The Do’s and Don’ts of cooking and selling food from home or from a Ghost Kitchen

Author: Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast
August 15, 2021
Kitchen
Ghost-Kitchen
Food
Restaurant
Start-Up

Click to view Norwegian terms relevant for your food business

An interview with Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Safety Authority) about the regulations.

Guests

Oddrun Løkka Swensen and Kari Dommarsnes from Mattilsynet.no

"We think it is an advantage that professional cooking can take place in kitchens that are designed for it. They enable you to make larger amounts of food and maintain good hygiene, which is important. It is often beneficial to use a rental kitchen when you are in a start-up phase or for smaller companies."

Mattilsynet

Intro

Welcome to Paguro Podcast, I am Helene Timm. In the topic of this month, we are exploring the potential of professional kitchens to drive urban change. Today I am talking with Kari Dommarsnes and Oddrun Løkka Swensen from Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Safety Authority) to find out what are the regulations around cooking at home as well as in a ghost kitchen.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Thank you so much for welcoming me here at Mattilsynet. The reason I, Helene, am here today for Paguro, is because we were thinking that it would be so interesting to hear a little more about the food regulations in Norway. Because we have a lot of tenants who are for example renting ghost kitchens through our platform [Paguro] but when I am doing research also and being in touch with tenants it often turns out that they are for example cooking at home. Therefore, I feel there is still a bit of uncertainty maybe even especially in the international community about what are the regulations regarding food and preparing food for selling it to other people.

But first, could you introduce yourself?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

My name is Oddrun Løkka Swensen and I am a senior inspector at Mattilsynet. I work at the district office of Oslo, Asker and Bærum.

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

My name is Kari Dommarsnes. I am a special inspector here in Oslo, in the same office as Oddrun.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Great, thank you so much.

I was thinking to bring two scenarios today to the interview that I see quite a lot when I am researching food businesses and when I am in touch with our Tenants.

Scenario 1 is a situation I often encounter when I am using Instagram: A person is baking cakes or cookies at home and advertises these on their Instagram account. In their Instagram bio, they might say that customers can send them a message to make an order. Customers then can pick up the product from their home and pay through Vipps.

How would Mattilsynet handle such a case? Do you inspect private people or does the person have to register a company? What are the requirements for cooking and selling food from home?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

You can a run food business from home if it is registered at Mattilsynet. The registration is free, so there is no charge. Of course, you need to follow the regulations when you run a business from home. Mattilsynet can inspect the premises and the inspection might be unannounced. You must also find out what other rules apply to you. You might need a permission for change of use of the premises. You might also contact the tax administration for information about taxes.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Yes, because the government or the tax administration might not know yet that I am also planning to have a food business at my home. They might just think it is a private home and therefore I need to register that.

What are the requirements for cooking and selling food from home?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

It is important to know, that if food is not handled correctly, people who eat it can become ill. Therefore, it is important to operate your kitchen safely and hygienically. And when you are having your own food business you are responsible for ensuring that the business complies with the regulations and that the food you sell is safe to eat. Therefore, you must learn the rules and regulations that apply to you.

But the formulation of the food regulations is often general. This general wording means that the regulatory requirements are flexible and suitable for a different range of businesses.

Helene Timm: So, if somebody makes cakes different rules apply to them than to somebody for example making Mexican food?

It is the same rules that apply both to large businesses, such as bakeries and smaller businesses, such as a home business.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

And also, for different types of foods?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

Yes. But of course, you need to have suitable premises. The size, shape and quality of the premises should be in proportion to their use. Therefore, the regulations often use terms such as “hygienic” or “efficient” and that kind of wording. In general, private kitchens have less capacity than a professional kitchen. So, it is important to have limited production.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

This is probably also why a lot of people [for example on Instagram] say that they are only hobby bakers. Because if they would scale their business they would have to move to a professional kitchen.

And what are the general requirements for a kitchen?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

The kitchen must have surfaces that are easy to clean and consist of robust materials. That way it is easy to keep it clean. You must keep your premises clean and maintained in good repair and condition. Make sure you have enough space for dishwashing so you easily can separate clean and unclean equipment. Use a dishwasher for equipment and utensils.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Is it required to use a dishwasher? I also know these professional dishwashers for example.

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

You can use a common house dishwasher, but we recommend that you use a dishwasher. Because if you do not use a dishwasher you have to make sure that the utensils are properly disinfected.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Yes, because otherwise, you can probably not guarantee that the temperature is high enough so that germs will really be killed.

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

Yes, and it is also important that there is a clear barrier or good distance between food handling areas, and areas for dishwashing. The separation in areas or in time will prevent food from being contaminated. Food hygiene is important; therefore, you must wash your hands frequently, and before starting a new task. The washbasin must be easily accessible and have soap and paper towels for hygienic washing and drying. Cooling food properly helps stop harmful bacteria from growing. Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. Food should therefore be cooled as quickly as possible to a temperature that does not pose a health risk. A rule of thumb is that the temperature should be reduced from 60° C to 10° C over the course of 2 hours.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

You said earlier that you must learn how to operate a kitchen safely and hygienically. Are there courses for that, to which people can sign up?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

Mattilsynet does not arrange courses for that, but you can book a guidance meeting with us to get more information. If you need to have other courses, you should seek them elsewhere. There are other companies and consultant companies that do have courses that you can attend.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Oh great.

