The Minnesota Department of Agriculture helps ensure the safety of the food supply by licensing and inspecting food producers, distributors, and certain retailers in Minnesota. We would like to help answer your food business questions and connect you with the people and information to start a successful food business.

What You Need to Know About Being a Food Business in Minnesota

There are some general rules that apply in all circumstances. Please review the following:

  1. Generally, you need to have a license to sell food in Minnesota. The definition of “sell” is broad under Minnesota law – “sell” can also mean hold, transfer, or give away, even if no money is exchanged.
  2. All food facility operations are subject to health and safety regulations, regardless if a license is required.
  3. You must meet with an inspector before getting a license application. You cannot get a license online. The only exception is for a special event license.
  4. If you plan to manufacture meat products to wholesale, you must meet special requirements and a meat inspector must be present at the time you manufacture the product.
  5. If you plan to sell food at a retail location, you will need a facility plan review and inspection before licensing.
  6. If you handle seafood, make juice, or pickle, bottle, or can food, you will need special training before you can be licensed.
  7. Restaurants, caterers, and food trucks that serve ready-to-eat meal items or beverages are licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), not the MDA. You can find more information at the MDH food licensing web site.
  8. There are a few exclusions and exemptions to the food licensing requirement and, generally, you cannot sell food made from your home. Exceptions to this rule include Cottage Food Producers and those selling Product of the Farm or Garden. Please note that local zoning requirements may also prevent you from selling food from your home. Cottage food registration is not a license and those wishing to produce cottage food must be registered with the MDA.

Pre-Consultation Questionnaire

If you have further questions, please fill out the following web form for a referral to the MDA Licensing Liaison. We can follow up with most requests within two business days. Please allow for more time during high-volume licensing seasons. Submissions are being reviewed by MDA staff at this time, but response may be delayed due to COVID-19. Review MDA's response to COVID-19, for more information.

Please fill out your contact information and answer these questions about your business as thoroughly as you are able.

Are you starting a new business that has not been licensed before?
Are you purchasing, expanding, or modifying an existing business that is or has previously been licensed?
Do you want to sell products from your farm or garden without adding any ingredients?
Will you be producing and selling food out of your home?
Are there local zoning restrictions for your city or county?
Is your septic capable of handling the anticipated discharge from your business operations?
Who will you sell most (>51%) of your food to (who is your primary customer)?

Be as specific as possible, including details about processing, preserving, or packaging (e.g., plastic-wrapped caramel-dipped apples, canned pickled vegetables, fresh soft serve ice cream and deli sandwiches, prepackaged candy and soda, canned homemade fruit jam, freeze-dried packaged meals, etc.).

Are you only selling prepackaged foods that someone else packaged?
Are you selling any food ready-to-eat for immediate meal, snack, or beverage service?
Where do you plan to sell your food?
Will you be producing or selling alcohol or alcohol-containing food?
Will you be canning or bottling products, producing juice, or handling seafood, or pickling (performing specialized processes)?

Please provide any additional information you think may help us better understand your vision or business plan.