The Department currently issues licenses to a variety of food-based businesses or establishments in New York State. The type of licenses issued are dependent on the food processing done at the establishment. Licenses can range from complex operations associated with the manufacturing, processing, handling, rendering, and/or packaging of various types of food, to the storing or sale of closed/sealed foods and beverages.
If you are seeking a license for a food service establishment, read below to determine what kind of establishment you have and what kind of license you need.
Article 20-C Food Processing Establishment licenses apply to food manufactures, processing plants, wholesale bakeries, and retail food establishments (i.e. grocery stores) that conduct any type of food preparation including but not limited to meat and cheese slicing, heating foods, sandwich making, operating beverage dispensing machines, and preparing sushi, salad bars, or other ready-to-eat exposed food packaging activity.
If your establishment processes food through one of the methods below, you need an Article 20-C Food Processing Establishment license. Note: this list is not exhaustive.
- Cooking, boiling, broiling, frying, grilling, freezing, drying, roasting, heating, or reheating food
- Note: this includes cooking fish or other seafood; cooking or re-heating pretzels, lasagnas, pizza, nachos, soups, or meat pies; popping popcorn; melting chocolate; coating chicken wings; or cooking meat products, hot dogs, meat loaf, sausage, or eggs
- Blending spice, herbs, or seasonings at retail or wholesale
- Mincing/grinding/slicing/curing/brining poultry, meat, cheese, fish, vegetables, fruit, bagels, bread, etc.
- Grating cheeses
- Using a cappuccino machine
- Baking bread, rolls, pastries, pies, cookies, etc.
- Note: this includes wholesale or retail in-store bakery operations, including bake-off operations
- Preserving fruits or vegetables, including jams, jellies, chutneys, salsa, sauces, etc.
- Canning or pickling fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.
- Bottling oils or drinks including soft drinks, shakes, fresh fruit juices, coffee, teas, apple cider, etc.
- Repacking uncooked foods or ready-to-eat foods, salads, fruit, dried fruit, dried vegetables, cereals, granola, nuts, yogurt cups, exposed candy, cheese curds, cooked or dry pasta, ready-to-eat vegetables, etc.
- Roasting meats, coffee, nuts, or barbecue chicken, ribs, or beef
- Preparing or mixing ready-to-eat salads, such as tuna, chicken, egg, mixed foods, meats, pasta dishes, etc.
- Stuffing sausage into casings
- Smoking fish, meat and meat products, cheeses, etc.
- Pickling or marinating fish, herrings, meat, poultry, vegetables, cabbage, fruit, olives
- Dehydrating fruit, vegetables, beef, chicken, pork, jerky, fish, herbs, and spices
- Processing foods for off-site catering events (only as part of retail food store operations. Catering businesses are regulated by the Department of Health)
- Note: off-site preparation may require a local health department permit
- Freezing foods, including frozen dessert machines, ice cream, yogurt, slush, ice milk, shaved ice, serving dish or cone hard ice cream, retail ice production, and packaging
Note: If you have a food service operation (such as a restaurant, café, pizza shop), contact your local health department.
The following processing facilities are exempt from 20-C Licensing. These facilities must still adhere to good manufacturing practices (GMPs).
Licensed by State Liquor Authority as Farm Winery
- Licensed by State Liquor Authority as Farm Cidery
- Licensed by State Liquor Authority as Farm Brewery
- Licensed by State Liquor Authority as Farm Distiller
- Honey Producers
- Maple Syrup Processors
- Hop Processors
- Home Processors
- Slicing & Packaging of Cheese at Farmer's Market
- Malt Houses/Malting Operations
See 1 NYCRR: 276.4 for further details.
Food Processor Application
This application is for food manufactures, processing plants, wholesale bakeries and retail food establishments (i.e., grocery stores) that conduct any type of food preparation including but not limited to, meat and cheese slicing, heating foods, sandwich making, operating beverage dispensing machines, and preparing sushi, salad bars, or other ready to eat exposed food packaging activity.
