Maryland Cottage Food Law

Getting started in Maryland as a cottage food producer requires all sales to be direct to your customers. There are some limitations on what types of food you can make and sell, and little limitations on where you can sell your homemade food. Ready to take your cottage food business online? We’ll help you build an online store in minutes.
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Where can you sell?

In Maryland, you can sell cottage foods at fairs, festivals, farmers markets, home, online, retail stores, and roadside stands.

What kinds of food can you sell?

Maryland allows bread, candies, dry goods, honey, pastries, preserves, and snacks to be sold.

What should be on my product labels?

Labels must include allergens, business address, business name, ingredients, net amount, product name, and a note that your product was made in an uninspected kitchen.

Is there an income cap?

A home-based vendor can sell $25,000 per year in Maryland.

Are there any special requirements?

The use of a commercial kitchen is prohibited. You must only sell directly to your customers and within the state of Maryland.

Where can I find more information?

Contact the Maryland Department of Health - Office of Food Protection at 410-767-8400 or Learn more about Maryland's cottage food laws here.

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*Cottage food laws change regularly — always double check the requirements for running a home-based food business with a legal expert or your local health department.

Maryland Cottage Food Law

Are you a talented baker? Do your friends clamor for bottles of your famous jam? If you're searching for a side hustle, use your killer culinary skills to make money from home — in Maryland, you can start a cottage food business for free out of your own kitchen.

According to Maryland state law, a cottage food business is one that:

  • Has an annual revenue of $25,000 or less
  • Produces and/or packages food in a private home kitchen
  • Stores the food on-site

How to Start a Cottage Food Business in Maryland

Learning how to start a food business in Maryland can be intimidating, but for cottage operations, the process is relatively straightforward. You can use your private kitchen, so there's no need to worry about Maryland commercial kitchen requirements.

A quick overview of the process:

Check local licensing and permit requirements
Decide where to sell your food
Choose permitted foods
Make sure your packaging meets legal standards

Do I Need A License To Sell Cottage Foods In Maryland?

You do not need a cottage food license in Maryland. Before you start baking, look into local laws; some cities have their own permit or license rules for certain types of food businesses. For example, you need a food permit Baltimore city to sell at a farmers market or special event within the city limits.

If your cottage business expands beyond $25,000 in annual revenue, you'll need to stop selling or apply for a traditional license to sell food in Maryland.

Where Can I Sell Food from Home Maryland?

According to Maryland cottage food law 2021, you can sell food from home via pickup, in-person delivery, or mail order. You can also sell to retail stores or directly to consumers at farmers markets and other public events. All cottage sales must take place inside Maryland state lines.

What Are Considered Cottage Foods in Maryland?

The state has strict rules about the types of foods you can sell from a cottage food business Maryland. All foods must be non-perishable and "non-potentially hazardous" — in other words, they should not require refrigeration, and they must not be vulnerable to dangerous bacteria growth. Before you start selling, check the state code for current lists of allowed and prohibited foods.

Are you wondering, "Can I sell baked goods from home in Maryland?" The answer is yes, but with restrictions. Since cottage businesses can't sell anything that requires refrigeration, you cannot make cheesecakes, custard pies, or cream pies. If your product contains fruit, it must have a pH of 4.6 or lower. That means that you can sell apple butter, but pumpkin pie is prohibited. Your local health department can answer questions about specific foods.

Businesses selling produce in Maryland are not covered by cottage food laws. Instead, look into local regulations for farmers markets and roadside stands.

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Food Labeling and Packaging Requirements

When you run a cottage business, you must package all of the food at home. The label must include:

Are you planning to sell cottage foods to a store that has a Maryland retail food license? The label must also include your email address, phone number, and a production date.

Although there are no specific Maryland cottage food taxes, your business must pay federal and state taxes, including sales tax.

Maryland Cottage Food Laws 2021

Cottage food laws Maryland have been in a period of transition since 2012. That year, the state legislature passed SB255, a law that allowed cottage food sales at public events and farmers markets. SB255 was a big step forward for small food producers — before that, they were required to pay for access to a commercial kitchen.

Thanks to a series of subsequent amendments and laws, Maryland cottage food laws 2021 have become considerably less restrictive. The best part? As long as you stick to the requirements of the Maryland cottage kitchen laws, you can prepare foods in your home kitchen without a food facility permit. These laws do not apply to mobile units, such as carts or trucks; they're subject to Maryland food truck laws.

Cottage food laws can vary drastically from state to state. Case in point: Virginia. Although it's right next door to Maryland, this state operates on a different system. The legislature hasn't drawn up separate Virginia cottage food laws. Instead, cottage businesses fall under exemptions to the general Virginia laws for selling food.

