Licensing Requirements For Food Producers In Wisconsin

Starting a food business in Wisconsin? You’re not alone. Licensing requirements are set by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (ATCP). This article breaks down what you need to know to get started and stay compliant.

Stay informed, keep reading.

Key Takeaways

  • Food producers in Wisconsin need to get a license from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. They also have to follow zoning laws.
  • Different types of food businesses like bakeries, commercial kitchens, and food trucks require specific licenses that match their operations.
  • Licenses expire on March 31 every year. Food producers must renew them on time and pay fees that depend on the size and type of their business.
  • To start a food business, owners must register their company, get an EIN for taxes, and make sure they meet health and safety standards.
  • State and federal regulations guide how food is safely produced and sold. Staying updated with these laws helps avoid legal issues.

Understanding Licensing Requirements for Food Producers in Wisconsin

Navigating the licensing requirements for food producers in Wisconsin involves business registration, zoning law compliance, and sector-specific licensing. The process also includes understanding financial and tax considerations as well as regulations for specific entities and individuals.

Business Registration and Entity Formation

Starting a food-based business in Wisconsin means registering your company with the state. You must decide on a business entity such as sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability companies (LLCs), or corporations.

Each type has its own benefits and legal protections. For LLCs and corporations, you need to file articles of organization or incorporation with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

This step creates your legal entity.

Next, you should obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes. The EIN acts like a social security number for your business, allowing you to hire employees, open bank accounts, and pay taxes.

With these foundational steps complete, focusing on specific licensing requirements becomes crucial.

Compliance with Zoning Laws

Food producers in Wisconsin must follow zoning laws before setting up shop. These laws differ from one city or county to another. They make sure your food business is in the right area.

This could be away from homes or near other businesses. Check the local rules to see where you can open your food production site.

Zoning laws also look at kitchen layout and waste disposal plans. They ensure your operations don’t harm the environment or bother neighbors. After meeting these requirements, food producers can focus on sector-specific licensing.

Sector-Specific Licensing

Different food producers need different licenses in Wisconsin. For example, those running commercial kitchens or catering services must get a specific license that shows they meet health and safety standards.

This includes having proper food storage, hygiene practices, and making sure kitchens are away from living areas to avoid contamination. The rules are clear: if you make or handle food, your setup needs to follow state guidelines.

Getting the right sector-specific license involves understanding what kind of food service you’re offering – whether it’s a bakery, ghost kitchen, or food truck. Each has its own set of requirements for ventilation systems, refrigerators, and even lighting.

With licenses expiring on March 31 every year and varying fees based on your operations size and type, staying ahead is crucial. Next up is how to tackle the initial registration process smoothly.

Navigating the Licensing Application and Renewal Process

Navigating licensing applications and renewals involves understanding the initial registration process, acquiring a registered agent and EIN, as well as meeting renewal requirements.

Business owners should also consider financial obligations such as sales tax and license fees.

Initial Registration Process

Starting the registration process for a food production license in Wisconsin is straightforward. First, you need to know where to begin.

  1. Choose a Business Type: Decide on the structure of your business. This could be a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. Each type has different registration requirements.
  2. Register Your Business Name: If your food production business will operate under a name different from your own, you must register this with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
  3. Fill Out the Application: Complete the license application form provided by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Make sure all information is accurate and up-to-date.
  4. Pay License Fees: Determine the appropriate license fee for your operation based on your annual production volume and type of processing activities. Fees range from $95 to $835.
  5. Address Sanitation Standards: Ensure that your facility meets sanitation standards. Floors, walls, ceilings, and ventilation have to comply with state regulations to maintain a hygienic environment.
  6. Understand Exemptions: Review ATCP 70.06 to check if your business might qualify for any exemptions from licensing requirements.
  7. Submit Surcharge if Necessary: Add a $100 surcharge if you operated without a license within one year before submitting this application.
  8. Wait for Approval: After submitting your application and fees, expect a response within 30 business days. The department may issue temporary licenses while finalizing their decision.

