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

Pennsylvania Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Pennsylvania is different from other states in that there is no explicit Cottage Foods law.  Instead, the PA Department of Agriculture  “limited food establishments” that meet specific guidelines that provides flexibility once they’re setup. There is a registration process  with a $35 fee to register but some types of products require lab testing. A business plan and an inspection of the home is also required prior to approval. In addition, pets are never allowed in the parts of the home where the food establishment operates.

Which foods are subject to the Pennsylvania Cottage Food law?

Under the PA 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.

Generally,the types of production that can occur in 'limited food establishments' (whether an actual home-use kitchen or a kitchen designed in a residential fashion) are limited to foods that are not 'time and temperature controlled for safety' (TCS) foods (i.e., potentially hazardous foods, 'PHF'). TCS foods are foods that will support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and require temperature controls (kept hot or cold). TCS foods can only be produced in a licensed / registered 'commercial' food establishment kitchen that meets the full regulatory code requirements, including separation from residential-use areas, and adequate plumbing fixtures. This does not specifically prohibit processing of TCS foods from a residential property, but the foods could only be produced in a second 'commercial' processing kitchen separate from the private home kitchen or any residential personal use areas, and that meets the full regulatory standards for a food establishment.

Non-potentially hazardous foods that may be processed in a home kitchen may include:

  • Bakery Products like Cakes, fruit pies, breads, rolls, brownies, cookies, fruit pastries, muffins, etc.
  • Jams and Jellies - Fruit varieties, etc.
  • Acidified Foods (Equilibrium pH of 4.6 or lower) such as Salsa, pickled vegetables, hot sauces, etc.
  • Candy: Lollipops, fudge, chocolate, rock candy, hard candy, etc.

Potentially-Hazardous Foods

Potentially hazardous foods may be prepared in a home, if processed in a kitchen other than what is used for home-use and the facility has its own outside entrance. For safety, time and/or temperature controls are needed to limit pathogen growth or toxin formation in potentially hazardous foods. Potentially hazardous foods may include, but not limited to, any of the following products:

  • Cheesecakes,
  • layer cakes with fresh fruit,
  • cheese-filled products,
  • pumpkin pies,
  • custard pies,
  • meringue pies,
  • meat-filled products, etc.
  • In general, most products that would require temperature control of the finished product.

The exception to this rule is low acid canned food (ph above 4.6), which can not be processed in a private residence.

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:

  • "Limited food processor" or 'residential-style kitchen' means a home-style kitchen, residential style kitchen or a personal use kitchen, regardless of the location - on or off an actual residential property.

Application process

Anyone wishing to prepare food from home or home style kitchen must fill out a completed "Application Packet - Limited Food Establishment" found under Forms. Please allow 3 - 4 weeks for processing.

Because only limited types of food may be prepared from the home or home - style kitchen and in some cases laboratory testing of the product must occur, it is necessary to closely evaluate these businesses. It may additionally be necessary for those facilities wishing to sell their products interstate to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More detailed information on Limited Food Establishments is layed out in the Application Packet.

The Limited Food Processor Application must be submitted to the department as soon as possible. There is no money required for the Application/Plan Review process.

 

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

Cottage Food Products Establishments can sell anywhere they want (including interstate), and there is no limit on the amount they can sell.

OOther requirements

Limited Food processors are regulated under The Food Safety Act (3 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 5721 - 5737).  Regulations under this Act include all federal regulations related to food, and can be found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR's).  CFR's can be accessed at www.ecfr.gov.  In some cases, businesses may additionally be regulated under PA Code Title 7, Chapter 46, Food Code (if products are retailed direct to consumers from the business).

  •  A business plan and an inspection of the home is required prior to approval.
  • Pets are never allowed in the parts of the home where the food establishment operates.
  • Children and infants are not permitted in the kitchen area during the processing for retail sale and/or wholesale business.
  •  When processing for retail sale and/or wholesale business, no other activities may take place in the kitchen area, such as family meal preparation, etc.
  •  All ingredients, equipment and supplies for the retail and/or wholesale food business must be kept separate from what is used for home-use. A separate drawer, shelf, cabinet, pantry shelf, etc. may be used. All ingredients, equipment and supplies must be properly stored and maintained.

Recommendations:

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

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

More resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

Abdellah El Hajjam
Program Specialist
(717) 772-5208
[email protected]

Sheri Morris
Chief, Division of Food Safety Policy & Programs
(717) 787-5289
[email protected]