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Pennsylvania Licensed Food Kitchen and TCS Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Pennsylvania Licensed Food Kitchen and TCS Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

If you plan to make and sell foods that do not meet the allowances under the the PA Department of Agriculture  "limited food establishments"  This page will help explain what you need to do


Which foods are NOT subject to the Pennsylvania Cottage Food law?

Under the PA cottage food law, there are certain types of food products that may NOT be produced and sold out of your home kitchen with no inspection or licensing requirements: these are
'time and temperature controlled for safety' (TCS) foods (i.e., potentially hazardous foods, 'PHF').

TCS Foods

TCS foods are foods that will support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and require temperature controls (kept hot or cold). TCS foods can only be produced in a licensed / registered 'commercial' food establishment kitchen that meets the full regulatory code requirements, including separation from residential-use areas, and adequate plumbing fixtures.

Because of their high moisture and low acid content, TCS foods can become unsafe to eat if they are not kept refrigerated. TCS food examples include milk or other dairy products, eggs, meat, and cooked pasta or vegetables. Pennsylvania regulations forbid the manufacture of TCS foods in a dual-use home kitchen. Instead, you will need to use a licensed commercail kitchen or construct a completely separate kitchen that is used only for your food business. Keep in mind that no PHF products may pass through or be stored in the home at any time; therefore, you may need to construct separate entrances and exits to food processing and storage areas. Ask a PDA sanitarian for more information if you decide to make TCS products in your home.

Making TCS foods in a commercial licensed kitchen

It is more complicated, but there are resources that will help. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services is responsible for enforcing food regulations and inspecting food establishments. See this page:

 Contact information for the PDA Bureau of Food Safety main office in Harrisburg and the nine regional offices located throughout the state can be found at the PDA Food Safety website.

You can also visit the Penn State Extension Food Safety and Quality website for additional resources on establishing and maintaining a food business.

Penn State Extension has an excellent page here that explains the whole process here. Food for Profit: Working with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage Food, you may still be able to make and sell it commercially, through a startup approach.  See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do not meet the Cottage Food definition.

Application and Registration process

Businesses that will be serving food or beverages should contact their local health department and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regarding registration or licensing procedures.

The Department also provides a full range of services to farmers and consumers from its seven regional offices listed in this section.

Here is the link to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's web-site:

The Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services can be reached at (717)-787-4315 and provides:

  • Eating and Drinking Place License
  • Egg Inspector License
  • Egg Opening License
  • Food Establishment Registration (includes bakeries, non-alcoholic drinks & cold storage warehouses)
  • Frozen Dessert License
  • Maple Products License
  • Permit to Sell Milk and Dairy Products
  • Seasonal Farm Labor Camp Permit
  • Shellfish Permit

All businesses selling products or services subject to Sales Tax are required to obtain a Pennsylvania Sales, Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License, which should be prominently displayed at the business location.

An employer withholding account would also be required if the business is/will be paying wages to employees. You must complete a PA-100 application to register for an account number in Pennsylvania.

Here is the link where you can complete the PA-100 application on-line: 

Labeling requirementsPennsylvania Limited Food Establishment label

Food product should be properly packaged and labeled. The food must be packaged in a manner that prevents product contamination, except for foods that are too large and or bulky for conventional packaging. Food labels should include the following information:

  •  Producer's name and address
  •  Ingredients of food product
  •  Net weight and volume
  • The common or usual name of the product, if a food is made with a major food allergen, such as eggs, nuts, soy, peanuts, milk or wheat that ingredient must be listed on the label; and
  • The labels must be legible.

Here is a free Microsoft Word label template which you can download and edit.  These labels are already formatted to fit on Avery Template 22820  Print-to-the-Edge Oval, Labels 2" x 3-1/3", 8 per Sheet, Glossy White. You can get the label stock online (see at right). 

Depending on the size of your business, your label must comply with Federal label regulations and with the new nutritional labeling law. You can download a copy of the FDA Food Labeling Guide here it s an illustrated booklet that should answer all your questions.


Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.


Take the ServSafe® training classes for Manager and employees, the 7th Edition Book that accompanies this course should be purchased here.. 

Testing of pH

​It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive. And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper's range includes a pH of 4.6.

Record-keeping is suggested

Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:

  • ​Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
  • Amount canned and sold
  • Canning date
  • Sale dates and locations
  • Gross sales receipts
  • Results of any pH test


Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:

  • ​Use clean equipment that has been effectively sanitized prior to use
  • Clean work surfaces and then sanitize with bleach water before and after use
  • Keep ingredients separate from other unprocessed foods
  • Keep household pets out of the work area
  • Keep walls and floors clean
  • Have adequate lighting
  • Keep window and door screens in good repair to keep insects out
  • Wash hands frequently while working
  • Consider annual testing of water if using a private well

More resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

  • Bureau of Food Safety
    (717) 787-4315
  • Sheri Morris
    Chief, Division of Food Safety Policy & Programs
    (717) 787-5289
  • Abdellah El Hajjam
    Program Specialist
    (717) 772-5208

Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book