Retail Food Store
This license applies to any retail food store within New York where food and food products are offered to the consumer and intended for off-premises consumption and conducts no food processing as defined in the "food processor" section above. This includes stores that sell fluid milk, shell eggs, and refrigerated meats.
Have you ever wondered what a food safety inspection with the Department is like? Watch one of our food inspectors on a routine visit to a Stewart's Shop in the video below.
This application is for any Retail Food Store within New York where food and food products are offered to the consumer and intended for off-premises consumption and conducts no food processing. This includes stores which sell fluid milk, shell eggs and refrigerated meats.
This is an official compilation of New York State codes, rules, and regulations pertaining to retail food stores.
This license applies to any food warehouse facility within New York in which food is held for commercial distribution. If you are a warehouse that stores/distributes food (excluding Raw Agriculture Commodities (RACs), you need a 28-D license.
This license applies to any business that receives distress or damaged food or food use products for reconditioning, culling, and/or sorting for the purpose of resale of satisfactory products. If you are a food salvager, you need a 17-B license.
This application is for a business that receives distress or damaged food or food use products for reconditioning, culling, and/or sorting for the purpose of resale of satisfactory products.
This license applies to a facility that offers refrigerated storage space for rent in their building for the storage of food commodities or produce owned by other businesses. The commodities being held must be lot coded and not held for over two years without approval for extended storage.
Note: 'Produce only' facilities pay a reduced license fee.
If you own a refrigerated warehouse or locker that stores/distributes refrigerated foods, you need a 19 license.
Application for Refrigerated Warehouse/Locker Plant/Fresh Fruit and/or Vegetable Storage Facility License - Article 19
This application is for a facility that offers refrigerated storage space for rent in their building for the storage of food commodities or produce owned by other businesses.
This license applies to disposal plants that process animals or inedible meat for other than human consumption.
It also applies businesses that operate a transportation service for the purpose of transporting for hire unprocessed animal bodies or meat products not intended for human consumption.
This application is for disposal plants that process animals or inedible meat for other than human consumption.
This license is for businesses that operate a transportation service for the purpose of transporting for hire unprocessed animal bodies or meat products not intended for human consumption.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYAGM) Article 5A Slaughterhouse License is required for the slaughter and processing of amenable poultry species, and non-amenable poultry and red meat animals.
Amenable- means animal species that are required to be slaughtered under United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection to be distributed for sale or further processing.
Amenable poultry species include chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, ratites and squabs.
Non-amenable species include quail, pheasant, bison, buffalo, rabbit, captive-raised deer and emu.
USDA amenable red meat species cannot be slaughtered or processed under the Article 5A Slaughterhouse License. Species prohibited from Article 5A slaughter include cattle, sheep, goats, lamb, swine, equine and siluriform (catfish).
Questions related to slaughter of these species can be addressed by USDA here: Inspection of Meat Products | Food Safety and Inspection Service (usda.gov)
Poultry Exemptions Requiring an Article 5A License and Inspection
In lieu of federal bird-by-bird inspection, the USDA provides and regulates several exemptions from federal inspection for those who wish to process amenable poultry. The USDA Table of Exemptions and additional information can be found here- Link to table and exemption fact sheet.
Things to consider when choosing a USDA exemption-
- Do you raise all your birds? If any of your mature poultry comes from another source you will not qualify for the Producer/Grower Exemptions, which require all amenable poultry to be raised by the business.
- Who are your customers? Retail only; wholesale to stores or hotels, restaurants or institutions?
- How many amenable birds do you plan to slaughter annually? Certain exemptions have an annual processing limit. Refer to Table of Exemptions.
- Are you planning to operate a Live Bird Market type business? Live bird markets fall under the “Retail Store” exemption. This exemption does not allow for sales to retail stores.
- Do you wish to receive and slaughter other individual’s amenable poultry? A 5A licensed business operating under the Small Enterprise Exemption (SEE) can purchase live birds from individuals and sell the processed poultry back to the original owner for resale. Note- Processing under the SEE is limited to cut-up only (no grinding). Also, birds processed for other entities count towards the 20,000-bird annual limit for the slaughterhouse.
