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Cottage Food Laws by State: Selling Your Homemade and Home-Canned Foods

Have you got a great recipe for home-made salsa, jam, jelly or other home-canned food? Your friends and family tell you that you should go into business selling it? And now you're wondering what it would take to actually sell your award-winning tomato salsa, apple butter, applesauce or strawberry jam? This page should answer your questions to help you Decide if it's right for you!

What are Cottage Food Regulations?

The production and sales of processed foods is governed by state and federal regulations. Each state is different, so proper advice is needed from a specialist in each state. Some states allow sales at farmer's markets of select foods; others prohibit sales altogether; these are called cottage food laws. These rules might also be called Home-Food Processing Rules or Baker's Bills. Typically, the department of health (or the department of agriculture) approves and oversees cottage food businesses. Most states now have these cottage food laws now that don't require a licensed kitchen. In those states, you can sell at a farmers market or roadside stand jams and jellies as well as baked goods that don't require refrigeration. For this you don't need a licensed kitchen or any inspections. Typically, in those states, you just need to label them with the weight or volume, our name, our address, the words "this item is home produced" and all the ingredients in order by weight. Usually, you can not do anything 'acidified' (like pickles), anything pressure canned, or anything needing refrigeration. While Cottage Food laws allow a person to legally bake and prepare certain foods in their home kitchens and sell them on a small scale, (typically at farmers markets and direct to other consumers),  very few states  allow them to sell to restaurants and grocery stores.

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.

States with Cottage Food Laws

Requirements

In most states (there are exceptions and lots of details and restrictions), to get approved as a Cottage Food Kitchen, the following is typically required. Keep in mind, this is general advice, rules vary by state and are also constantly changing so follow the links to see current information for your state:

  • some form of kitchen inspection,
  • a zoning clearance/permit from a local zoning department, department of agriculture or department of health
  •  a business license.
  • Pets may not be allowed in the home (or in the kitchen)

To whom does this apply?

Individuals, not businesses. Although, in some cases, the laws are also aimed at small businesses, particularly farms and home-based businesses.

What is typically allowed:

Each state varies, but in general

  • Baked goods (cakes, cookies, pies, and breads)
  • Jams and jellies
  • Dry cake and cookie mixes, dry nut mixes, dry cereals, granola, popcorn
  • Some  candies

How and where can you sell?

Individuals, under most states rules may usually sell directly to other individuals, not businesses, such as restaurants or grocery stores.  A number of states limit the sales of home processed foods to farmers markets, bake sales and charity events. And usually, while you may have a website to promote your products, you may not sell online or across state lines. Indirect Sales (e.g., restaurants, retail, wholesale) are allowed in California, Maine and Ohio. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania  allow it indirectly only at farmers markets, and producers' premises.  If you are considering cookies, cakes, or candy sales, see these overviews (and then check your state's rules below)

Books

 

Limits on total sales

Many states restrict the amount of sales per year, typically to as low as $5,000 although a few states allow as much as $50,000. $10,000 to $20,000 is typical

LabelingTable 1 - States with Labeling Requirements

Most states have labeling requirements, that spell out what must be on the label, such as ingredients, the name of the preparer, address where it was prepared, etc. Some states have other requirements, such as for a disclaimer that the food was not inspected by the state. Only Wyoming has no labeling requirements (as of 2017) .  Depending on the size of your business, your label may also need to 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.

Registration, Permits and License Requirements

A number of states have some sort of requirement to register or obtain a Permit, or License. See table 2.  

Individuals, under most states rules may sell directly to other individuals, not businesses, such as restaurants or grocery stores.  A number of states limit the sales of home processed foods to farmers markets, bake sales and charity events. And usually, while you may have a website to promote your products, you may not sell online or across state lines. Indirect Sales (e.g., restaurants, retail, wholesale) are allowed in California, Maine and Ohio. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania  allow it indirectly only at farmers markets, and producers' premises.

Taxes

See this page about collecting, reporting and remitting sales taxes on cottage food sales.

TrainingTable 2 - State License for Cottage foods

Some states require that the food preparers take and pass a special training course and certification

 

States that do NOT allow Cottage Food sales - Summary by state of states that do not allow sales

If your state is not in the list below, See this summary of states that do not allow cottage food sales as of October 2017

Links to State-Specific Cottage Foods Information

Remember, the descriptions above are generic; you must check your state to find out the details that apply to your situation and location.

State Departments of Public Health

Your state department of public health is generally your local authority for your state's cottage food laws and regulations. 

See this page to find the contact information, website, phone number, etc for your local state department of health.