may be communal space in a restaurant
kitchen, a church, or a firehouse. In all
instances, it must comply with the local,
state, and federal sanitary regulations.
With the demand for unique, local,
and artisanal food on the rise in the
U.S., the popularity and need for incubator kitchens has also increased. There
are many resources and forums available
to help this growing, diverse community understand food safety regulations.
These resources include The Food Incubation Summit4 and The Food-Corridor©. 5
In many cases, shared-kitchen owners
also provide small business assistance,
including help with marketing, packaging, and labeling products, as well as legal assistance regarding food processing
licenses, permits, and/or registrations.
Shared kitchens are not a new innovative and creative concept; they were
in use in the early 1900s. During this
time, community canneries were established and continued to operate through
the Depression, with over 132 canneries operating simultaneously. In 1936,
North Carolina alone had 579 canning
centers and 971 other food preservation
centers during the Great Depression
era. 6 The goals of these centers were to
ensure food security, teach families to
save their own surplus food produced
in gardens, and to can as many quarts
of food as possible. Although the goals
may have changed, the concept and the
need for food safety measures have not.
The shared-kitchen owner, the
shared-kitchen operator, and the regula-
tor are all responsible for protecting
public health. Each entity must conform
to regulations, Standard Operating Pro-
cedures (SOPs), and policies to ensure
each product is appropriately labeled
and safe for consumers. As of 2017, only
two states had regulating agencies with
regulations geared to shared kitchens:
While researching these two selling platforms, the intern found 400 posts that in-
volved selling food. The Facebook Marketplace is a virtual farmers market. Anyone
can sell products, and anyone can buy products. The marketplace accounted for 82
percent of the food sales on Facebook, and the number of people this could reach
is endless. After a screening process, the intern was accepted into 35 buy/sell/trade
groups throughout Kansas, and these 35 private groups were visible by over 500,000
people and accounted for just over 18 percent of the food sales on Facebook.
Looking at food sales and matching them to KDA licensing risk categories, we
• 45.3% of the foods being sold were high-risk foods like entrées, meats, and sea-
• 41.3% were medium-risk foods, including canned goods, eggs, and dairy.
• 13.3% were low-risk foods, mainly produce and baked goods.
The Food Safety and Lodging Program promotes public safety by regulating the
production and sale of food products in Kansas. Even though it is a regulatory program, it promotes businesses and their growth. Program officials want to show the
public that the program wants to see them succeed and that it is here to help them
do that. Program officials believe that the program needs to share its message by giving those individuals and establishments the tools and education needed to keep the
public safe from foodborne illness.
With this in mind, a number of messages were created to walk the fine line between education and regulation. Program officials wanted to give the information
necessary to produce safe food and then work toward licensing and inspecting facilities instead of just having the heavy hand and shutting down these producers of
food. In addition to these messages, the program created a page on the KDA website
with the locations and contact information for all the incubator kitchens that have
been inspected by the program to give an additional option for having a place to
produce their food.
The next phase of this project was to find a way to contact the sellers of these
food products through direct messages on Facebook. The goal was to work with the
sellers and not to call them out in an open forum. The first idea was to create a fake
account on Facebook so the program could start the direct messages. This is when
the agency attorneys got involved and pointed out that this was in direct violation
of Facebook rules. The argument that everyone else does it didn’t pass legal review.
Legal also noted that program officials were trying to provide information to people
breaking the food safety law in Kansas by also breaking the rules of Facebook.
It remains a challenge to provide guidance to Facebook food vendors to sell safe
and inspected food while complying with Facebook user community standards.
Shared-Use Kitchens Make for “Shared” Food Safety Challenges
An incubator or shared-use kitchen (shared kitchen) is a space designed to provide multiple entrepreneurial food processors access to food processing equipment,
allowing processors the opportunity to start up or grow their business with less start-up capital and continuing overhead.
A shared-kitchen space is typically rented space in a commercial setting and
comes in a variety of forms. It may be a designated commercial shared kitchen, or it
“And there’s no telling what the future
might bring to foodservice.”