Find a local pick your own farm here!

Looking for Vermont Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Vermont in 2019?  Scroll down this page and  follow the links. And if you bring home some fruit or vegetables and want to can, freeze, make jam, salsa or pickles, see this page for simple, reliable, illustrated canning, freezing or preserving directions. There are plenty of other related resources, click on the resources dropdown above.

If you have questions or feedback, please let me know! There are affiliate links on this page.  Read our disclosure policy to learn more. 

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

Vermont Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Vermont Health Department regulations allow small home-based businesses to operate in their home (primary residence) using standard home food preparation equipment. It's primary focus is home bakeries. Typical home-based food business approved do  baking, preparing food (such as sandwiches, condiments, etc) or catering meals. Vermont allows most of these food items to be produced and sold from the home.  .Home canned goods are more complicated;

Which foods are subject to the Vermont Cottage Food law?

  • Breads,
  • cookies,
  • fruit pies,
  • jams, jellies, preserves,
  • fruit butters,
  • honey,
  • sorghum,
  • cracked nuts,
  • packaged spices and spice mixes,
  • dry cookie,
  • cake,
  • bread, and
  • soup mixes;

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.

Licensing

Basically, there are two types of exemptions: Baked goods or canned goods. If you want to be a caterer (see definition below) you WILL need a license. There are also other categories described in a table further below.
Read each below and determine which exemption or license is appropriate for your home business:

  • Home Bakery
    Sells bread, cakes, muffins, cookies or other baked goods, that do not require refrigeration or temperature control, from your home kitchen using home appliances.
    Examples: homemade bread, cookies or muffins
    Labeling requirements apply (see UVM Extension Food Labeling fact sheet).
    License cost: $100 per year for the License exemption (No license is required for home bakeries with sales of less than $6,500 per year in baked goods).
    Exempt home bakeries need to file a Vermont License Exemption Self Declaration. NOTE: If your home-based business sells food products to restaurants, then you will not qualify for the exemption. Food products from unlicensed establishments are not considered an "acceptable source" of food for restaurants; they must be sourced from a licensed food establishment.
  • A home-based food establishment
    Jams, jellies, candies, chocolates, salsa, sauces, salad dressings, etc.
    Examples: Candy, granola, Jam, applesauce.
    Labeling requirements apply (see UVM Extension Food Labeling fact sheet).
    License exemption: No license is required for small-scale food processors with sales of less than $10,000 per year in food product.
    Home food processors need to file aVermont License Exemption Self Declaration. NOTE: If your home-based business sells food products to restaurants you do not qualify for the exemption. Products from unlicensed establishments are not considered an "acceptable source" of food for restaurants; they must be sourced from a licensed food establishment. This requires a commercial food processor license and the use of a separate room or building as a commercial processing area or facility, the use of a co-packer, or the use of another commercially licensed facility or shared-use kitchen in which to produce your food product.
  • Home Caterer
    This is a home-based food establishment that sells prepared meals direct-to-the-customer.
    Examples:
    You prepare a packaged meal for pick-up or delivery.
    You prepare dumplings and rice at home for sale at a farmers market
    You prepare food for cooking later at an event or farmers market. (an additional Temporary Food Stand license is required)
    License cost: $155 per year License Exemption: None. Selling prepared foods (hot or cold) from your home-based business requires a license and inspection. NOTE: If you prepare food containing any meat or products of animal origin you need to contact the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

 Next, you will need to review applicable regulations. You can find them on the Vermont website at www.healthvermont.gov/food-lodging  or request a paper copy be mailed to you.

Applicants planning to operate a home food establishment must submit the following at least 30 days prior to the anticipated opening date:

  1. A complete and legible Application for License to Operate a Food Establishment.
  2. Enclose a check or money order for license fees; fees are non-refundable
  3. Water test results, if applicable (see below)
  4. Wastewater permit or plan review sheet from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, if applicable
  5. Inspection:
    Once your application is processed, a public health inspector will contact you to discuss your plans and schedule an inspection. Review the VT Health Regulations for Food Service Establishments before your inspection. Inspections can usually be scheduled within 10 business days.
  6. Vermont has a specific Home Bakery license for those that only want to sell low-risk baked goods out of their kitchen. If you sell less than $125 of goods per week, the licensing and inspection process is not required.
  7. There are certain conditions where a home-based food business is exempt from licensing. You can read about the Vermont exemptions and file the necessary paperwork here.