A business can only operate under one exemption and the provisions of that exemption at any given time.
New Applicant Packet Instructions
After reviewing all the packet material, here is what must be submitted together for review:
- Zoning letter- from the city, town or municipality approving or acknowledging the location to conduct Article 5A slaughter operations. The office or person who handles zoning approval varies by region, county etc.
- Floorplan- a basic layout of the establishment which depicts- entrance/exits, separation of rooms, sinks, equipment, windows/ventilation, drains, coolers/freezers and any other rooms, compartments or attached structures.
- Water tests- are required for businesses on non-municipal water. Submit a recent analysis (within the past three months) for nitrite, nitrate and coliform for the establishment water supply.
- Checklist- covers the documentation needed and items which must be in place regarding facility structure, equipment and amenities.
- Note- Marking YES to questions is acknowledgement to what must be in place at time of inspection. It does not indicate the facility is already constructed.
Mail the checklist, zoning letter, floorplan and water test (when applicable) to the NYAGM regional office which covers your county. The list of offices is in the packet.
Once the packet is approved and application is provided, the next step will be to submit your application and call to schedule a preoperative inspection when the firm is ready. The general timeframe from scheduling to inspection is approximately two business weeks.
After satisfactory inspection, the firm may begin licensable processing activities. Your Article 5A license will be mailed to the mailing address on your application.
Exempt from Article 5A Licensing
1000 Bird Producer/Grower Exemption
Any person who slaughters not more than two hundred fifty turkeys or an equivalent number of birds of all other species raised by him on his own farm during the calendar year for which an exemption is sought (four birds of other species shall be deemed the equivalent of one turkey), provided that such person does not engage in buying or selling poultry products other than those produced from poultry raised on their own farm is exempt from Article 5A licensing requirements.
Section 96-d of the Article 5A regulation identifies animal slaughter activities which are exempt from the licensing requirement.
1000 Bird Producer/Grower Exemption is found in both Article 5A regulations and the USDA Table of Exemptions.
The NYAGM current policy for 1000 bird Producer/Growers is as follows:
- All birds must be of the individual/farms own raising.
- Processed poultry can be sold whole or parted. Parts can be sold to separate customers.
- Processing is limited to cut up of raw product only. No grinding, cooking/smoking, marinating or further processing. Reduced oxygen packaging is not permitted.
- Sales are to the end-user only. Transactions may take place at the farm where the poultry was processed, or at a farmer’s market type venue when offered by farm representatives. Poultry products cannot be distributed to other businesses such as retail stores, hotels, restaurants, institutions or distributors.
- Poultry product cannot be offered for sale out of state.
- Processing not to exceed the 1000 bird limit within a calendar year.
Interested parties can complete the 1000 Bird Producer/Grower exemption form and mail to- NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets, 10B Airline Drive, Albany, New York 12235. Attention- Food Safety.
You can email the completed registration to- [email protected]
Frequently Asked Questions
Q-:Can I sell my amenable poultry products out of state?
A: No. Amenable species of poultry slaughtered in a 5A licensed slaughterhouse or license exempt producer/grower can only distribute product in-state.
Q: Can I sell my non-amenable animal products out of state?
A: Non-amenable animal product can cross state lines, but the incoming state has the authority to determine what they consider to be an approved product source.
Q: If I hold a 5A slaughterhouse license and a 20-C food processing license, can I use the amenable poultry slaughtered in my 20-C business?
A: It depends on the specific activities conducted. 5A licensed slaughterhouses operating under the Producer/Grower or Small Enterprise 20,000 bird limit exemptions are permitted per USDA exemption to sell to, or use in their own retail business, amenable poultry. The Producer/Grower/Other Person (PGOP) 20,000 bird limit exemption does not allow sales to retail stores. They can however use their amenable slaughtered poultry in their own (same ownership) retail business. Live bird markets cannot sell to retail businesses or use amenable poultry in a retail business they own.
Q: Can I slaughter rabbits under the 1000 bird producer/Grower exemption?
A: Rabbits cannot be slaughtered or processed under the exemption. Exotic species, such as rabbits can be slaughtered in an Article 5A licensed slaughterhouse.
