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Iowa Cottage Food Law

Are you a midwest resident looking to sell food items from your own kitchen? If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to these guidelines for selling baked goods from home in Iowa.

Within this post, we’ll answer plenty of questions including:

One of the more unique aspects about Iowa cottage food law is that the rules are quite old. In fact, the state has allowed for the sale of homemade edibles for the last forty years.

However, there are actually two different guidelines that you will want to pay attention to if you’re looking to start a food business at home. There is one for basic sales of non-perishable foods by producers and one for home bakeries. If you’re looking to start your own home bakery, understanding where you fall between these two is the first step.

The first cottage law license Iowa category is quite simple and includes a lengthy list of permitted items. Labeling requirements are very simple and there’s no need for a formal inspection prior to selling. But it is important to note that this category only covers non-perishable items. Additionally, you can only sell those items from your own home or at farmer’s markets.

The other option is to get an official Iowa home bakery license. This option allows for sales at far more venues, wholesale to restaurants, and even online. There is a cap on how much money you can earn in a given year, which is $35,000. An annual license renewal and home bakery inspection are required.

The catch? A home bakery license only permits you to sell baked goods at these venues and events. Candies like brittles, cotton candy, fudge, preserves, and others are not included in your license.

As you can tell, this can get a little confusing for savvy bakers and cooks that want to expand into multiple types of food.

For example, if you have this type of license you’re planning on selling baked goods at a farmers market, then you could also sell homemade fudge under the open category for cottage food sales in Iowa. But, you would not be able to sell that same fudge or even jars of fruit preserves to another business as wholesale.

And do you need a special Iowa food license for online sales, like from a home-based bakery website? According to Iowa cottage food laws 2021, as long as the items fall under your home baker license, then you’re fine. If they are under general cottage food permissions, then you cannot.

How do you get an in-home bakery license in Iowa? The home food establishment license Iowa requires comes from filling out an application from the Department of Inspections and Appeals. There is a $50 fee and the in-home bakery license must be renewed annually.

With an inspection, you’ll be monitored to ensure you’re using all proper food handling procedures. The inspection and your bakery license are only good for your in-home kitchen, meaning you cannot go to a friend or family member’s home to make products under your license. Pets are never allowed in the same kitchen during food preparations and smoking is also prohibited. While these are confirmed limitations, there might be others that you’ll want to double check before your inspection actually occurs.

You and anyone working for you handling food must also apply for an Iowa food handler’s permit. The cost is $10 and requires a brief training session on topics surrounding food safety. This is meant to be a catalyst for better education on proper methods of food preparation to prevent spoilage, which in turn protects the general public. This is a guideline that applies to the basic cottage food requirements and the home bakery license protocols.

Where can you sell products? Iowa allows cottage food makers to sell only for pickup from their own home and at farmer’s markets. Those with an official home bakery license may sell from their own home, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and at events. In-store sales, wholesaling to restaurants, and some online food sales are also permitted.

When labeling products, in-home bakeries and other establishments must label their products with a company name, contact address, and ingredients listed from the highest weight to the lowest. Your contact address on your label cannot be a post office box. Commercial products used in your items—like chocolate chips, for example—would have their ingredients list copied over and combined with yours. Net weight in ounces, grams, or both is also required to be on your label.

It is also important to note that Iowa allows for those with an official bakery license to sell some perishable baked goods including meringue pies, cheesecakes, and more. The only caveat to this is that these items cannot contain meat.

In contrast to many other states, the cottage food laws in Iowa are far more friendly to those looking to sell baked goods from home. That’s likely to do with the state’s high population of farmers and the rich history surrounding the agricultural business in the area. That said, if you’re looking to start selling baked goods from home, understanding the guidelines we’ve included here is the first real part of the overall process.

Iowa Cottage Foods List

In Iowa, the list of foods permissible by cottage food laws is pretty expansive—which is likely fostered by the numerous farming communities within this region. Selling home-canned goods and selling honey in Iowa is allowed. It is also important to note that the items you’re able to sell varies between a general cottage food business and a licensed in-home bakery.

Here are a few other items that can be sold under the general current cottage food guidelines:

This list is far more inclusive and specific than the cottage food laws for other states. Since Iowa’s guidelines are so specific, it is important to discuss your home-based food sales plans with your local jurisdiction if an item doesn’t explicitly fall into one of these categories. And the do seem to update their classifications on a fairly regular basis, too.

Prohibited items include perishable foods, sauces, pickles, meat jerkies, salsas, fermented foods, and juices.

As a side note, it is important to talk about honey. Do you need a license to sell honey in Iowa? The answer is no, as it is deemed a condiment under current cottage food laws. However, it is best to check with your local county for further guidelines on keeping and raising bees in Iowa.

Cottage Food Laws by State

How do Iowa’s cottage food laws compare to those in other states? Here are a few areas where these guidelines differ and what you need to know about each.

Wondering about selling honey in various states? Here are a few additional guidelines to consider.

Learn what types of foods you can sell from home, where you can sell homemade food in Iowa, and more. Iowa is home to one of the most lenient cottage food laws.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer


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