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

Maryland Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the Maryland cottage food law: 2012

Under the cottage food law, there are certain types of low risk food products that may be produced and sold out of your home kitchen with no inspection or licensing requirements.

Maryland's Cottage Food Business Law of 2012 established requirements with regard to cottage food businesses (i.e., businesses that produce or package cottage food products in a residential kitchen for annual revenues of up to $25,000 from the sale of those products).  In addition, the owner must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products. A cottage food business in compliance with these requirements is not required to be licensed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Products that may be produce under the Cottage Food Industry law include High acid fruit jams and jellies,  Non-potentially hazardous baked goods, Hard candy and Honey.

Which foods are subject to the Maryland Cottage Food law?

Only food products that are non-potentially hazardous fall into the cottage food category. A “cottage food product” is a nonhazardous food that is sold at a farmer's market or public event.

Examples of Allowable Foods that may be produced under COMAR 10.15.03.27

  •  Non-potentially hazardous baked goods [bagels, pastries, brownies, breads, cakes, pies, such as
    •  Pies, turnovers, and fruit tarts from fruits with a natural pH of 4.6 or less
    •  Baked goods with a water activity of .85 or less, such as
      • Baked bread, biscuits, and muffins
      • Cakes and cupcakes
  •  High-acid fruit jams, preserves and jellies [Made only from Oranges, Nectarines, tangerines, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, cranberries, strawberries, red currants, or another fruit mixture that produces an acid-canned product at 4.6 pH or less.]
  • Fruit butters  [Made only from apples, apricots, grapes, peaches, plums, prunes, quince, or another fruit that produces an acid-canned product at 4.6 pH or less]
  • Natural Honey [Unflavored and without any processing or additives;
  • Hard candy [made in a home kitchen that does not require further refrigeration, such as lollipops, gummy bears, or fruit leathers with a natural pH of 4.6 or less
  • Repackaging of commercially processed dry ingredients (i.e. spice blends)

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:

  • A “cottage food" product is a non-hazardous food sold at a farmer's market or public events.
  • Cottage Food Production Operation means, a person who, in the person's home, produces food items that are not potentially hazardous foods, including bakery products, jams, jellies, candy, fruit butter, and similar products specified in rules. These foods must be labeled properly or they will be considered misbranded or adulterated 
  • Prohibited foods means anything NOT in the list above, include acidified foods, low-acid canned foods, potentially hazardous foods or non-potentially hazardous foods not listed above and the following:
    •  No cream cheese, custards, or other potentially-hazardous fillings, glazes, fruits or cream cheeses that require refrigeration]
    • flavored honey requires a processing permit from Maryland DHMH
    • Chocolates, caramel, fudge, and other soft candies require a permit
    • Low acid food means any food with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85.
    • Acidified food means a low acid food to which acids or acid foods are added (Ex. Beans, cucumbers, cabbage, puddings, etc.).
    • Potentially hazardous food means it requires temperature control because it is in a form capable of supporting the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms (Ex. Raw or cooked animal products, cooked vegetables, garlic in oil, cheese cakes, pumpkin pies, custard pies, cream pies, etc.).
    •  A food of animal origin that is raw or heat-treated
    •  A food of plant origin that is heat-treated
    •  Raw seed sprouts
    •  Cut melons
    •  Cut raw tomatoes
    •  Garlic and oil mixtures that support the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms or the growth and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum
    •  Cut leafy greens

Requirements

Cottage Food Production Operations must label all of their food products properly, which include the following information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale: Under the law, the owner of a cottage food business may sell only cottage food products that are stored on the premises of the business and prepackaged, and meet the following requiremnents:

If the above foods are produced under the cottage foods regulation these products may only be sold at a farmers market or public event (Internet sales as well as interstate sales are prohibited) and the operator must:

  •  Pre-package all products at the cottage food business (typically, your home, the church kitchen, etc)
  • annual revenues no higher than $25,000 from the sale of those products
  • the owner must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation processing, storage, and sale of cottage food product

Labeling Requirements

Provide a label as follows:

  1. The name and address of the cottage food business;
  2. The name of the food product , for example  “Chocolate Chip Cookies”
  3. The ingredients of the cottage food product in descending order of the amount of each ingredient by weight . Your heaviest ingredient must be listed first and the least heavy ingredient listed last. The, ingredients must be broken down completely if the ingredient itself contains two or more ingredients. For example, if unsalted butter is one of your ingredients, then you would list it as follows: Butter (Sweet Cream, Natural Flavor).
  4. The net quantity of contents in both the U.S. Customary System (inch/pound) and International System of Units (metric system). This must be placed within the bottom 30% of the label in a line parallel to the bottom of the package. An example of what this would look like in both the U.S. Customary System and International System is: Net Wt 8 oz (227 g)
  5. If this product was made under the Maryland Cottage Food law, the label must contain the following statement in ten-point type: "Made by a cottage food business that is not subject to Maryland's food safety regulations." (10-point type) This statement is required because it gives notice to the purchaser of the food product that the product was produced in a private home that is not required to be inspected by a food regulatory authority.
  6. Allergen Statement. There are 8 foods considered a major food allergen under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that must be declared on your label if they are contained in your food product. They include:
    1. Milk
    2. Egg
    3. Fish - For fish, the specific species must be declared - Ex: Bass
    4. Crustacean Shellfish - For shellfish, the specific species must be declared - Ex: crab
    5. Tree Nuts - For tree nuts, the specific type of nut must be declared - Ex: Almond
    6. Wheat
    7. Peanuts
    8. Soybeans

If any of these major allergens are contained in your food product, then you may declare them in either of two different ways.

First, you can list the allergens in a “Contains” statement. The “Contains” statement would follow the ingredients list and look like this: “Contains: Wheat, Egg.”

The second way to declare an allergen is in your ingredients list. An example would be: “Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin monotrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Egg.” In this example, wheat and egg are specifically stated within the ingredients so you would not need to put an additional “Contains” statement. 

Sample label:

Example Maylanr Cottage Food label

You can see another sample label here.

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.  In other words,  only be sold in Maryland. They may be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced. They may also be sold through, registered farm markets, registered farmers markets, bake sales (in conjunction with a non-profit fundraiser), or public events.  Baked goods produced under an on-farm home processing license may be sold at any venue in the state.

Additional Cottage Food Business Requirements:

  • Cottage food is not exempt from Federal or State taxes (including, but not limited to, sales tax)
  • Must produce or package cottage food products in a residential kitchen
  • The owner must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation, processing, storage, and sale of cottage food (home‐use/occupation permits through the county)
  • Must allow the Department access to facility to investigate complaints of violations of the cottage food laws and regulations; the owner may not refuse to grant access or interfere with any inspection; investigation of a cottage food business may include sampling of products to determine misbranding or adulteration; the Department may enforce any regulations adopted under the cottage food statutes; any foods produced in violation may be deemed an unapproved source
  •  It is recommended that a cottage food business submit a list of the items to be prepared and sample labels to the Health Department for review to ensure compliance with these requirements

More resources:

Information from Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center:

Questions? Contact

 Contact resources:

  1. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Food Protection; Baltimore, MD 21202.
    Phone: (410) 767-8400. Fax: 410-333-8931. Email: [email protected].
  2. Ginger S. Myers, Ag Marketing Specialist and Director, Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center at the University of Maryland Extension
     Phone: 301-432-2767. Email: [email protected]