Question: I am interested in the rules and regulations for starting a canning business in South Carolina; in particular, how can I sell jams or jellies at farmers markets, etc.?
Answer: Congratulations on doing the right research before starting your food business. In South Carolina it is not legal to sell home canned foods at any type of retail or wholesale establishment. This includes Farmer’s Markets, Roadside Markets, Flea Markets, Produce Stands and any other retail establishment.
The first step in legally selling jams, jellies and preserves is to confirm that you are producing an acid product that is shelf stable. Most jams, jellies and preserves are acid foods. Acid foods have a natural pH of 4.6 or below; they may include small amounts of low acid foods but have a resultant finished equilibrium pH that does not significantly differ from that of the predominant acid or acid food. Canned acid foods receive a thermal process (boiling water bath, for example), which permits the finished product to be stored, distributed and retailed under normal non-refrigerated conditions. If you are unsure about the acidity of your final product you may send canned/jarred/bottled foods to Clemson University: Dr. Scott Whiteside: firstname.lastname@example.org (864-423-0727 or 864-656-3397) or to N.C. State: Dr. Fletcher Arritt: email@example.com or Tristan Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org (919-513-2090) for product analysis. In addition, Dr. Whiteside or Dr. Arritt and Mr. Berry can assist with the required label information.
Next, you must meet the requirements of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA).
To sell jams, jellies and preserves:
Once you are confident that your product meets these requirements, SCDA will review labels for compliance with federal labeling law.
Lastly, once your business has been approved and established, be prepared for routine food safety inspections by the SCDA. For more information on starting a food business in South Carolina, visit the Clemson University Home & Garden Center: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food_safety/business/.