Q: Can I process wild game (e.g.: hunted deer) in my 5a licensed slaughterhouse?
A: Only captive raised deer can be slaughtered and offered for sale. Game animals can be slaughtered in a 5a facility for the owner’s personal consumption during non-licensable business hours or when completely segregated from licensable activities. Ask your inspector about obtaining a Game Animal Variance.
Q: What if I only plan to custom slaughter wild game for the animal owner?
A: No license is needed for this type of service. This product may not be offered for sale, and the entire processed animal parts must be returned to the animal owner.
Please contact John Arnold at 518-457-0378, or [email protected] with any questions.
In addition to being appropriately licensed by the State Liquor Authority, alcohol manufacturers may also need to obtain a 20-C Food Processing Establishment License.
If a business only has a "Farm" type license from the State Liquor Authority, it is exempted from the food processing licensing requirement. However, the business must comply with good manufacturing practices and may be subjected to a sanitary inspection from the Department.
Please view a recorded webinar outlining the licensing process for alcohol manufacturers, and look at the resources below in order to determine what kind of license your business needs. If you have any questions, please contact the Division of Food Safety and Inspection.
Obtain a Process Review
A process review (scheduled process) is required for any food products manufactured in New York State for which a critical control point is necessary to address any or all public health hazards associated with the products.
The critical control point may be identified at any step in the process after review by a recognized authority.
The process review (scheduled process) must outline, at a minimum, recipe testing/formulation, critical control points (to avoid contamination and control hazards), processing steps, storage requirements, and distribution and selling conditions/restrictions.
A process review of your new product can be obtained by contacting any of the recognized food processing authorities listed here.
Reduced Oxygen Packaging at Retail
It is vital that food establishment personnel understand safe food handling practices as they relate to food that will be packaged in a reduced oxygen environment. A reduced oxygen environment (or vacuum packaging) is a concern for the Clostridium botulinum, an anaerobic bacterium which can produce a deadly neurotoxin if food products are not handled properly. Due to this risk, only certain foods that are at a reduced risk for Clostridium botulinum may be packaged in a reduced oxygen packaging.
Approval from the Department must be granted to any establishment looking to conduct reduced oxygen packaging processing. Food establishments are not authorized to conduct reduced oxygen packing of food product until approval is granted by the Department. To obtain Department approval, return the completed forms linked below to [email protected].
Requesting a Variance
A variance for an operator to conduct certain operation can be requested from the Department by completing a variance request form. Approval from the Department must be granted to an establishment prior to conducting the requested process. To obtain Department approval, please read and return the appropriate completed variance request form linked below. The Basic Processing Variance Request form may be completed only for the operations listed on this form. For processing variance request is for any other process, complete the Processing Variance Request form and submit with support documents, such as a process review. Completed forms should be sent to [email protected].
Contact Food Safety and Inspection Regional Offices
Albany Office (serving Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington Counties)
10B Airline Drive
Albany, New York 12235
Buffalo Office (serving Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties)
Electric Tower Building, 2nd floor, Suite 203
535 Washington Street
Buffalo, New York 14203
Hauppauge Office (Serving Suffolk County)
Suffolk State Office Building, Room 13A, 4th Floor
250 Veteran’s Memorial Highway
Hauppauge, New York 11788
Metro New York and Long Island Office (Serving Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Nassau, New York (Manhattan), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), and Suffolk Counties)
55 Hanson Place – 3rd Floor – Room 378
Brooklyn, New York 11217-1583
New Windsor Office (Serving Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, Westchester, and Sullivan Counties)
103 Executive Drive, 3rd Floor, Suite 300
New Windsor, New York 12553
Rochester Office (Serving Allegany, Cayuga, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates Counties)
1530 Jefferson Road
Rochester, New York 14623
Syracuse Office (Serving Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Franklin, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, and St. Lawrence Counties)
New York State Fairgrounds
Art & Home Center
581 State Fair Boulevard
Syracuse, New York 13209
For all unlisted counties, please contact the Albany Office.