Home kitchens and holiday goodies; What you should check before you place your order

Safety is a concern with kitchen businesses on the rise
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 6:55 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Two weeks ahead of Christmas, the gift giving season is in full swing and online marketplaces are thick with postings for everything from hot chocolate bombs to baked goods.

Thanks to the magic of social media, it’s not uncommon to hear about entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses out of their homes.

Janna Quinn got her start making jewelry for local markets, and began selling baked goods about six years ago. Her honey, shortbreads and biscotti’s are sold at Vintage Marketplace, but all of the products begin in her kitchen.

“I sell rosemary-lavender shortbread with a little bit of salt sprinkled on top. It’s really, really good. I like delicious things and it gives me pride to produce them and share them with others,” said Quinn about her business, Jann’s Desserts.

Before she kicked off her business, she had to go through the process of getting her kitchen approved by the NC Department of Agriculture.

Leaders at the state level say going through the process is not just a matter of law, but also a matter of safety.

The process is simple for low-risk items, but grows more involved and complex if you begin producing dairy, sauces, or items that need to be refrigerated.

For companies that prepare baked goods, inspectors cover a multitude of requirements including whether or not the home’s water is safe to cook with; ensuring ingredients are properly stored away from bugs and rodents; checking the surfaces in the kitchen can be kept clean; confirming the environment is the right temperature; and verifying the home doesn’t have any indoor pets.

“Baked goods, candies, dried mixes, spices… they are low risk foods but they’re not zero risk,” said Heather Overton of the NC Department of Agriculture. “If you’re making cupcakes for your church bake sale we aren’t going to come in and do an inspection on you. If you’re making cupcakes as part of your livelihood and something you want to be a business, that’s different — you need to have an inspection and do it the right way.”

The kitchens only have to be inspected once, but the department will make a repeat visit if there’s been a complaint.

There’s no public directory of businesses that have been inspected, and experts say it’s not a bad idea to ask if they’ve been given their certificate from the state before you place your orders.

“You know there’s no reason not to be certified if you are selling the correct product,” said Quinn. “They don’t make it difficult, so there’s no reason not to do it properly.”

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