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Retail residential kitchens

You can learn about permitting and the Retail Residential Kitchens Ordinance.

We have information for entrepreneurs and small business owners on how to apply for a permit.

Have questions, or want to submit an application? Contact:

Inspectional Services Health Division

You can also contact the Health Division to schedule a plan review appointment.

About the ordinance

The Inspectional Services Department's goal is for an an equitable and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. To that end, we've put in place a regulatory and permitting framework for food production for small businesses in residential kitchens.

Read the full ordinance

Retail residential kitchens may not prepare finished products that require hot or cold holding for safety. These include:

  • meat or fish that is raw or heat-treated
  • certain cut produce including melons, and
  • leafy greens, and tomatoes.  

All retail residential kitchens must comply with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code 105 CMR 590

How to apply

applying for a permit

Retail residential kitchen permits are required for any resident looking to prepare “cottage foods", or any other foods deemed to be admissible by the Health Division. These include, but are not limited to, shelf stable products such as:

  • cookies and brownies
  • jelly and donuts
  • vinegars, and
  • other non-potentially hazardous foods.  

To get started, download and complete these applications:

Kitchen Permit Plan Review 

Health Permit Application 

Include the following with your application:
  • A copy of a letter or email from the property owner verifying they acknowledge the business is operating out of their property 
  • Two sets of plans (minimum size: 11 inches by 17 inches)
  • A completed Retail Residential Kitchen Plan Review application worksheet 
  • A copy of the proposed menu showing items you are preparing
  • A copy of the Allergen Awareness Training certificate
  • Certification as a food protection manager
  • Certificate of Food Allergen Awareness Training 
  • Retail Residential Kitchen Health Division fee ($100) 

You can email your application and documents to ISDHealth@boston.govIf you have questions, contact the Health Division at 617-635-5326 or ISDHealth@boston.gov

Plan review process

Plan review process

Before issuing the permit, all residential kitchens must submit their plans and those plans must be reviewed by our team. By reviewing your plans, we're able to provide greater uniformity and offer better technical help. These reviews are essential for customer success and avoiding future establishment problems.

Poor design, repair, and maintenance will compromise your facility and its operations. With our plan reviews, we want to ensure that your facility is properly designed and that sanitary practices are in place.

We provide a comprehensive review or your proposed operations through:

  • plan reviews
  • construction inspections
  • pre-operational inspections, and
  • the permit approval process.

In our review, we place an emphasis on:

  • the contents of your plans
  • equipment specifications
  • architectural design, and
  • operational procedures.

Our goal is to prevent foodborne illness that comes from poor sanitary facility design or floor plans, or both.

About the plan review

When you submit your plan review, make sure that you include:

  • equipment listed and located on floor plans, and
  • specifications for finishes and plumbing.

Including this information will highlight potential problems on paper. It will also allow you to make modifications before you make any costly purchases or installations, or perform construction.

Download:
Residential Kitchen Plan Review

We conduct plan reviews by appointment only. Contact the Health Division at 617-635-5326 or ISDHealth@boston.gov.

Requirements and procedures

Retail residential kitchens operating in Boston must receive an annual or random inspection by the Inspectional Services Health Division. Operators must follow and meet these operational procedures and inspection requirements:

Purchasing

Food must be purchased from a vendor approved by the state. 

Storage

You are required to have separate dry and cold storage for the business and personal food items in the kitchen. Use a separate shelf or designated spot for business food that is separate from your personal food. 

Labeling

Packaging and labeling food must meet requirements set forth in 105 CMR 520.00 for labeling. These differ for retail and wholesale. You can review the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's brief summary of labeling requirements for packaged food.

Hygiene

You must follow the same:

  • health
  • hygiene
  • hand washing, and
  • toilet use requirements as those required for a standard commercial kitchen. 
Equipment and Utensils

All equipment and utensils need to be made of safe materials and kept in good repair. 

Food Contact Surfaces

All surfaces that may come into contact with food need to be made of smooth, non-absorbent materials that are easily cleaned. These include counters, sinks, and work surfaces. The counter top must be free from cracks. Everything that food will come into contact must be able to be properly cleaned and sanitized. 

Cleaning and Sanitizing

The same rules apply for cleaning and sanitizing as for a commercial kitchen. But, there are some looser exceptions that allow for the use of a residential dishwasher, as long as:

  • the highest setting of sanitizing possible for that machine is used, and
  • the temperature rises to 150 degrees. This needs to be tested every day, with records kept for 30 days. 
Employees and Brokers

Only immediate family members living in the home can prepare food for sale. No outside employees can be used. Brokers, wholesalers, or warehouses cannot be used. 

Insects and Rodents

As in any kitchen, you must take steps to avoid having insects and rodents in the kitchen. 

Pets

You must keep pets out of the kitchen during food preparation. 

Laundry

You cannot do laundry during food preparation. 

Guests

The kitchen and food storage facilities cannot be used by guests while food is being prepared for the business. 

Trash

Cans used for trash must have lids that seal securely.

Training

Permit holders must get a Food Allergen Awareness Training Certificate. This needs to come from an accredited facility recognized in Massachusetts that meets all requirements. Our team will let you know about:

  • safety information regarding labor laws
  • fire safety guidelines, and
  • section 105 CMR 590 of the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code.
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