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Since 2015, more and more US states have put in place laws about selling homemade food, known as Cottage Food Laws or, in some states, Food Freedom Laws, to give home cooks and bakers the chance to sell their goods and make money from their talents.
This caused an absolute explosion of new home-based restaurants and bakeries, where customers can buy authentic foods such as Nonna’s original Mimosa cake and canestrelli, or Abuelito’s traditional churros and horchata cupcakes, with offerings from just about every country under the sun.
These aren’t formal recipes with precise ingredients, and they’re certainly not the kind of thing you can buy in the grocery stores. These are the desserts and biscuits baked and handed down for generations, learned by watching your Ima throw in a pinch of this and a handful of that, for a real taste of good home cooking, just like Mama used to make.
Today, New Jersey is the only state where you can’t run a business cooking from home, and even that should change soon. Back in July 2021, New Jersey’s Public Health Council approved the Department of Health’s rule change proposal, making it legal to sell home-baked goods created in residential kitchens. There’s still a little way to go and the ruling must first be published by the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, but things are looking up for New Jersey’s home bakers.
Having home bakeries available is great for customers, with more choice, convenience, fresh ingredients, the chance to explore other cultures and countries via food, and more. But being able to sell from home legally and get the right licenses and permits is also a great opportunity for anyone who is thinking of starting their own business.
You can work from home at hours to suit you, build either a full-time business or a side business for more disposable income, and do something you love. It has kept catering staff and chefs employed, and with money coming in, even during lockdowns because of the pandemic. It’s good for the economy and good for individuals who can make an income that they may not have been able to have before. It’s great for mums who can now build a business while staying at home with their children.
There really is no downside to these cottage food and home bakery licenses.
Rules vary state by state, and sometimes county by county, about whether you need a license for selling food from home, or a home bakery permit. Just to complicate things, different states have different rules on what can be sold, how much can be earned and what you need to do.
While that might sound like a lot of work if you’re thinking of selling your own home-baked items, you can get help from your state Department of Health or Department of Agriculture. They’re happy to help you find out if you can have a home bakery with pets, help you with licensing requirements and talk you through all you need to know to start a home bakery business. They will also help you with your cottage food license application.
But what can you expect to see when applying for cottage food operator permits?
You’ll probably need to have your kitchen inspected and you may need a zoning permit if customers will be visiting your home. You should be able to get this from your Department of Health, or Department of Agriculture, or perhaps from your local zoning department. You will also need a business license in most states, and many will ask you to take a food handling course. There may be a fee to pay for your permit, too, but check with your Department of Health.
For your application, you’ll need your full name, Doing Business As name, and contact details. Most applications include a list of responsibilities that you have to acknowledge and sign. There will also be a checklist of items for you to tick and sign, including that you’ve done required courses, done your research, and checked with your county and city that you are allowed to operate your type of business.
Some states ask for a lot of detail, including a floor plan of your kitchen, a list of the ingredients you’ll be using and where you’ll get them from, copies of your food labels, your recipes, and a list of your equipment.
It can be a lot of work, but it’s best to get your permits and licenses in place before you start, as there is a fine for selling food from home without a license in most states.
If you’re thinking of selling food from home in Minnesota, here’s an introduction to what you need to know:
You’ll need to register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture before you start to sell food from home, and you’ll need an MN cottage food license renewal every year.
You’ll be required to take a cottage food law food safety course every three years as long as you’re still selling food.
Follow the labelling rules, including an ingredients list with possible allergens, the date produced and your name and address. You will also need to display a sign which reads, "These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection." This will need to be displayed on your site if you sell online.
You can sell from your home, at community events and farmers markets, as well as on the internet and make up to $78,000 per year.
Don’t try and work without your license. The MN cottage food license lookup is a simple way for anyone to check if your food business is listed and licensed.
The MN cottage food list tells you what you are allowed to sell and what is prohibited, and you can find a fact sheet on selling food in Minnesota here: https://www.mfma.org/resources/Documents/MFMA%20Fact%20Sheet%20NPH%20Foods%20List%20%202019-02-26.pdf. You can also find more information at the Minnesota Farmers' Market Association.
Here’s where you can apply for your MN food license: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/licenses?tid=116.
If you’re thinking about starting a home bakery business, you’re likely asking yourself, ‘can I sell food from my home in NY?’ The good news is that you can. Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home in NY? You’ll need what’s known as a home processor license NY, following the cottage food law NY 2021.
Foods described as non-hazardous can be sold from home in New York, including brownies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, bread, fudge, rolls, granola, and candy.
You must label your food properly, including the product name, ingredients by weight, the net quantity of the contents and your name and address.
You can sell within the State of New York, at farmers markets, farms, craft fairs, farm stands, green markets and via direct delivery, but you cannot sell directly from home or online.