Cottage food businesses in Virginia enjoy a variety of perks. Unlike Maryland, there is no cap on annual revenue. In addition, cottage businesses aren't subject to regular inspections by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In Maryland, the Department of Health conducts cottage inspections if your business is the subject of a complaint or an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Like most states, both Virginia and Maryland have strict regulations regarding the pH of cottage foods. That's because acidity is directly related to food safety. The higher the acidity, the longer a food can last on the shelf. Virginia home-based business laws take pH requirements a step further than Maryland — they limit sales of acidic foods, such as pickles and salsa, to $3,000 per year.

When it comes to retail sales, Maryland business owners have the advantage. You can sell cottage foods to retail outlets as long as you complete a food safety course. Virginia laws for selling home baked goods prohibit cottage businesses from selling to retail stores.

Cottage Food Business Ideas

A cottage food business is a fantastic way to make money and do what you love. Plus, you can work from home and set your own schedule — it's the perfect side hustle.

As you search for cottage business ideas, remember to stick to non-perishable foods. They're legal in Maryland, simple to store, and you can make them ahead of time. It's easy to find non-perishable cottage food approved recipes, too — just make sure they don't contain prohibited ingredients.

Cottage food business ideas:

  • Baked goods - Pastries, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins
  • Breads - Baguettes, sandwich bread, bagels
  • Popcorn - Kettle corn, flavored popcorn, popcorn balls
  • Snack mixes - Nuts, trail mix, chocolate-covered pretzels
  • Drink mixes - Whole roasted coffee beans, tea blends
  • Specialty spice blends - Mexican, steak, poultry
  • Preserves - Jams, jellies (must be bottled hot and contain fruits with a 4.6 pH or lower)

Some of the best food business ideas 2021 capitalize on special events. Successful cottage bakers often specialize in themed cookies or baked goods for baby showers, birthdays, and holidays. In Maryland, make sure to use an approved frosting.

If you're selling at festivals and events, consider treats that make customers' lives easier or more fun. "Secret" spice mixes are a hit during the summer grilling season. At holiday craft markets, customers will snap up tea blends to give out as stocking stuffers.

Food License Maryland Cost

If you want to start a cottage food business in Maryland, there's no need to pay a fee to apply for cottage food license approval. The state doesn't offer or require a food license MD for these small operations.

Your county or city may have its own requirements for cottage food businesses. If you live in Gaithersburg, for example, you can start a company for free — home kitchens are exempt from the food license Montgomery County MD rules.

In many parts of Maryland, licensing rules and costs depend on where you're selling cottage food. For instance, you don't need a food service facility license Baltimore County for the business itself. If you want to sell at special events, you'll need to apply for a $35-per-day temporary food service permit. Sometimes, city rules supersede county regulations. For example, in the city of Baltimore, you must apply for a $50 temporary food service facility license to sell at community events.

Some counties have different permits for different events. To sell at farmers markets in Prince George's County, you'll need to pay $262.50 for a Farmer’s Market Vendor Special Food Service Facility Permit. To sell at festivals, fairs, and other community events, the county requires you to get a Temporary Event permit. Application costs range from $78.75 to $131.25. If you're simply selling from home, your cottage business is exempt from the food service facility license PG County requirements.

Since cottage foods are non-perishable, special-event food permits are relatively easy to obtain in Maryland. You can increase your odds of approval by applying early and filling out all forms completely.

Are you wondering, "Do I need a business license for a cottage food operation in my city?" Call your city clerk's office — the staff will be able to provide specific requirements for your city and county. This is also a good time to ask about the current food license Maryland cost schedules.

Home Bakery License Maryland

If you want to start a home bakery in Maryland, there are several ways to go about it. A cottage food home bakery is the easiest option; it's free, and you don't need to worry about finding a commercial kitchen or getting a home bakery license Maryland. What is a cottage food business? It's a bakery that operates out of your home kitchen.

If you want to earn more than $25,000 per year or sell foods that aren't allowed under cottage food law, you'll need to look into different home-based food business options.

If you're a farmer, you can apply for Maryland's On-Farm Home Processing License. It enables you to sell up to $40,000 of certain baked goods from a residential kitchen on your farm. To qualify, the Department of Health must inspect and approve your kitchen, utensils, and equipment. You'll also need to complete a training course, create a production plan, and prepare only approved foods.

All other bakeries in Maryland require a Processing License from the Maryland Department of Health. This license requires access to a commercial kitchen. To operate a commercial kitchen, you'll need a Food Service Facility License from your county's health department. It's important to note that most counties in Maryland do not allow you to license a residential kitchen for large-scale commercial use.

For most bakers and home chefs in Maryland, a cottage food business is the preferred way to make money from home. It's affordable to start, easy to maintain, and offers the potential for a healthy part-time income.

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