Do you make a great homemade salsa, jelly, or jam?
Do people rave about your cookies, your doughnuts, your barbecue, your chili, or your homemade ice cream?
Thousands of people find financial success by using their award-winning home recipes to make delicious food they sell to the public. But before you buy a new stove or order a truckload of ingredients, you need to cover the basics of cottage food laws, also known as home food laws, established by the federal government and by your state, county, and city.
What are cottage food laws, also known as home food laws?
Both federal and state laws and regulations apply to the production of food at home. Home food production for sale to the public is much less stringently regulated than, say, setting up a factory for mass production of food items for distribution across state lines, but you can land yourself in serious trouble if you disregard a state, federal, or local food law and someone gets sick after eating your food.
There are a few aspects of home food production for profit that are regulated at the state and county level:
Selling your homemade food online gets a little trickier. If you are just using the Internet to sell food to customers to pick up at a farmer's market, a retailer, or your home, you only have to deal with state and local laws (if your home and the pickup locations are in the same state).
If you are selling products online but you only ship them to customers in your own state, you don't need any FDA licenses and you won't have to deal with any FDA inspectors. But if you start selling your ingredients to a larger concern, like selling your salsa to another company to sell under its own label, or you are selling raw cookie dough to a bakery, then you have lots of regulations for which you will probably need professional advice.
Some states require you to package and label your foods with a statement to the effect of "This Product Is Produced at Home." Almost no states will allow you to do cooking for restaurants or food trucks from your home. Selling to grocery stores falls under the same regulations that apply to the grocery stores.
It's not impossible to persuade a grocery chain to carry your brand, but you'll need a commercial kitchen, you'll need to meet their packaging requirements, and every retail chain will test your product to see how well it sells (and how effectively you can advertise it) before they commit to you. Even then, you'll need to beware of provisions for returns.
In this article, we're sticking to what you need to know when you are first starting out. In the next section, we will discuss home food laws state by state. Well, that is, we'll discuss cottage food laws for the states that permit home food production. But first, let's review the all-important answer to the question "What is cottage food?"
Cottage food includes at least:
Many states will require cottage foods be prepared in homes that don't have pets. There may be a local zoning requirement. You may need a separate business license from your state's Secretary of State, your county, and/or your city.
Most states allow homemade food like jam, jelly, preserves, (sometimes) pickles, and baked goods at farmer's markets, for home pick up, and at church communities bake sales and fairs without licensing hassles.
There are a few states that don't. These states are:
The rest of the USA has a patchwork of cottage food laws by state that differ from state to state. Here are some of highlights in American state food laws, with some common search terms you can use to find more information if you wish.
You have to get a permit from your county's public health department to sell homemade food in California, but you can get permits to sell directly to customers or to sell wholesale to local shops.
Search term for more information: cottage food laws California
Florida Cottage Food Laws
The state of Florida allows home cooks and bakers to sell food that have a low risk of causing foodborne illnesses, all the items listed above, with the following rules:
Duval County cottage food law limits annual sales to $15,000.
Search terms for more information: cottage food laws Florida, Florida cottage food law, Duval County cottage food law.
Illinois encourages all home food producers to carry liability insurance and to seek guidance from the county health department before they start their home food business. You are free to make jellies, jams, pies, and preserves from high-acid fruits and berries such as apple, apricot, grape, nectarine, peach, plum, quince, orange, tangerine, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, raspberry cranberry, strawberry, red currants, or a combination of these ingredients without prior approval of the state. If you want to use any other kinds of fruits and berries in homemade food for sale to the public, your recipe must have been tested in a commercial kitchen before you use it.
Search term for more information: cottage food laws Illinois.
Indiana allows the sale of homemade baked goods such as cookies and cakes, as well as candy, honey, pickles, syrups, dry mixes, pastries, jams, jellies, nuts, granola, popcorn, and snacks.
Search term for more information: Indiana cottage food laws 2020.
Louisiana limits home food producers to sales of $20,000 per year. Louisiana's law does not allow you to compete with commercial bakeries in producing bread, cakes, pies, and other baked goods. You must sell baked goods directly to the consumers who buy them. But you can sell other homemade food goods more or less as you want as long as you comply with parish health department restrictions.
Search terms for more information: Louisiana cottage food law 2020, cottage law Louisiana 2021. Louisiana cottage food law label requirements,
Michigan allows home production of foods that don't have to be refrigerated while they are waiting for sale.
Search term for more information: cottage food law Michigan.
Missouri's cottage food laws are more restrictive than those of most other states. The only items permitted for home production are pies, cakes, bread, and other baked goods, jams, jellies, and preserves, and dried herbs. The law limits sales to $50,000 before you have to get commercial licenses, and specifically prohibits sales over the Internet.
Search terms for more information: Missouri cottage food law 2020, Missouri cottage food law chocolate.
New Jersey never passed a law to permit production of foods for sale in home kitchens, so as of the time this article is being written, all cottage food production is illegal in New Jersey.
Search term for more information: cottage food law NJ.
New York's cottage food laws focus on keeping sales direct. You can sell to customers from your home or at farmer's markets and other events, but you cannot sell to stores to resell your products.
Search terms for more information: cottage food law NY, cottage food laws NY, cottage food law ny 2020.
Pennsylvania is the only state that allows sale of beef jerky made at home. Pennsylvania permits many more kinds of homemade food items for sale than most other states.
Search terms for more information: PA cottage food laws
Tennessee's cottage food laws do not allow sale of food from homes that have pets, and limit sales to 100 items per week.
Search term for more information: Tennessee cottage food law 2020.
Virginia permits a variety of homemade foods for sale after home inspection. Some items, like pickles and honey, have sales limits.
Search terms for more information: cottage food laws Virginia, Virginia cottage food law 2020.
Wisconsin's cottage food laws make a distinction between food and food service. For instance, you can sell a homemade loaf of banana bread as long as you don't slice it.
Search term for more information: Wisconsin cottage food law 2020.
What do you need to do to get a permit to sell food from home?
First, check your state's rules. There are many food operations that do not need permits. We have mentioned many permit-free products earlier in this article.
How to get a permit to sell food on the street? If you are selling items that are permitted by your department of health, then you need to check to see if you need a business license. Farmer's markets will usually take care of this for you.
How to get a permit to sell food from home? Usually sales of baked goods and other safe foods specified by your state don't require permits for home sale, although you may not be allowed to sell food from your home if you have pets. You usually only need a cottage food license if you are selling a high volume of food, over $15,000 a year.
Do I need a license to sell homemade food? Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home? How to get a license to sell food? Where can I find a cottage food license application?
The place to start when you want a license to sell homemade is your local public health department. But in many cases you won't need a license at all. Just double check to be sure regulations haven't changed.
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