them. We don’t know if everyone preparing the food followed food safety practices. Was someone sick when making food? Was the meal prep area clean and sanitary? Were proper handwashing procedures followed?

A food worker card is an important step, but it is not a substitute for preparing food in a permitted kitchen. The food worker card allows people to work in a permitted food service establishment (restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, etc.). It does not allow them to prepare food at home to sell to the public.

Food prepared in home kitchens are often sources of foodborne illness. Especially during COVID-19, we don’t want people to get sick with foodborne illness, which can be hard on a healthy person’s immune system. And we don’t want to burden the medical system with cases of foodborne illness.

Where can people make food to give away or sell?

Restaurants, churches and community centers often have the necessary commercial equipment for use as an approved kitchen. The facility must have enough space to cook and cool foods and follow sanitation requirements.

The Cottage Food Law allows sellers to make certain baked goods—like cookies and cupcakes—in their home kitchens to sell directly to the public. https://agr.wa.gov/washington-agriculture/laws-and-rules/cottage%20foods

Find more information on opening a food establishment or email us at food@tpchd.org.

Food safety standards protect everyone from foodborne illnesses like norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli. If you suspect you have a foodborne illness, report it to us right away.

Resources

Permitted Pierce County Caterers—Look up food establishments with permits from the Health Department to operate as caterers.

Inspection Reports for Pierce County Food Establishments—Look up the two-year history of food establishment inspections of permitted to operate in Pierce County.

 

Environmental Health Supervisor Carolyn Bassett

by Carolyn Bassett

Carolyn works to make sure everything you eat is safe.

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.