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

West Virginia Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

West Virginia just revised their cottage food law, Effective June 5, 2019.

Previously, WV cottage food producers may only sell at in-state farmers markets and community events. Even then, only  a few types of  foods are allowed, speficically non-hazardous foods that do not require refrigeration like bread and pasteries, jams, jellies, hard candy, crackers, etc.. Cottage food producers had to register before selling their items at a farmers market or event.

But since June 2019, West Virginians can now sell many more foods with fewer restrictions.  See details below.

Which foods are subject to the West Virginia Cottage Food law?

The following types of foods are allowed:

  • breads, cookies,
  • fruit pies (that do not require refrigeration)
  •  jams, jellies, preserves,
  • hard candy, 
  • honey, sorghum, syrups
  • cracked nuts, packaged spices and spice mixes,
  • dry cookies,
  • cakes that do not require refrigeration,
  • dry cereals, granola,
  • pretzels, bagels, biscuits,
  • brownies, muffins, rolls, scones and dry soup mixes;
  • Only "non-potentially hazardous" foods are allowed. Examples of "potentially hazardous" foods are foods that must be refrigerated or be acidified. For example, pickles and salsa which would either be acidified (have added vinegar and/or lemon juice) or must be refrigerated, are prohibited.
  • Applesauce, apple butter
  • popcorn, kettle corn, caramel corn
  • Pet foods
  • dried fruit, fruit leathers

See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do not meet the Cottage Food definition.

Prohibited foods:

Foods which are defined as "Potentially Hazardous Foods", such as any type of meat jerky, pickles, acidified foods, or fermented foods, low acid foods like canned corn or green beans, etc. is not allowed. But PHFs can be sold at farmers markets if you follow the much more restrictive requirements of the old law (call the state for details) .The state also says you may not make and sell:

  • meat, meat byproduct, meat food product, poultry, poultry byproduct, or poultry food product

Definitions:

  • "Farmers market" means:
    (1) A traditional farmers market in which two or more vendors gather to sell farm and food products directly to consumers at a fixed location;
    (2) An on-farm market or farm stand run by an individual producer that sells farm and food products;
    (3) An online farmers market in which two or more vendors collectively market farm and food products and retain ownership of those products until they are sold; or
    (4) A consignment farmers market as defined herein.
  • At consignment farmers market - "Farmers market vendor" or "vendor" means a person or entity that sells farm and food products at a farmers market.

Licensing

No license is required by the cottage food producer.

Registration is only required if you want to sell potentially hazardous foods (such as pickles, acidified foods, or fermented foods, low acid canned foods, etc) which then may only be sold at farmer's markets and "community events" after registration. In this case, call 304-558-2227 and ask for a copy of the form. .

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, phone number and home 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 AND metric units, and
  • Major Allergens listed
  •  The following statement: “This product was produced at a private residence that is exempt from State licensing and inspection. This product may contain allergens.”.


The information above must be provided:

  • (1) On a label affixed to the package, if the homemade food item is packaged;
  • (2) On a label affixed to the container, if the homemade food item is offered for sale from a bulk container;
  • (3) On a placard displayed at the point of sale, if the homemade food item is neither packaged nor offered for sale from a bulk container;
  • (4) On the webpage on which the homemade food item is offered for sale, if the homemade  food item is offered for sale on the Internet;
  • (5) On a receipt or other document provided to the customer with the homemade food item

 WVDA is able to assist with labeling and WV Division of Labor, Weights and Measures office can assist with determining net weights.

Honey:

It 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"; and

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.

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:

  • Direct to consumers from your home, for delivery or pick up.
  • online,
  • by mail order,
  • at restaurants, retail stores, etc.
  •  at farm markets,
  • and "community events".

Other requirements

  • Note: there no longer is any limit on annual sales.
  • Home food producers no longer need worry about government regulation, including permits, inspections, or prohibitions - UNLESS - a customer complains about a food borne illness.

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:

  • Linda Whaley, Food Program Manager, WV Department of Health
    304-558-6727
  • Jessica Lucas, Assistant, Food Program, WV Department of Health
    304-558-6999.
  • Teresa Halloran, Labeling, WV Department of Agriculture
    304-558-2210