Food businesses, including specialty foods, must follow regulations that depend on the type of food manufactured and the processing method used. To sell food products within the state of Vermont, you must meet state regulations and to sell products outside Vermont, you also need to comply with federal regulations.

Vermont Regulations

The two agencies enforcing food safety regulations in Vermont are:

Most producers/processors are required to apply for a license to operate in the state. However, some small processors/producers may be exempt from obtaining a license. To find out if you are exempt, you should contact the appropriate regulatory agency.  Below are some examples of food products and the Vermont regulatory agencies responsible:

Type of food product produced/processed Examples Vermont Agency with Oversight Authority
Baked goods Breads, cookies VTDH Bakery license required. Exemptions may apply
Dairy products Milk, cheese, frozen desserts VAAFM Dairy section inspection and licensing required
Maple syrup products Maple syrup, maple sugar VAAFM maple laws and regulations
Pet food Treats, foods for pets VAAFM regulations. Analyze product nutritional content
Products containing more than 3% meat or poultry (by raw weight) Sausages, whole meat cuts, meat pies VAAFM inspection and licensing required for all sizes of operations. HACCP plan required
Seafood Selling or re‐selling VTDH inspection and licensing required for all sizes of operations. HACCP plan required
Fruit juice or cider Apple juice or cider, citrus juices VTDH food processor license requirements. HACCP plan requested. Exemptions may apply
Other processed food products Candies, popcorn, etc. VTDH food processor license requirements. Exemptions may apply
Canned food products1 Fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, etc. VTDH for fruit and vegetable products and VAAFM for meat and poultry products

1Except for products that are considered “acid foods” (natural pH below 4.6), canned products are heavily regulated. Some products require a scheduled process for canned, shelf‐stable acidified product. Please check with the appropriate agency to determine the kind of regulation that may affect your product, or email omar.oyarzabal@uvm.edu.

 

Through the Division of Food Safety and Consumer Protection, VT Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets (VAAFM):

  • Inspects apiaries (honey production)
  • Oversees consumer protection
  • Carries out meat and poultry inspection
  • Dairy inspection
  • Coordinates weights and measures
  • Has oversight on livestock health

The Consumer Protection section works with food producers with quality (e.g., grades) and label issues, and is also responsible for the safety of the products under its jurisdiction.

The Meat Inspection section was established by the Vermont State Legislature in 1967 to develop a state meat inspection program to be “equal to” the federal inspection system after the passage of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967.

VAAFM is closely monitoring three of the five major components of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These three components are:

Selling Products in Vermont

Restaurants and caterers must meet the food safety requirements of the Vermont Department of Health (VTDH). Read the VTDH Guide to Operating a Food and/or Lodging Establishment in Vermont to learn more.

To sell to restaurants, grocery stores/co-ops, or distributors:

  • Check with your buyer on their requirements as they may be stricter than state or federal requirements.

To sell your food products at a Farmers Market:

Some products, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, do not currently have specific state or federal regulations for their sale. However, check with your buyer as you must meet their regulations.

Places That Prepare and Serve Food to the Public

All places that prepare and serve food to the public must obtain a license from the Vermont Department of Health (VTDH), including (but not limited to):

  • Restaurants
  • Food caterers
  • Delis
  • Bakeries
  • Temporary food stands (fair stands)
  • Food processors
  • Seafood vendors
  • Hotels
  • Bed and breakfasts
  • Children’s camps

If you are planning new construction:

  • Contact your local town or city clerk’s office to understand local zoning restrictions, licensing or permit requirements.
  • Get the required permit from the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) regional office.

After obtaining approval and the necessary permit from ANR - and before a new construction starts - contact the Health Department Food and Lodging Program to arrange a plan review.

VTDH has updated the existing food safety regulations for manufactured food producers to the standard Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) found in 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 110. This state regulation can be found at GMPs for VT.

