The Oregon Department of Agriculture recently launched its newly-redesigned website (http://www.oregon.gov/ODA). The new site, which contains plenty of valuable information for food entrepreneurs, is a vast improvement over the old site. ODA is the state agency that is responsible for regulating the production, processing, and distribution of food products in Oregon. That makes getting acquainted with the ODA website a good “first step” for anyone considering launching a food product business.

The Department of Ag manages all sorts of agriculture-related regulatory matters. To get information specifically for food processing, go to the section on Food Safety at http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Pages/AboutFoodSafety.aspx. This is where you’ll find information on licensing, inspections, and a variety of other resources that food entrepreneurs need to have for launching and operating a food product business.

I encourage anyone who is in the planning stages of their business to make contact with the ODA Food Safety Specialist in their area. Food Safety Specialists (commonly called Food Inspectors) are assigned by geographic location and according to the type of business. To find out who the inspector is for your business, click on “Find my Local Food Inspector” and type in the zip code for your location. You can narrow your search by selecting from one of the business types. ODA inspectors are specialists in one or more of the following areas: dairy plants, dairy farms, seafood, shellfish processing, retail stores, meat, and bakeries.

ODA inspectors can provide a wealth of information to help you plan your operation, produce your products safely, and understand what licenses you will need.

And be sure to check out the resources section. ODA has many valuable and interesting documents available for download as well as links to other websites that are guaranteed to be a huge help as you move forward.

Be sure to check out the new ODA website. It's a great source of information for those in the food product business and to anyone who might be considering becoming a food entrepreneur.