First Steps

Starting a food business is an exciting venture. It is also a lot of work, and will demand commitment. Before you take the plunge, consider the following:


Ensure that your proposed location is zoned for the type of business you are undertaking (or that you are renting a commercial kitchen). Your municipal office will be able to advise you about the zoning and municipal by-laws and confirm the zoning of any site you are considering.


If you don't plan to open your own plant, there are alternatives. These include:


Whichever option you choose, you will need to ensure that where you operate meets food premise inspection regulations. Food Premises Regulation 493/17 outlines the specific laws that apply. These will be dependant upon:

  • the type of product you produce
  • where your product will be marketed (within Ontario or exported to other provinces or countries).

If you plan to prepare and market your foods nationally or internationally, you must adhere to standards set out in the Canadian Food and Drugs Act for the production, labelling, promotion and selling of all food and pharmaceutical products made or sold in Canada

Two additional provincial statutes address the processing and handling of food products in Ontario.

Health Protection

You need to notify your municipal public health unit that you are planning to open a food business. Ask to arrange a meeting with your area Public Health Inspector. The inspector may ask for blueprints and layouts and will go over constructional and operational requirements for your business under the province of Ontario's Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Your local Municipal Health Unit can also advise you on the food handling standards that must be met. These standards are in place to prevent incidents such as food poisoning, a serious detriment to any food business. The Health Unit also offers courses on basic food safety and handling developed by the Ministry of Health. Generally, these short courses (one day or less) and cost less than $50.00.

If you're planning a meat slaughterhouse (abattoir), meat factory or dairy, there are additional food laws that apply (as these products are considered riskier).


Investigate liability insurance for your food business to protect yourself and your consumers in case of illness or injury from the food that you sell. There is an excellent section on risk management for small businesses at the Insurance Bureau of Canada website.


You will need to label your products correctly with various information. The Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising has information on how to prepare labels and ensure that they meet specifications.

Still interested in starting a food business? Then read on. The Guide to Food Processing in Ontario will help you develop your business and offers information on services and topics important to food processors.

For more information:
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