female checking equipment on tabletStarting a New Wholesale Food Business

Wholesale food processing facilities and food warehouses are regulated by the MDA, Manufactured Food Program. Anyone who intends to operate a food business in Minnesota must obtain a food handlers license. 

When you decide to start a wholesale food manufacturing or warehouse business in Minnesota, there are several considerations for your operation:

  • Become familiar with the regulations that apply to wholesale food manufacturing, processing, and warehousing operations. The regulations for Minnesota have been adopted by reference from the Federal regulations - Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21. The specific regulation that applies is Part 117, Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP), but additional parts may also apply depending on the products produced or processes covered in your business.
  • Specialized processes such as low acid canned foods, acidified foods, seafood, juice, and bottled water, have numerous additional requirements that must be followed.
  • The facility in which you will operate, and the equipment used must meet some basic requirements. For more information, view the requirements in 21 CFR 117.

The water that serves the facility may come from a public water supply (city or municipal water), another community system, or a private well. Water systems other than a public water supply must be evaluated by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and approved prior to licensing. For additional information, refer to the Approved Water Supply for Rural Food Business from the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA).

Every business in Minnesota must comply with its local zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinances determine specific business activities at geographic locations. For example, many zoning ordinances prohibit commercial establishments in residential areas. Facilities in rural areas are also subject to zoning requirements. Check with your local authority (i.e., city, township, or county) on zoning ordinances applicable to your location. 

  • The plumbing system of every food business in Minnesota must comply with the State Plumbing Code.
  • If you are planning to build a new food facility, you must have your plumbing plans/blueprints approved by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) prior to beginning construction of the facility. If you plan to use an existing building, the existing plumbing and any plumbing changes must also comply with the State plumbing code and be approved by the DLI prior to opening a food business. Contact either the DLI or your city/county clerk as soon as possible to discuss the codes and other regulations that pertain to your business. Some municipalities have established a formal agreement with the DLI to conduct their own individual plumbing plan reviews. All plumbing installations must be made by a licensed plumber. Contact the DLI's Plumbing Unit for moreinformation about plumbing plan requirements and for a current list of cities that have a formal agreement to conduct their own individual plumbing plan reviews. Documentation of a final plumbing inspection on any plumbing work that was done on your facility is required prior to obtaining a food license.
  • The building in which your food operations occur must comply with the State Building Code.
  • The building code governs the construction, reconstruction, alteration, and repair of buildings and other structures for which the code is applicable. The code also provides basic and uniform performance standards; establishes reasonable safeguards for health, safety, welfare, comfort, and security; and provides guidelines for the use of modern methods, devices, materials, and techniques.
  • Some communities in Minnesota do not have building inspection programs; however, all Minnesota food businesses and establishments are required to comply with the State Building Code and related local regulations for the safety of both their patrons and employees.
  • Contact the building official in the city or county in which your facility will be located to obtain more information on the building codes and local ordinances which govern your type of food business and apply for the necessary building permits. Documentation of a final building inspection on any plumbing work that was done on your facility is required prior to obtaining a food license.

The building in which your food business will be located must comply with the State Fire Code and related local ordinances. Inspection of the facility by local and state fire inspectors is required. Your business may be inspected on a regular basis to ensure safety of your building, employees, and patrons. Failure to comply with the fire code may result in a recommendation by the fire inspectors to have your building repaired, altered, or even demolished in accordance with the directions contained in their orders. Contact your local and state fire inspector for information on fire code compliance inspection for your food business. 

  • The building in which your food business will be located must comply with the State Electrical Code.
  • Minnesota's electrical code consists of the National Electrical Code (NEC) as published by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). Chapter 1315 of the state building code adopts a national standard for the installation of electrical wiring, apparatus and equipment for electric light, heat, power, technology circuits and systems, and alarm and communication systems. Contact the DLI to determine if an electrical inspection of your food facility will be required.
  • If your food business will have a retail componentgloved hands picking up cookies from tray or has a retail store front where food sales are sold directly to the consumer you must contact the MDA Retail Food Program for additional licensing and inspection requirements for that portion of your business.
  • Many firms have both a wholesale manufacturing and retail component. Both manufacturing and retail inspections will occur but only one license will be issued based on the predominance of sales in dollars between wholesale manufacturing and retail. This one license will allow the firm to do both modes of business when inspected and approved by both inspectors.
  • If you have questions about licensing, please contact the MDA Licensing Liaison at 651-201-6081 or MDA.FoodLicensingLiaison@state.mn.us. You can also use our food licensing wizard.
  • Once construction or remodeling of your facility is complete, it will need to be inspected. Contact the Manufactured Food Program to arrange a licensing inspection. To find your local inspector please call 651-201-6027 or MDA.Licensing@state.mn.us.
  • Please be aware that inspector's schedules are often filled at least two weeks in advance so they may not be available to meet with you right away for the licensing inspection.
  • You must be available during the licensing inspection to review the facility and equipment with the inspector, answer questions, and complete the license application. Items you will need during this licensing inspection include documentation of zoning, water supply, and wastewater disposal approvals; documentation of final inspection by other agencies regulating items such as building, fire, plumbing, and electrical; documentation of  your legal business name along with the Minnesota taxpayers identification number or personal social security number; workers compensation insurance coverage, and estimated gross annual food sales. If you have any paid employees, you must provide proof of workers' compensation insurance coverage before your food handler's license will be issued. Failure to comply with any of these requirements within the time specification can result in a delay in license issuance, or suspension or revocation of your license once issued.
  • Food manufacturing and warehousing business that are engaged in interstate commerce are also subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The exception is for products that are/contain meat, poultry, and certain processed eggs which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Additional FDA requirements and resources regarding food facility registration, food imports, recordkeeping, labeling, and the Reportable Food Registry can be found on the FDA's website.