Making and Distributing Non-Alcoholic Beverage Products in Florida

There’s more to life than alcohol–there’s food and non-alcoholic beverages too. Florida breweries, wineries, and distilleries way want to expand their manufacturing to include non-alcoholic beverages. For example, they may want to product bottled or canned water. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are also becoming increasingly popular. In addition, distributors that mostly deal in alcoholic products may want to distributor non-alcoholic beverages as well, or even food products.

Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors–many of whom are well-versed in the licenses and permits required for making and distributor alcoholic products, and the regulations that are required to keep doing so–may be surprised to learn that there is a separate Florida permit required for dealing in non-alcoholic beverages and food. More surprising, perhaps, is that the regulations that govern the handling of non-alcoholic products is much more stringent than it is for alcohol.

Applying for the Wholesale/Manufactured Food Establishment Permit

Before producing or distributing non-alcoholic beverages or food–including water–the operator must have the Wholesale/Manufactured Food Establishment Permit issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The same permit is required for both producers and distributors. In addition, the same permit is required for those handling non-alcoholic beverages and food products that contain CBD or other hemp extracts, but the filing fees are different.

For alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors, having come through the state and federal permitting processes, the processing of applying for a food establishment permit is much less complicated. Ultimate, the permit is applied for online via the FDACS Food Permit Center. The permit application itself requires only limited information about the applicant and the establishment (that is, the place where non-alcoholic beverages and food will be handled). The key information required to be included with the application includes the following:

  • Confirmation that the establishment is supplied by a municipal or public water system or onsite well system approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or Florida Department of Health (DOH).
  • Confirmation that the establishment is serviced by a municipal or public sewer system or an approved onsite wastewater or septic system.
  • Identification of the point of contact for the FDACS’s scheduling of an inspection of the establishment.

Passing the Food Establishment Inspection

While the application for a food establishment permit is easier than for alcohol licenses, the required inspection is not. The pre-permitting inspection of a non-alcoholic beverage establishment is the focal point of this process, because food safety is the focal point of state and federal food regulations (for alcoholic beverages, the focal point is the reporting and payment of excise taxes).

Before a new food establishment permit is issued, FDACS must confirm by inspection that the establishment complies with Florida Food Establishment Minimum Construction Standards. The inspection is generally scheduled within two weeks after the food establishment permit application has filed. At this inspection, a Florida food Safety Inspector will ask the establishment’s point-of-contact for a walkthrough aimed at confirming that the construction and equipment of the establishment as well as the processes demonstrated at the establishment are compliance with Florida food safety laws and regulations. The Inspector will ultimately make a recommendation to issue the permit or to require certain actions to be taken before the permit can be issued.

Because the onsite inspection is such a key part of the food establishment permitting process, applicants may want to take some precautions to make sure the inspection will go well. Prior to applying for the food establishment permit, an applicant can submit a Plan Review Application to get pre-approval from FDACS.

FDA Registration is Also Required

Establishments that are producing or warehousing non-alcoholic beverages and food products must also be registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, FDA registration is required for alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors as well, so this should not be a new requirement for a plant or warehouse that already handles alcoholic products. See Brewers’ Law 101: Federal FDA Food Facility Registration.

After Permitting, Compliance with Florida and Federal Food Safety and Labeling Regulations are Key

Under both federal and state law, Florida food establishments must exercise good manufacturing practices and preventive controls to reduce or eliminate food safety hazards. These are practices and controls that generally are not required for alcoholic beverage products.

Florida regulations incorporate the rules under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that relate to manufacturing practice, hazard analysis, and risk-based preventive controls. This means that complying with Florida’s food safety regulations will in most cases mean compliance with the FDA’s regulations. FDACS provides quite a lot of detailed information about these rules through its Wholesale/Manufactured Food Program.

Federal labeling rules also apply to all non-alcoholic beverage and food products. The FDA provides detailed information about Food Labeling & Nutrition.

Do you have questions about Florida’s wholesale/manufactured food establishment permit or regulations? Contact us to schedule a consultation with a beverage attorney.

Because we’re attorneys: Disclaimer. Posted September 18, 2022.

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