Yes, you need a food permit or license to sell tea online in the United States. However, the FDA does not license you; local and state authorities grant the licenses after ensuring you adhere to FDA requirements. They will inspect the physical location where you intend to operate to ensure everything is up to code.
If you intend to sell wholesale to other businesses, the state will have to conduct a similar inspection. Once the state is satisfied, you will get a wholesale license. Tea is a food product and therefore is expected to be stored and handled in a food-safe facility.
Have it in mind that you may not be operating legally or safely if you store and sell tea out of a home or office. According to regulations, these spaces are not well-equipped with the correct materials (floor, ceiling, walls), NSF work surfaces, scoops, etc. Do not forget that all these regulations are meant to keep customers safe.
To make and sell tea online in the United States, you have to be licensed for food manufacturing/food processing/food handling. If not, you are unintentionally exposing your customers to risk, and you are also committing an offense in the eyes of the law.
Agreeably, a good number of small tea companies work out of homes or other unlicensed office facilities and fly under the radar for many years, but this doesn’t in any way make the practice any less dangerous.
Building food safe facilities indeed can be very costly. The cost can be quite exorbitant maybe owing to plumbing, proper installation, licenses, and inspections. However, all these depend on your local licensing bodies and it is imperative that you ask them, because they are the experts for your region.
Nonetheless, ensure to contact your local health department. These experts will get you on the right track, answer your questions, and get you in contact with the correct licensing officials. FDA inspection may be required, or may not be – although it tends to depend on rules of interstate commerce, and also upon whether you’re selling more directly to customers or doing more wholesale business.
Bubble Tea Regulations You Must Know
In the United States, starting and managing a bubble tea shop might be one of the most exciting things to do. However, the not-so-fun but vital aspect of starting your business is the legal stuff. If you want your doors to stay open, you will need to abide by local regulations and obtain the appropriate licenses and permits.
Have it in mind that rules and regulations regarding bubble tea will vary from city to city, state to state, but there are some general requirements that almost all bubble tea shops will need to meet irrespective of where they’re located.
Licenses and Permits
Although every state institutes its own rules and laws, however, almost every business is expected to acquire a business license. Know that there are other additional permits and licenses needed to legally start a bubble tea shop in your desired city.
Since every city will have its own requirements, therefore it is crucial to contact your city/county/state regarding permit regulations. But generally speaking, bubble tea shops will need the following:
- Business License
- Sign Permit
- Retail Food Establishment License
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Resale and Seller’s Permits
- Music License
The FDA’s Food Code is a good model to use when putting together or updating your shop safety rules. The Food Code document spans more than 200 pages, and it includes recommendations on important topics.
However, it is vital to note that the Food Code is not law, but it does offer expert suggestions that may be used as regulations.
A good number of states and cities adopt the entire code, others adopt only portions, and others don’t adopt any part of it. Also, note that health inspections are par for the course when managing a bubble tea shop. Inspectors will more or less check your shop’s:
- Cold storage, including refrigerators and freezers
- Storage methods
- Temperature monitoring
- Produce prep
- Kitchen equipment
- Cooking and heating
Aside from the bubble tea that these shops are primarily known for, exemption from nutrition labeling applies to other finished food products you sell in your shop. If foods with insignificant amounts of nutrients are put together, the resulting product remains exempt.
For instance, plain coffee and cinnamon are both known to carry insignificant nutrient amounts; if put together into a single product, the result is still exempt from nutrition labeling.
However, immediately an ingredient with nutrients is added to the product, it no longer has insignificant amounts of nutrients and a Nutrition Facts label is mandatory. Common examples include chai latte mixes, sugar/sweetener, and candied fruit peel.
Notably, a greater percentage of regulations are not there to keep customers safe, they’re primarily there to create a massive barrier to entry for would-be tea sellers and limit competition for already established retailers. However, always remember that rules and regulations concerning tea shops will depend on your city and state.
Therefore, it is necessary to do your due diligence and start early so that you understand exactly what you have to do to legally run your business.