To find out if you are exempt, you should contact the appropriate regulatory agency.  Below are some examples of food products and the Vermont regulatory agencies responsible:

Type of food product produced/processed Examples Vermont Agency with Oversight Authority
Baked goods Breads, cookies VTDH Bakery license required. Exemptions may apply
Dairy products Milk, cheese, frozen desserts VAAFM Dairy section inspection and licensing required
Maple syrup products Maple syrup, maple sugar VAAFM maple laws and regulations
Pet food Treats, foods for pets VAAFM regulations. Analyze product nutritional content
Products containing more than 3% meat or poultry (by raw weight) Sausages, whole meat cuts, meat pies VAAFM inspection and licensing required for all sizes of operations. HACCP plan required
Seafood Selling or reselling VTDH inspection and licensing required for all sizes of operations. HACCP plan required
Fruit juice or cider Apple juice or cider, citrus juices VTDH food processor license requirements. HACCP plan requested. Exemptions may apply
Other processed food products Candies, popcorn, etc. VTDH food processor license requirements. Exemptions may apply
Canned food products1 Fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, etc. VTDH for fruit and vegetable products and VAAFM for meat and poultry products

1Except for products that are considered "acid foods" (natural pH below 4.6), canned products are heavily regulated. Some products require a scheduled process for canned, shelf-stable acidified product. Please check with the appropriate agency to determine the kind of regulation that may affect your product, or email [email protected]u. .

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.

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 food source of major allergens must be listed either adjacent to the ingredients statement.
  • 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. Vermont has a labeling guide here.

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 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. Home bakers are not allowed to sell to restaurants or retail stores. There is a separate Small Commercial Bakery license for the bakers that want to that.

Other requirements

  • Register your business name with theVT Secretary of State.
  • Apply for a business tax account and a license to collect and pay applicable taxes at the Vermont Department of Taxes.
  • If you plan to see  maple syrup, meat or dairy products, contact the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets for specific information.
  • Contact the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, which issues wastewater permits for new construction or for increased seating capacity.
  • Contact the Vermont Department of Public Safety Fire Safety and Electrical Program, which inspects public buildings for fire and safety hazards,
    and the Plumbing Program, which inspects plumbing for compliance with state rules.
  • Submit recent laboratory tests for coliform/E. coli and nitrates (establishments on private water systems only) from the Vermont Health Department Lab or other laboratory that is certified for drinking water analysis. Find a list of certified labs here.
  • Ensuring your home-prepared food is safe to the consumer is critical to the success of your small business. Food should be prepared at times when there are no other activities in the kitchen. Small children or pets should not be allowed into the kitchen during food preparation and packaging for sale. Preparing products for sale while making a meal or doing other activities increases the likelihood for cross-contamination.
  • You are responsible for contacting additional state and local entities for compliance with applicable regulations or policies for your business. Always check with your town clerk's office for local requirements.
  • Individuals can only sell their products directly to consumers, (that allows sales from home and at events)
  • There is no limit to the amount of baked goods a home baker can sell.
    BBut cottage food operations can only sell up to $10,000 of products per year for high-acid home canned foods, like Jams and jellies, otherwise they do require a full Vermont food processor license.
    More information about the any of the licenses can be found on theVermont health department's food establishment guide.
  • Please note that claiming an exemption from the licensing requirements does not exempt an establishment from compliance with the food safety and sanitation requirements in the Good Manufacturing Practices for Food Rule, nor does the exemption prevent a public health inspector from inspecting your establishment to ensure those requirements are being complied with and investigating any potential health hazards.

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 Vermont Public Health Inspection Disctricts
    • 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.

MMore resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

Food & Lodging Program
108 Cherry St., PO Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402-0070
Phone: (802) 863-7221 or
(800) 439-8550 (toll-free within VT)
Fax: (802) 863-7483
Email: [email protected]

Vermont Public Health Inspection Disctricts