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

Maine Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the home food processor rules: 1980

In Maine, cottage food processors are called "Home food processors"

Which foods are subject to the Maine Cottage Food law?

A home food processor license allows you to make non-perishable food products (foods that do not require refrigeration or freezing) and are considered shelf-stable foods in your home kitchen

Allowed foods include:

  • Jams, jellies,
  • pickles, relishes,
  • sauces, applesauce
  • marinades,
  • most candies and confections
  • baked goods (except for finished baked goods with butter/cream cheese frostings or custard fillings or require refrigeration)

Some foods require lab testing (see testing requirements, below): Acidified foods need to be tested by UMaine. You must buy an accurate pH meter to test batches of your food product. Acidified foods need to be tested 24 hours after production and the equilibrium pH of each batch documented in your records.

Prohibited foods

Ppressure canned low-acid canned foods made in a home kitchen are not allows for sale in Maine.

Examples:

  • Low-acid canned foods, such as green beans, corn and carrots,
  • Foods that are perishable if not refrigerated.
  • Dried meats and meat products

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 food processor"

Licensing

A Maine food license is required to sell any food product in Maine. There are two types of food license:

  1. home food processor or
  2. commercial food processor license.

Food license applications can be obtained online from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, Quality Assurance and Regulations: Licenses and Permit Forms.

If your water source is from a well, the license application will also require a water test for bacteria coliforms, nitrates and nitrites.
See Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory certified laboratories list.

Home inspection: a home kitchen inspection by the Division of Quality Assurance & Regulations is required. For more information seeMaine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry: Maine Food Inspections.

 

Note: Sixteen towns in Maine have their own laws that removed the state food licensing requirement, see the story here.

 

Food product testing requirements

Some home-produced food products require testing be performed by the state.  These include:

  • jams and jellies that have combinations of fruit,
  • jams and jellies that do not contain fruit (wine, spice or pepper jellies)
  • Most all canned or bottled shelf stable foods, such as acidified canned foods (pickles, salsas, marinades, dressings),
  • dessert sauces (caramel/chocolate sauces),
  • dehydrated fruit and/or vegetable products with minimal processing

 After you have sent in your food product sample (with the application) a letter is sent back with your test results and an individualized, comprehensive review that will include suggestions on how you can improve your food product and/or process if it does not meet certain guidelines.

A typical food test includes:

  • water activity (aw); to determine the amount of "free" water in baked and other foods available to support bacterial growth;
  • pH; to measure the acidity of pickled foods and salsa (most bacteria will not grow in acidic foods and reduces the risk of botulism; Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that can produce botulism does not grow below this pH);
  • Brix; to determine the concentration of dissolved sugars in jams, jellies, and syrups and dessert sauces;
  • titratable acidity; to measure the actual amount of acids in vinegars or fermented foods; and
  • water phase salt; to determine the percentage of salt in smoked or dried seafood and fish products.

How to send in a product for testing; see: Resource: UMaine Extension's food testing website

If you have questions on submitting a sample, see:

Beth Calder

Phone: 207-581-2791

Email: [email protected]

Jason Bolton

Phone: 207-581-1366

Email: [email protected].

Maine sample home food procssor labelLabeling 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.

All processed packaged foods bear a label stating the

  • name and address of the manufacturer/processor preparing the food,
  • common name of the food,
  • name of all the ingredients in the food in descending order of predominance by weight.
  • the net weight of the food in English or metric units.

It is recommended that honey manufacturers/processors include this additional statement to their product label: "Honey is not recommended for infants less than twelve (12) months of age".

Here is a free Microsoft Word label template which you can download and edit.  These labels are already formatted to fit on Avery Template 22820  Print-to-the-Edge Oval, Labels 2" x 3-1/3", 8 per Sheet, Glossy White. You can get the label stock online (see at right). 

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. You may see that the sample label does not include a "nutrional panel" (calories, fat, protein, vitamins, etc.) . This is because if you sell (in the U.S. only) fewer than 10,000 units and hire fewer than 10 full-time employees yearly; you do not have to have a nutrition panel on your label, nor file a small business nutritional labeling exemption notice with the FDA.

Where may Cottage Food (Home processor) Operations sell the food products?

Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.  In other words,  only be sold within the state - unless you follow applicable federal rules. They may be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced, delivered or picked up. They may also be sold through grocery stores, online, farm markets, church bake sales and other events, school sales, and sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant.

Other requirements

  • Individuals can only sell their products directly to consumers, (that allows sales from home and at events)
  • Cottage food operations can sell up to $50,000 of products per year.
  • A new billHB 410 went into effect on August 28th, 2017, allows onlne sales

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. And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
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.

More resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

  • Steve Giguere, Maine Department of Agriculture, Quality Assurance and Regulations
    Phone: 207.287.3841
    Email: [email protected].
  • Beth Calder
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone:
    207.581.2791.