To start selling food from home NYC, you can search for your food license application on the New York State website.
The NJ Home Bakers Association has fought hard to bring cottage food laws to this state, and finally, in 2021, it’s almost here.
Home bakers will need a home bakery license NJ and can buy one lasting for two years for just $100. They will be able to sell at farmers markets and events, and directly from home, earning up to $50,000, eliminating the need for New Jersey commercial kitchen requirements.
The Cottage Food Operation law allows Illinois residents to sell home baked goods at farmers markets, farm stands, farms and CSAs, as long as they have a home bakery license Illinois. You will be able to earn up to $36,000 a year Illinois selling food from home.
With the new Illinois cupcake law 2021, home cooks can now also do deliveries outside of farmers markets and the like, giving far more options for a home bakery business.
Goods include bread, cakes, cookies, high-acid fruit pies, jams and jellies,
You will have to register with your local county public health department, and you will have to pass an exam to obtain current CFPM certification, which must be from an ANSI accredited Certified Food Protection Manager.
Labels must include a statement that, "This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens.". This statement must also be posted on a sign where you are selling your goods. You must also list any allergens, the product name, the date the item was made, and your name and address.
You must register with your local health department and Pick Your Own has a list of all llinois Local Health Department Contacts and Health Regions.
Ohio laws for selling food from home do cover home bakers, and you can sell a variety of foods from home, as well as via farmers markets and in grocery stores. You can also sell your goods to restaurants and to other states.
You will need an Ohio home bakery license to start your business, and this costs just $10 per year. You will also need to have a kitchen inspection before starting to sell your baked goods, including an inspection of your food labels.
Your kitchen must have domestic kitchen equipment, rather than commercial, and have only one oven, though it can be a double oven. Other requirements include no carpet in the kitchen, and your refrigerator must have a thermometer showing that it can maintain 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less. As with any other food business, everything must be kept clean and sanitised. Unfortunately, if you are an animal lover, you can’t have a pet in any part of your home if you want to sell baked goods from home.
You will also want to be aware of Ohio cottage food taxes. If you are selling food as a grocery, you don’t have to add any sales tax, but if you are selling from a stand or a food truck, anything that can be considered ‘on site’, then you will need to add sales tax.
You can obtain your bakery license Ohio from the Department of Agriculture.
Looking at some other states’ requirements, starting a home bakery business in Colorado is quite straightforward.
Here are the instructions directly from the Colorado government website:
Review the Cottage Foods Act, then complete a Colorado cottage food class. Check if you need a business license with your local county and city offices.
There is no requirement for a cottage food license Colorado, and you won’t need a kitchen inspection.
You can sell a variety of foods that don’t need to be refrigerated, including bread, cakes, brownies, cookies, rolls, muffins, biscuits, pies, and empanadas. Sales must be direct and in-person only, though you can speak to the health department if you want to sell through restaurants or stores and they will look at allowing that.
You can find a copy of the Colorado Cottage Food Act fact sheet on the Colorado government website.
You can sell your home-baked goods in Pennsylvania, but you will need a cottage food license PA. There are no particular cottage food laws in Pennsylvania, and your home bakery would be counted as a “limited food establishment.”
There are some regulations to follow, and you will need to have a kitchen inspection and provide a business plan.
You can’t allow children of any age in the kitchen while you are preparing food, and pets are not allowed in the kitchen at all. If you are planning to sell in stores, you won’t be able to have any other activities in your kitchen during food prep, including cooking your family meals. You must also keep all equipment, ingredients and other supplies completely separate from anything you use for your family cooking and baking.
The Food Safety Act (3 pa csa 5721 5737) covers food standards, including what you aren’t allowed to do, how to avoid mislabeling and more.
You can find full guidelines for how to get your kitchen certified in PA on the Pennsylvania government website, and the PA limited food establishment application can be found here. There is a $35 fee to apply.
Starting a home bakery in NC comes with quite the ‘to do’ list, but once you’ve worked your way through everything, you can sell your baked goods, jams, jellies and candies from home. You will also be able to sell your items in schools, registered farmers' markets, stores, at church bake sales, and in restaurants.
How to get kitchen certified in NC:
Firstly, you can’t sell food from home if you have any pets, even if you don’t allow them into the kitchen.
You will also need to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 110), which is also known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
Depending on if you have customers coming to your home, you may need a zoning permit.
Your food prep areas must be easy to clean.
You will need a separate hand washing sink and should use your kitchen sink only for food preparation.
Your refrigerator must have a thermometer inside to show the temperature is within acceptable limits.
To gain your home bakery license in NC, you will need to complete the Application for NC Home Food Processor Inspection. You will also need to have a kitchen inspection and may need to have your products tested.
If your state isn’t listed above, you can find more information on Pick Your Own’s website.
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