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Colorado Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Colorado

Colorado Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the Colorado cottage food law: March 15, 2012

Which foods are subject to the Colorado Cottage Food law?

Cottage food producers may make and sell foods that are non-potentially hazardous, or in other words, do not require refrigeration for safety. This includes pickled fruits and vegetables with a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below, , including candies, fruit  Up to 250 dozen whole eggs per month may also be sold.Foods that qualify under the Colorado cottage food law include:

  • Whole Eggs
  • Spices
  • Teas
  • Dehydrated Produce
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Honey
  • Jams, Jellies and Preserves
  • Fruit Butter
  • Candies
  • Certain Baked Goods
  • Empanadas, tortillas
  • and other similar products that do not require refrigeration for safety.

Prohibited foods

Foods not allowed under the Colorado cottage food law include

  • Fresh or dried meat or meat productsincluding jerky
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, flavored oils, salsas, etc.
  • Fish and shellfish products
  • Canned pickled products (corn relish and pickles)
  • Raw seed sprouts
  • Baked goods such as cream, custard or meringue pies and cakes or pastries with cream cheese icing or fillings
  • Milk and dairy products including hard or soft cheeses and yogurt
  • Cut fresh fruits and vegetables or juices made from these ingredients
  • Ice and ice products
  • Barbeque sauces, ketchups, mayonnaise, mustards
  • Foccaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses
  • Ready to drink brewed coffee (beverages)
  • Pepper jelly (jalapeño, habanero)
  • Pumpkin butter
  • Fresh or dehydrated pasta
  • Oils or vinegars, including flavored or infused

 

If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage Food, you may still be able to make and sell it commercially, through a startup approach.  See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do not meet the Cottage Food definition.

Definitions:

  • Home - Means a primary residence occupied by the producer producing the food allowed by the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.
  • Non-potentially Hazardous - Means any food or beverage that, when stored under normal conditions without refrigeration, will not support the rapid and progressive growth of microorganisms that cause food infections or food intoxications. Does not include low-acid or acidified foods.
  • Producer - Means a person who is a resident of Colorado and who prepares non-potentially hazardous foods in a home kitchen or similar venue for sale directly to consumers

LicensingSample Colorado cottage food label

Cottage food operations require no license or permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and are not inspected by any state or local government entity.

Labeling requirements

Cottage Food Production Operations must label all of their food products properly, which includes specified information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale. A cottage food operation may only sell cottage food products which are offered  with a label containing the following information (printed in English):

  • The identification of the cottage food product;
  • The producer's name and the address at which the cottage food was produced;
  • The producer's current phone number or email address;
  • The date on which the food was produced;
  • A complete list of ingredients; and
  • The following statement: “
    This product was produced in a home kitchen that is not subject to state licensure or inspection and that may also process common food allergens such as tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, milk, fish and crustacean shellfish. This product is not intended for resale. ”

A sample Colorado label is shown at right and may assist with developing your cottage food product label.

Depending on the size of your business, your label must comply with Federal label regulations and with the new nutritional labeling law. You can download a copy of the FDA Food Labeling Guide here it s an illustrated booklet that should answer all your questions.

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

Cottage Food Products  may only be sold directly to the consumer . They may not be sold across state lines.  In other words,  only be sold within the state. You can sell your products

  • from your home,
  • at your residential roadside stand,
  • through a CSA,
  • at a farmers' market.
  • on the internet (the method of direct product delivery to consumer may not involve interstate commerce. - in other words, over the internet to consumers IN Colorado)

Note: sales or providing cottage foods to grocery stores or other retail food establishments is prohibited.

Whole eggs

Whole fresh eggs are a special case in Colorado.

  • Type of shell eggs can be sold - Chicken, quail, duck, and turkey eggs.
  • Number of eggs sold - the number sold cannot exceed 250 dozen per month. If a producer sells more than 250 dozen shells eggs per month, then a license is required.
  • Labeling - Eggs must be handled and labeled in accordance with the requirements outlined in Section 35-21-105 CRS
  • Information required on egg cartons - The address at which the eggs originated and the packaging date. Additionally,any eggs not treated for salmonella must also include the following statement on the package:
    "Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook any foods containing eggs thoroughly. These eggs do not come from a government-approved source."
  • Cartons - New, clean and unused egg cartons must be used.
  • Storage temperature - Eggs should be maintained at 41°F or below.