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

In addition to the guidance service Mattilsynet also has an answering service that is open during business hours every day. Here you can call them and ask general questions about the regulations and how the regulations can be understood. Also, if you have problems when you register, you can call them, and they will guide you through the registration process. So, if you have any questions do not hesitate to call us or email us.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

That is helpful, thank you!

Ok, to get back to the topic of cooking food in private kitchens: What would be the specific requirements for cooking food in private kitchens that you want to sell?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

For private kitchens, there are a few issues that are important in addition to the general terms. When you or your family are ill, for example with diarrhoea or vomiting disease, you shall not work with food. Viruses and bacteria in the environment might be transferred to the food, and cause illness. Pets /domestic animals also represent a risk of contamination if they are allowed access to the rooms where food is prepared or stored.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Ok, so no dogs or cats in the kitchen where you are cooking.

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

(Laughs) Right. And you must also store your private food apart from food for sale. For example, you can use a separate refrigerator or freezer. It is also important that consumers are well informed about the product. You also must list ingredients in the food that can trigger an allergy or intolerance. If you sell online there are more requirements to the labelling. Prepacked food needs more labelling than food that is not prepacked. You can read more about the labelling here.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

You also mentioned when we talked earlier, that there is also some advice on Mattilsynet’s website in other languages than Norwegian?

Oddrun Løkka Swensen | Mattilsynet

Yes, we do have a start-up package on our website. Which contains five different videos with subtitles in several languages: Norwegian, English, Vietnamese, and Arabic. The topics are general start-up information but also a video about food handling and internal control and also a separate video about how to register at Mattilsynet.no

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

I think the start-up package would be interesting to a lot of our tenants. Since we [Paguro] talk to a lot of start-ups and people who just launched their food business, we often encounter a second scenario, that I wanted to bring to the conversation.

Scenario 2: People decide to rent a professional kitchen through our platform and then cook food in it for example a couple of hours a week. For example, Friday to Sunday, because this is when they have time. Their food is then delivered through Foodora and Wolt or other delivery services. What would you advise a business to look for in a kitchen? How does Mattilsynet inspect ghost kitchens?

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

You should make sure that the kitchen is equipped for your needs. For example, there should be enough room for storing cooled and frozen food. You need to have suitable premises. Meaning, that the size, shape, and quality of the premises should be in proportion to your need and well maintained, as Oddrun already said. The kitchen must be fit for purpose and easy to keep clean.

It is also important to have the same routines for cleaning so that it is always as clean as you would like it to be. You should also know which goods belong to which company and to separate them. For example, you can have separate refrigerators. You should clarify who measures temperatures if there is common equipment. So that you always know that the temperature is acceptable. It is important to have good agreements, so that you have the same expectations of what is to be done, and that most things are clarified in advance.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Yes, it sounds like it is very important to have good communication with your co-tenant, the one you are sharing the kitchen with. To have the same expectations also regarding how to keep things clean and on which level you operate.

Does Mattilsynet have a special inspection for ghost kitchens?

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

No, we inspect these businesses like all other professional kitchens. The business is normally inspected during operation hours. If we uncover non-compliance that also apply to the other company, they will also receive a letter about this.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

So, if one kitchen is inspected and there is a non-compliance, it does not matter which company’s fault it was, but both will be considered in this as they share the kitchen?

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

It depends on what the issue is. Because if it is a routine that only the one company has, it will not impact the other business. But if there is something wrong with the kitchen, for example, the kitchen benches and so on, it will be also of interest to the other company.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Because it has an impact on both.

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

Yes.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Just to talk about general trends in the food industry during the pandemic: Do you see a trend of people cooking in their home kitchens?

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

Yes, and we have seen an increasing trend during the epidemic.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Is Mattilsynet currently concerned with these cases?

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

Yes, we have focused on such businesses, and it varies how well the kitchen is suitable for cooking for others. Both in quantity and the type of food. This is a challenging area to supervise.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

I can imagine because people do it at home.

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

Yes. But it is of course allowed to cook at home if you are registered. But many people need more knowledge about the regulation and food hygiene, to make food that is safe to eat. Many people may have a home production as a first step in starting a new business or want to have it as a part-time job.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Yes, that has also been my observation.

Our conversation is coming to an end, so perhaps we can talk a bit about Paguro as a platform. What do you think of the ghost kitchen concept? And us renting out kitchens on our platform? Is that a solution to prevent people from selling food from their home kitchens? Because you said that it is difficult to supervise this area.

Kari Dommarsnes | Mattilsynet

We think it is an advantage that professional cooking can take place in kitchens that are designed for it. They enable you to make larger amounts of food and maintain good hygiene, which is important. It is often beneficial to use a rental kitchen when you are in a start-up phase or for smaller companies.

Helene Timm | Paguro Podcast

Yes, because later a food business might have its own premise but, in the beginning, you need a space to start and to scale from.

Thank you both so much for having this conversation with me and I hope that people will go through the links and inform themselves even more.

Links

Paguro Note: On the Paguro platform all the amenities of a kitchen are listed and described in the announce. The announce will also state if the kitchen has been approved. If you do not want to rent a kitchen alone, you can find a co-tenant at Paguro Community with whom you can rent a kitchen together

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