Following these steps carefully ensures that you start your food production business in Wisconsin legally and successfully.

Registered Agent and EIN Acquisition

To navigate the licensing application and renewal process, food producers in Wisconsin must acquire a Registered Agent and Employer Identification Number (EIN). Here’s what you need to know:

  1. A Registered Agent ensures that your business complies with state regulations and receives important legal documents.
  2. Acquiring an EIN is essential for tax purposes and establishing your business as a legal entity.
  3. Your Registered Agent can be an individual within the company or a professional service authorized to do business in Wisconsin.
  4. The EIN is obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and acts as the identification number for your business.
  5. Both the Registered Agent and EIN are crucial steps in ensuring compliance with licensing requirements.

Ensuring compliance with these steps is vital before embarking on any food production venture in Wisconsin.

Next, let’s delve into understanding sales tax obligations for food producers in Wisconsin.

Renewal Requirements and Timing

Renewal requirements and timing for food processing plant licenses in Wisconsin:

  1. Licenses expire on March 31 annually, requiring timely renewal.
  2. Renewal applications must be submitted ahead of the expiration date to avoid lapses in licensure.
  3. The department processes renewal applications within 30 business days, ensuring timely action.
  4. Compliance with renewal deadlines is crucial to maintain legal standing and operational continuity.
  5. Variances may exist in the renewal timelines based on specific licensing types or sectors.
  6. Stay informed about any changes in renewal procedures by accessing resources from state departments.
  7. Non – compliance with renewal requirements can lead to disruptions in food production and sales operations.
  8. Prioritize understanding the financial implications of renewal fees and their impact on business operations.

Financial and Tax Considerations

Understanding sales tax obligations is crucial for food producers in Wisconsin. For more information on this topic, read the full blog post.

Understanding Sales Tax Obligations

Food producers in Wisconsin must adhere to sales tax obligations. This means collecting, reporting, and remitting sales taxes on taxable items sold within the state. It is a crucial aspect of financial compliance for businesses in the realm of food production and distribution.

Wisconsin provides a wholesale license for businesses involved in bulk sales primarily to retailers or other merchants, emphasizing the importance of understanding and upholding these obligations.

– Business Registration

– Entity Formation

License and Application Fees

Food producers in Wisconsin must be aware of the licensing and application fees associated with their operations. Annual food processing plant licenses are a requirement, with fees varying based on annual production and type of food processing.

Operators engaged in canning operations with annual food sales exceeding $25,000 are subject to an additional license fee surcharge of $320, while unlicensed operation within one year prior to application incurs a $100 surcharge.

These fees should be budgeted for to ensure compliance and smooth operation.

Regulations for Specific Entities and Individuals

Specific entities and individuals in Wisconsin have unique licensing requirements. To learn more about these regulations, delve into the details of licensing for your specific business needs.

Corporate Officers and Directors

Corporate officers and directors play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with food production licensing requirements in Wisconsin. They are required to maintain on-site and provide the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (ATCP) with all necessary approvals, variances, waivers, plans, and licenses related to plant operation.

Furthermore, they must ensure that the annual license fee is based on the specific type of food processing operations conducted.

It’s important to note that under Wisconsin law, corporate officers and directors are accountable for obtaining an annual license from ATCP for their food production facilities. This includes promptly submitting complete application forms provided by the department along with applicable fees.

Requirements for Individuals and Firms

Individuals and firms must adhere to annual food processing plant licensing requirements, which expire on March 31 each year. Additionally, companies distributing wholesale drugs in Wisconsin are mandated to obtain a license from the Wisconsin Board of Pharmacy.

This involves an application process, fees, and passing a board inspection. It is essential for food producers in Wisconsin to start a commercial kitchen and ensure understanding of necessary licenses and permits tailored towards their business entities to operate legally within ever-evolving environmental regulations and standards set by the state legislature.

Special Considerations for Non-profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations distributing wholesale drugs in Wisconsin must obtain a license from the Wisconsin Board of Pharmacy. If associated with food production, they should consult their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor for specific licensing requirements.

