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Food2Market – Clemson’s Food Entrepreneur Assistance Program

Food2Market Have you ever heard someone try a food that a friend or family member has made and say “This tastes so good you should sell it”? Have you ever thought about what it takes to produce foods to sell? Do you know how to answer this question?

Many food entrepreneurs are faced with this question when they decide to begin preparing foods to sell, but they do not know where to go or who to contact to help them get started. The Clemson Extension Food2Market program is a Food Entrepreneur Assistance Program that was developed to provide food safety and food regulation information to food entrepreneurs who are beginning their journey in producing foods to sell. Kimberly Baker is the Clemson Extension Food Safety Associate who coordinates this program.

Who Regulates What Foods: Foods sold across state lines are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); however, foods sold within the state are regulated by state agencies who are contracted by federal agencies to ensure compliance with the regulations. Food entrepreneurs first need to determine which state agency will regulate their food products.

Food Product Type

Regulatory Agency

Retail

Prepare and serve product onsite (such as a restaurant)

SC Department of Health and Environmental Control - Food Safety Division

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/envhealth/food/

Prepare and sell product directly to the public (retail) only

SC Department of Health and Environmental Control - Food Safety Division

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/envhealth/food/

*Depending on the product, The South Carolina Department of Agriculture or the South Carolina Meat & Poultry Inspection Department also may be involved in its regulation

Wholesale (Foods that are manufactured, packaged and sold to stores, restaurants and direct-to-consumer markets like farmers markets or flea markets):

Products that contain more than 3% raw or 2% cooked beef, pork, chicken or lamb

South Carolina Meat and Poultry Inspection Department

http://www.clemson.edu/public/lph/scmpid/

Products that are non-cheese dairy, soft drink or water product

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control - Dairy Division

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/envhealth/food/htm/dairy.htm

Shellfish products

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control - Shellfish Division

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/water/shellfish.htm

Products containing 7% or more alcohol

Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Tax and Trade Bureau

http://www.ttb.gov/

All other food products not listed above including cheese

South Carolina Department of Agriculture

http://agriculture.sc.gov/foodsafetyandcompliance

Once the entrepreneur has determined which regulatory agency will regulate their product, they need to determine what the regulations are and how to produce their product under these regulations. Entrepreneurs who contact the Food2Market program for assistance most often produce foods that fall under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Common examples include BBQ sauce, hot sauce, marinara sauce, jams, jellies, and fruit preserves. An overview of the initial steps an entrepreneur must take to produce foods regulated by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture follows.

  1. Produce foods in an approved facility (a home kitchen is not approved).
  2. If applicable, have product tested (we will talk about product testing later)
  3. Apply for the Registration Verification Certificate (RVC) from the SC Department of Agriculture
  4. Have product’s label reviewed by the SC Department of Agriculture
  5. Have regular inspections by the SC Department of Agriculture

More information about the SC Department of Agriculture regulations including the RVC form and Guidelines for Food Processors can be found on the SCDA Food Safety and Compliance website: http://agriculture.sc.gov/foodsafetyandcompliance. Questions can also be directed to Kimberly Baker (kabaker@clemson.edu) or the SCDA Food Safety and Compliance Manger, Angie Culler-Matthews (aculler@scda.sc.gov).

Product Testing: Product testing is required on products that are canned/shelf-stable and those that need to be classified as either “potentially hazardous” or “non-potentially hazardous”. Three primary types of testing performed to ensure product safety include: pH (measure of acidity), water activity (measure of water available to microorganisms) and nutritional analyses (for nutrition label). Food products that are prepared to be shelf stable require pH testing. If the food product has high sugar content, a water activity test may also be required. These tests are also used to determine if a food product is classified as either an acid, acidified or low acid food. Products that are classified as acidified (such as pickles) and low acid (such as green beans) require the processor to have a Better Process Control School certificate and to register their facility and process with the Food and Drug Administration. This is a requirement of the FDA and must be done before registering the product with SCDA. All food product testing results are written into a process control letter, which is required documentation to show proof of testing with the SCDA. Nutritional analysis can also be performed for food products if the processor chooses to have a nutrition facts panel on the label, however, this is not a requirement unless the processor is producing over 100,000 units per year or have over 100 employees.

Some baked goods and other food products may require testing (pH and/or water activity) to determine if the product is a potentially hazardous food. Foods that are classified as potentially hazardous foods require refrigeration. Contact Kimberly Baker for more information about product testing. The product testing form can also be downloaded from the Food2Market website (www.clemson.edu/extension/food2market).

On-Line Information: The Food2Market website (www.clemson.edu/extension/food2market) is a great resource of information for entrepreneurs seeking more information. Currently the website has links to the product testing form, product testing and nutrition labeling factsheets, food safety-related educational opportunities, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), helpful resources/links and more. This website is still in the development phase so please check back often as new information and resources are added.

The Food2Market program also hosts a food safety workshop, which is an introductory two day workshop that focuses on a variety of food safety topics that are critical for an entrepreneur to know about when entering the food business. Topics of the workshop include: Food regulations, food safety planning, food processing, food packaging, labeling, traceability, recall, recordkeeping and much more! Check the “Educational Opportunities” page on the Food2Market website often to see when the next workshop will be held, or contact Kimberly Baker if you are interested in being on the mailing list for the next scheduled workshop date.

Who to Contact: Contact Kimberly Baker (kabaker@clemson.edu) with any questions about the Food2Market program or preparing a food product to sell in the marketplace. The Food2Market program is available to assist aspiring South Carolina food entrepreneurs. More educational opportunities and resources will become available as the program continues to grow and develop.