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

North Carolina Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the North Carolina cottage food law:

Which foods are subject to the North Carolina Cottage Food law?

Low-risk packaged foods are the only products allowed to be produced at home. These can include:

  • Baked goods
  • Jams and jellies
  • Candies
  • Dried mixes
  • Spices
  • Some sauces and liquids
  • Pickles and acidified foods

Prohibited foods

Please contact the Raleigh office at (919) 733-7366 for information with the regards to the production of shelf stable sauces, dressings, salsas, pickles, and acidified foods. All of these products will require laboratory testing.
N.C. State University's Food Science Department will analyze products for risk. For more information, go to:  All high-risk products must be produced in a non-home based commercial facility . These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigerated or frozen products
  • Low-acid canned foods
  • Dairy products
  • Seafood products
  • Bottled water

If you are uncertain if your canned goods are low-acid or acidified, contact a Food Compliance Officer at 919-733-7366 for guidance.

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.


  • home food


Labeling requirements

Any products to be sold to consumers must be packaged to protect them from contamination. A label must be affixed to the package with:

  1.  Product name
  2.  Manufacturers name and address
  3.  Net weight of the product in ounces/pounds and the gram weight equivalent
  4.  Complete list of ingredients in order of predominance by weight
    The label must declare all of the components of the ingredient you use [ie: for the ingredient self-rising flour you would see “enriched bleached wheat flour(contains bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid), salt, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, calcium sulfate.)”]. The easiest way is to copy directly from the ingredient package for each of the ingredients. Any duplications of an ingredient can be deleted after listing where it is most concentrated (ie: sugar may occur as sugar itself, and also in chocolate chips).
    Any food individually packaged for self-service sale must be labeled and adequately packaged to protect them from contamination. Foods “custom made” or “on demand” for sale as a single unit (ie: wedding cake, cake for a restaurant to serve, or a dozen cookies in bulk package for a restaurant to serve) can be exempt from individual labels. Also, if the product is served on demand from a secure bulk container or display case when the customer asks you for it, you can be exempt. However the ingredient information must be available upon request by the consumer. If you do not make comparative nutrition claims (ex. low fat, sugar free) you may be exempt from including the nutrition facts panel information on your product as a small business.
    More information on labeling requirements is available at:

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 within the state. They may be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced. They may also be sold through grocery stores, registered farm markets, church bake sales, schools, registered farmers markets, and sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant.

Other requirements

  • If have a pet that comes in your home at any time (even if only at night) then you cannot manufacture foods in your home. This practice is a violation of the Good Manufacturing Practices.
  • Your home processing area must meet the standards set by:
    And in addition, for acidified foods (like pickles) , the following are required:
  • Zoning and other local requirements may also apply:
    County government links:
    City or town government links:
  • Water requirements: If your home has municipal/city water, you will need a copy of your most recent bill.
    If your only water source is from a well, the water must be tested for coliform bacteria before an inspection is made. Test results within 1 year of your application and must be attached with your completed application. Water testing is available from private companies or your local health department.
  • You must  complete the Application for Home Processing Inspection.
    Application for Home Processor Inspection writable PDF
    Application for Home Processor Inspection Microsoft Word 
    mail the completed form to: [email protected] or Mail the completed form to:
    Kaye J. Snipes
    169 Boone Square Street, #168
    Hillsborough, NC 27278
    Then within two (2) weeks of sending your application, a Food Regulatory Specialist will contact you to arrange a home processing facility inspection. You will be sent a copy of all relevant federal and state regulations for your review and to prepare your facility for inspection.
    After sending your completed application, please check your Email periodically for correspondence from our Regulatory Specialists. Inspection appointments are typically made over email. For applicants without email access, appointments will be made by phone.
  • Product Testing may be reuired - After receipt of your application the Food Regulatory Specialist may determine that product testing is required to ensure your product can be manufactured in a home kitchen. Product testing is available through N.C. State University or other commercial labs. The following products may need to have product testing:
  • Acidified foods (ex Pickles): pH testing
  • Dressings/sauces: pH
  • “Moist” breads/cakes, and some pies: Aw (water activity) and pH
  • Any questionable products: Aw and/or pH
  • 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


    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:

    Food Program, Anita MacMullan, Food Administrator
    Mailing Address: 1070 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1070
    Physical Address: 4000 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
    Phone: (919) 733-7366; FAX: (919) 733-6801