Non-profit organizations using a commercial kitchen in Wisconsin need to comply with health and safety regulations and obtain various permits such as a Food Handler’s License, Seller’s Permit, Catering Business License, and Food Facility Health Permit.

They also have to adhere to kitchen layout requirements, ventilation and fire safety measures imposed by the state. Compliance with these standards is crucial for non-profits operating catering services, food manufacturing facilities, event halls, or institutional kitchens in the state.

Additional Compliance and Legal Requirements

Understand state and federal regulations. Disclose convictions and pending charges.

Navigating State and Federal Regulations

Navigating State and Federal Regulations:

  1. Compliance with federal regulations such as the FDA’s food safety requirements is mandatory for food producers in Wisconsin.
  2. Operators need to adhere to state environmental standards for waste management and adherence to OSHA safety training.
  3. Executive orders regarding environmental laws and legislative council guidelines must be followed by all food producers in Wisconsin.
  4. Understanding the ever – evolving Wisconsin state legislature is crucial for compliance with state regulations.
  5. Producers should stay informed about industry – specific updates, such as 2017 Wisconsin Act 319, which may impact licensing requirements.

Disclosures of Convictions and Pending Charges

Food producers in Wisconsin must disclose any convictions or pending charges related to food safety regulations when applying for a license, as it’s essential for maintaining compliance with the law. Here are key points regarding these disclosures:

  1. The Department of Agriculture may deny, suspend, or revoke a license if an applicant or licensee has been convicted of violating food safety laws.
  2. Applicants for wholesale drug distribution licenses are subject to review by the Wisconsin Board of Pharmacy concerning convictions or pending charges.
  3. Failure to disclose convictions may result in denial of a license or disciplinary action from relevant authorities.
  4. Pre – license inspections aim to ensure compliance with food safety laws, including a review of criminal history.
  5. Information about convictions is required on applications for food processing plant licenses.
  6. Operators engaged in canning operations with annual sales over $25,000 must also disclose any relevant convictions during the licensing process.

Understanding these requirements helps ensure full compliance and smooth processing of your application.

Now let’s delve into the resources and assistance available to aid you in navigating the licensing process effectively.

Resources and Assistance

Find local licenses and permits, state departments and resources, as well as commercial transportation licensing. Access assistance for navigating through the complexities of food production regulations in Wisconsin.

Local Licenses and Permits

  1. Local licenses and permits are essential for food producers in Wisconsin to operate within specific municipalities.
  2. These licenses and permits may include health department approvals, zoning variances, environmental health permits, and fire department clearances.
  3. Operators must adhere to local regulations on waste management, food preparation, storage, and signage.
  4. Depending on the location, businesses may need special permits for outdoor seating, alcohol sales, or food truck operations.
  5. Compliance with local ordinances is crucial when installing equipment such as freezers, skylights, ventilation systems or trash and drain facilities.
  6. Food establishments should also consider waste disposal permits and licenses related to construction or renovation projects.
  7. Additionally, there may be requirements regarding illumination, parking facilities, or noise restrictions imposed by local authorities.

State Departments and Resources

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (ATCP) oversees licensing requirements for food producers in Wisconsin. Here are the main state departments and resources relevant to licensing for food producers:

  1. Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)
  • Provides guidance on food safety regulations
  • Offers information on organic certification
  • Ensures compliance with health codes
  • Provides resources on food establishment licensing
  • Offers one-on-one consulting services for new businesses
  • Provides assistance with business planning and financing
  • Offers resources for business development and expansion
  • Provides information on financial incentives and grants

Knowing these state departments and resources can help food producers navigate the licensing process more effectively.

Next, let’s delve into “Commercial Transportation Licensing” as part of the outlines above.

Commercial Transportation Licensing

  • Wisconsin’s food producers need commercial transportation licensing for legal adherence within the state’s regulatory environment.
  • Commercial transportation licensing ensures the safe and legal transport of food products within Wisconsin.
  • Proper licensing upholds quality control and safe delivery to market by businesses operating heavy or commercial vehicles.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) provides resources and assistance for understanding and complying with these requirements.

