Ontario relaxes rules around home-based food businesses

Now, foods deemed "low-risk" like baked goods and preserves are exempt from some regulations and certifications


There’s been an explosion of home-based food businesses in Ontario and beyond since the pandemic started. Search Facebook Marketplace and Instagram and you can find all sorts of people selling all sorts of cuisines, sometimes even regional dishes unavailable in Toronto’s diverse food scene.

But those food businesses are often operating in a black or grey market zone that circumvents Ontario’s rather strict health and safety regulations. The rules were essentially the same for a commercial restaurant as someone baking sourdough bread in their apartment.

Ontario just eased those regulations for home-based food businesses. The province lays it out in the appropriately titled Guide To Starting a Home-Based Food Business, which kicked in on January 1, 2021.

“For many local entrepreneurs, they start with a love of food and a cherished family recipe, whether it’s grandma’s apple pie or that new take on homegrown pickles, jams and preserves, and try and turn their passion into a successful business,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, in a press release. “Our government applauds them for their vision and effort and we are doing everything we can to help them seize new opportunities without compromising Ontario’s high standards for food safety.”

The new changes make it easier for entrepreneurs to sell foods the province deem “low-risk.” Those are classified as non-hazardous and don’t require time or temperature control. Some of the examples include: breads and buns (without fillings or meats, etc), most baked goods (no custard), chocolate, hard candies, pickles, jams, preserves, granola, trail mix, nuts, seeds, cakes, brownies, muffins and cookies (unless the icing requires refrigeration) and coffee beans and tea leaves.

Those low-risk food businesses are now exempt from certain regulatory requirements: specified hand-washing stations (separate from the main sink), commercial dishwashing requirements and food handling training certification.

Implied in the celebratory press quotes about opening the doors for low-risk food operations is the fact that other food businesses do need to adhere to those food safety requirements. Could a crackdown be coming?

The document does specify that all food premises must adhere to the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) and the Food Premises Regulation, as well as periodic inspections by their local public health unit.

Otherwise, have at it.

@trapunski

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