The Food & Lodging Program of the VTDH has several, different licensing categories, statutes and regulations depending on specific food handling activities. Two available licenses for many of the small vendors in farmers markets are the home catering license (for prepared food under the food service regulations) and the home bakery license. There are exemptions from licensing for very small food processors with less than $10,000 annual gross sales, and home bakers with less than $125 a week sales.

For more information visit the VTDH Guide to Health Department Rules Regulating Food & Lodging Establishments, or get in contact with the Food and Lodging Program at 802-863-7221 or foodlodgingvt@state.vt.us.

Food Labeling

VT Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (VAAFM) is in charge of Food Labeling. Within VAAFM, the responsible section depends on the type of food product:

  • Meat and poultry products fall under the Meat Inspection section
  • Dairy products fall under the Dairy section
  • All other food products fall under the Consumer Protection section

VAAFM answers questions regarding label requirements and helps review label proofs for compliance. To learn more about food labels, read PDF icon Food Labeling for Vermont Food Producers and Processors PDF, 4 pages, rev. 2013.

 

Federal Regulations

To sell products outside Vermont, you must meet federal requirements in addition to state requirements. The two federal regulatory agencies with jurisdictions on foods are:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (FSIS USDA)

Oversight: Food products containing 2-3% of meat and/or poultry, and processed eggs.

Food products under the jurisdiction of FSIS include all imported and domestic meat, poultry, and processed eggs, such as liquid, frozen or dried eggs. Shell eggs, meat and poultry products that are not under the jurisdiction of the FSIS are under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. The Acts that give FSIS the mandate to ensure that foods under the agency jurisdiction are safe, wholesome and labeled and packed correctly are the:

At the state level, the 1967 Wholesome Meat Act and the 1968 Wholesome Poultry Products Act require State inspection programs to be "at least equal to" the Federal inspection program. In states that choose to end their inspection program or cannot maintain this standard, FSIS will assume responsibility for inspection within that particular state.

To determine if a meat or poultry finished product is “amenable” to the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act one should determine the amount of fully cooked or raw meat or poultry products:

  • The amount of fully cooked red meat or poultry product is 2% or more.
  • The amount of raw or heat treated-not fully cooked red meat or poultry product is 3% or more.

If at the formulation step any of the parameters listed above are exceeded, then the product is under FSIS jurisdiction. If these parameters are not exceeded, the product is not “amenable” to these Acts, then the production process may be under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

Food labels are under the responsibility of both FSIS and the FDA. However, the way the food label policies are implemented vary from agency to agency. For instance, FSIS may require a food producer to obtain pre-market approval of the labels before the product enters commerce, if the product is not covered by a standard of identity and does not meet the established standard. FDA, on the other hand, does not require pre-market approvals of the labels for foods under its jurisdiction.

Some establishments are called Dual Jurisdiction because they produce and ship products regulated by FDA and products regulated by FSIS. An example could be a plant that makes a pizza with pepperoni. These Dual Jurisdiction establishments do not include plants under the jurisdiction of FSIS that incorporate ingredients produced under FDA jurisdiction. To address Dual Jurisdiction plants, FDA and FSIS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 1998 regarding the sharing of information and avoidance of duplication of inspection efforts.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Oversight: All other food commodities not under the jurisdiction of FSIS USDA.

The FDA has oversight jurisdiction on all imported and domestic foods that are not under the jurisdiction of FSIS. The main Act that empowers FDA is the food drug and cosmetic act of 1938, which has gone through several amendments. However, there are several other regulations and guidelines that provide FDA with the statutory authority over the foods under its jurisdiction. For instance, the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Procedures for the Safe and Sanitary Processing and Importing of Juice of 1998 or the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 are examples of regulations, while the Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods is a guideline.

 

Contact

Omar Oyarzabal
Food Safety Specialist

omar.oyarzabal@uvm.edu
Phone: (802) 524-6501 ext. 452
Fax: (802) 524-6062

278 South Main Street, Suite 2
St. Albans, Vermont 05478-1866