For chicken eggs, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture at (303) 477-0076. For all other types of shell eggs, contact our Manufactured Food Program at (303) 692-3645, option 2.

Other requirements

  • Annual sales limit -  Net sales for each product produced by a cottage food operation must not exceed $5,000 annually. Of course, you may may different products (like different flavors) and the cap applies only to each flavor, not the toal of the different products.
  • Only direct to consumer sales - Products must be sold directly by the cottage food operator to the end consumer. Sales by consignment or to retail food or wholesale food establishments are prohibited.
  • Training - The Colorado Cottage Foods Act requires “producers to take a food safety course that includes basic food handling training and is comparable to, or is a course given by, the Colorado State University Extension Service or a state, county, or district public health agency, and must maintain a status of good standing in accordance with the course requirements, including attending any additional classesif  necessary. Safe food handling courses should include topics on safe food sources, personal hygiene, sanitation of equipment, worker illness, food temperature control, safe water, sewage disposal, pest control, proper hand washing, and control of toxics. Contact the CSU Extension Service or your local public health agency, who may offer this training.
  • Complaints - If your cottage food operation is the subject of a complaint, you must allow a state or local public health employee in your cottage food operation to conduct an inspection. The employee will inspect your cottage food operation to determine compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. If, as a cottage food producer, you produce foods that are not allowed by the provision of the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, the State or local public health agency has the authority to embargo and/or condemn the product in question. Since the production of foods not allowed under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act would require a license and a commercial facility, a local public health agency may use the enforcement provisions of the Food Protection Act to obtain compliance.

Recommendations:

Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.

Testing of pH

​It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive.
Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper's range includes a pH of 4.6.

Record-keeping is suggested

Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:

  • ​Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
  • Amount canned and sold
  • Canning date
  • Sale dates and locations
  • Gross sales receipts
  • Results of any pH test

Sanitation

Although iInspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:

  • ​Use clean equipment that has been effectively sanitized prior to use
  • Clean work surfaces and then sanitize with bleach water before and after use
  • Keep ingredients separate from other unprocessed foods
  • Keep household pets out of the work area
  • Keep walls and floors clean
  • Have adequate lighting
  • Keep window and door screens in good repair to keep insects out
  • Wash hands frequently while working
  • Consider annual testing of water if using a private well

Best Practices

  • Allergans:  Most state home baking acts require an “ingredient statement” and/or an “allergen listing” on the label of the bakery item for sale; but if your state does not, you should anyway. The eight major food allergens are
    • milk,
    • eggs,
    • fish,
    • crustacean shellfish,
    • tree nuts,
    • peanuts,
    • wheat and
    • soybean.
  • Cross-allergenicity: There are also ingredients available, even flours, that can cause a cross-allergenicity. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology explains cross-allergenicity as an allergic reaction when proteins in one substance are similar to the proteins found in another substance. For example, consumption of lupine flour may trigger an allergic reaction to peanuts, and cricket flour may trigger an allergic reaction to shellfish. Again, providing such information might be a beneficial marketing tool and help keep potential consumers safe.
  • The 2 Hour/4 Hour Rule -  Anyone wishing to make and sell refrigerated bakery items should remember to follow the “2 Hour/4 Hour Rule.” This is a system that can be implemented when potentially hazardous foods are out of temperature control (temperatures greater than 45 degrees Fahrenheit) during preparation, serving or display for sale. The rule guidelines are as follows:
    • If a potentially hazardous food has been out of temperature control for 2 hours or less, then it may continue to be used or be placed back in the refrigerator.
    • If a potentially hazardous food has been out of temperature control for more than 2 hours but less than 4 hours, it needs to be used quickly or discarded.
    • If a potentially hazardous food has been out of temperature control for more than 4 hours, it must be discarded.

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