Next, we’ll delve into “Industry-Specific Updates and Changes”.

Industry-Specific Updates and Changes

Discover the impact of 2017 Wisconsin Act 319 and its implications for food producers in the state. Explore how new business ventures are shaping the industry landscape.

2017 Wisconsin Act 319 and Implications

In 2017, Wisconsin Act 319 was enacted, impacting food producers. The Act requires compliance with federal regulations and specific state health and safety standards. This includes FDA registration as well as adhering to annual licensing requirements which expire on March 31st each year.

The Department commits to granting or denying a license application within 30 business days upon receiving a complete one, ensuring streamlined processing for food producers.

This legislation underscores the need for proactive adherence to federal and state regulations by food producers in Wisconsin. It underlines the importance of maintaining proper FDA registration while also understanding and meeting the state’s health and safety standards for continued operation within the industry landscape.

New Business Ventures

Starting a new business venture in the food industry involves understanding the annual licensing requirements and renewal processes. Wisconsin law mandates that annual licenses for food processing plant operators are necessary and expire on March 31 every year.

Moreover, businesses engaged in canning operations with over $25,000 in annual food sales have to pay an additional $320 surcharge on top of the license fee. Before issuing a license, the Department may also conduct a pre-license inspection of a food processing plant to ensure compliance with regulations.

These factors are crucial when embarking on new business ventures in this ever-evolving realm.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How often do food processing plant licenses need to be renewed in Wisconsin?
  • Annual licenses expire on March 31 of each year.
  • The annual license fee varies based on annual production and the type of food processing operations.
  • The department must grant or deny a license application within 30 business days after receiving a complete application.
  • Food processing areas must be separated from other operations to prevent contamination, and processing cannot be conducted in living or sleeping quarters.
  • Yes, requirements include selling only to other processors for further processing, gross receipts totaling less than $5,000, and maintaining written records of sales.


To sum up, understanding and complying with licensing requirements for food producers in Wisconsin is crucial. Proper registration, adherence to zoning laws, and sector-specific licensing are essential steps.

Navigating the application process, meeting financial obligations, and staying updated with industry changes is vital for a successful food production venture. With the right resources and assistance, businesses can ensure compliance while focusing on growth.

Keeping in mind the importance of sanitation and adherence to regulations will lead to a thriving food production business in Wisconsin.


1. What do I need to start a food truck in Wisconsin?

To start a food truck, you must follow Wisconsin’s licensing requirements, which include ServSafe certification for servers and specific business practices related to food safety, like proper handling of baked goods and managing food waste.

2. Can I run a bakery from my home in Wisconsin?

Yes, you can run a bakery from your home if you meet the state’s licensing rules. This includes regulations on kitchen cleanliness, packaging of your products, and how you manage inventory.

3. Are ghost kitchens legal in Wisconsin?

Ghost kitchens or virtual kitchens are legal in Wisconsin. They still have to follow health codes like any other food service establishment including having the right filters in drains and maintaining clean environments for preparing menu items.

4. Do I pay taxes for online ordering sales from my virtual kitchen?

Yes, all sales made through online ordering from your virtual kitchen are subject to use tax in Wisconsin. It’s important to keep track of these transactions as part of your business practices.

5. What licenses do chefs need to open a restaurant partnership or close corporation in Wisconsin?

Chefs looking to open a restaurant as either partnerships or close corporations need several licenses including those related to safe food handling (ServSafe), facility inspections ensuring places like nursing homes where they might serve have proper medical device standards met, and compliance with local health codes regarding prescription drugs if applicable.

6. How does selling prescription drug-themed baked goods affect my licensing requirements?

Selling prescription drug-themed baked goods requires careful consideration under both state licensing laws and federal regulations concerning medical devices and drugs representation within foods served by bakeries or restaurants; it is crucial that such themes comply with all relevant laws.


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