In October 2009, legislation passed mandating that any person who operates a food processing establishment shall register the establishment annually with the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The application for registration must be accompanied by a registration fee, which varies from $50 to $300 depending on the square footage of the food processing establishment. Even food processing establishments currently licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture must register, but these establishments are not required to pay a registration fee. "Food Processing Establishment" is defined as a premises or part of a premises where food is processed, packaged, manufactured, or otherwise held or handled for distribution to another location or for sale at wholesale. Importantly, this definition includes warehouses. Essentially, if a facility is manufacturing or distributing food for consumers to consume then registration is required.

Registration is required by January 31 of each year and is valid from February 1 through January 31 of the following year. If registration is not completed by January 31, the Department of Agriculture will assess a late fee; however, due to the recent enactment of the registration requirement, no late fees will be assessed this year, especially since the Ohio Department of Agriculture does not anticipate providing facilities with the application to register for one to two more weeks.

Registration is governed by Ohio Rev. Code § 3715.410 which exempts certain manufacturers that are already regulated, such as bakeries, frozen food manufacturers, canneries, bottling plants, syrups and extracts manufacturers, and cold storage facilities. Companies with multiple locations are required to register each location. By way of example, a manufacturer with a satellite warehouse is required to register both facilities with the Ohio Department of Agriculture if the warehouse is not attached to the manufacturing facility.

After completing an application for registration, the Director of Agriculture will then inspect food processing establishments and issue a certificate of registration if the facility is in compliance with Ohio Revised Code Chapters 3715 (pure food and drug law), 911 (bakeries), 913 (canneries; soft drink bottlers), 915 (cold storage), or 925 (eggs, fruits and vegetables). Facilities inspected by the USDA will not be inspected by Director of Agriculture. Once the Director of Agriculture issues a certificate of registration, it must be displayed "conspicuously" in an area in which customers have access, but the Department of Agriculture indicated it is not concerned with exactly where the certificate is displayed.

Many manufacturers contract storage and distribution services out to third-parties. In such instances, manufacturers have no responsibility for these third-parties related to their registration.

Pursuant to the Ohio Department of Agriculture's statutory grant of authority, if the Director determines that an establishment presents an immediate danger to the public health, the Director may issue an order immediately suspending the establishment's registration without affording any opportunity for a hearing. In such instances, a hearing must be conducted within ten (10) days of the date of suspension. Such a hearing must comport with Ohio's Administrative Procedures Act and afford the establishment due process.

This newsletter provides information about issues affecting the food industry.