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New Hampshire Cottage Food Law

The state of New Hampshire has a two-tiered cottage food law system. For would-be sellers who only wish to sell small amounts of food from their homes, the process to legally run a cottage food business is simple. However, for those who wish to scale up to something more closely resembling an enterprise and get their NH homestead food license, it's going to take quite a bit more effort. 

The first tier is set aside for that is called non-licensed “homestead food operations.” These operations are categorized as operations that sell less than $20,000 worth of edible goods each year. That is one of the highest monetary benchmarks you'll find in the United States, and if you're a multiple-income household, it could be very much worth your while. The one most serious limitation to these unlicensed businesses is the fact that all sales must take place at a farmer's market or roadside stand. Even still, there is no license required to do business at this level. That means you'll forgo all of the formalities and no state of NH health inspectors will be coming around to bother you. Furthermore, the state of New Hampshire permits sales from operations like this in other states. You only need to register in the other state where you're selling. 

Obtaining a NH Cottage Food Homestead License 

If you intend to make a living solely by operating a cottage food business out of your home, then $20,000 probably isn't going to make ends meet. In this case you'll need a “ sell food from home license.” The application process is fairly involved, and there is a $225 fee to process all of the paperwork. The paperwork you'll fill out and turn in covers the sources of your ingredients, your product labels, all of the important steps in your manufacturing process, and all of the locations where you sell and intend to sell. In addition to this, in order to keep your license, your home (or production center) will be inspected and reinspected on a regular basis. Furthermore, you will need to keep and maintain records detailing the production of your products. 

Where You Are Allowed to Sell in New Hampshire

If you are an unlicensed cottage food seller earning less than $20,000 a year you are only permitted to sell at farmers markets. But if you are running a fully licensed homestead operation, the locations at which you are permitted to sell are limited to the following:

The regulations covering New Hampshire cottage food law is short and succinct. Here's a quick breakdown of all the stipulations it contains and what they mean.

1. “Homestead food operations selling less than a maximum annual gross sales of $20,000 of food, excluding potentially hazardous food, from the homestead residence, at the owner’s own farm stand, or at farmers’ markets are exempt from licensure under this subdivision.”

This simply means that if you make less money per year operating your cottage food kitchen than the state of New Hampshire considers necessary to rise above the poverty line, then you are not expected to obtain or maintain a food cottage license. The only limitations placed on an operation of this scale concern where you are able to sell your goods. For clarity, the state of New Hampshire feels that operations that purport to sell food goods to the general public must be held to an expectation of trust which rises above what a voluntary private exchange would entail. New Hampshire lawmakers consider any exchange of food taking place at a farmer's market or at a private roadside stand is like engaging in a personal trade in which the parties are only accountable to each other. Furthermore, for the health and safety of NH residents and visitors, it is considered necessary to regulate larger operations where the exchange is impersonal. NH regulates larger operations for health and safety reasons, and in order to maintain their legitimacy in doing so, they must ensure that the regulations they impose are both effective and fair. 

2. “Homestead food operations that exceed the $20,000 maximum annual gross sales limit or homestead food operations who wish to sell food products, excluding potentially hazardous food, to restaurants or other retail food establishments, over the Internet, by mail order, or to wholesalers, brokers, or other food distributors who will resell the homestead product shall be licensed.”

This stipulation defines the venues and the organization types which must be regulated. The defining attribute is completing more than $20,000 worth of cottage food sales each year. The definition marks exchanges between the vendor and the general public which are impersonal and which carry a greater than usual level of trust in order to be reasonably safe and practicable. 

In short, NH cottage food laws are designed to regulate only exchanges which do not occur on a face-to-face level in which both parties can readily, verbally disclose the terms of the exchange. It is a type of regulatory tack which intends to protect the requirements of scaling and to leave private interactions free and private. It is a means of regulation that is clearly based in New Hampshire's particularly Constitutional legal tradition. 

Cottage Foods List New Hampshire 

In order to regulate the cottage food industry effectively, lawmakers in the state of New Hampshire have determined that a rigid list of where one is permitted to sell home-cooked goods. At this time, this NH food protection and safety regulations list is limited to the following:

The reasoning for the inclusion or exclusion of a given food on this list is not always readily apparent. It is likely that the foods on this list are considered baked goods that do not require time or temperature control after preparation. The spirit of these regulations is such that it considers some types of foods to be inherently transparent, or to be so well known and traditional that the average buyer should be able to spot a bad batch. Whether or not this opinion is accurate is up for debate, but this is where NH cottage food law stands at this time.

Of course, no list of NH cottage food laws would be complete without a companion list of prohibited foods. Foods that are not permitted to be sold at legal and licensed NH cottage food production and distribution centers include but are not limited to:

Again the state's specific reasons for the items on this list of prohibited items are not readily apparent. Presumably, the idea here is that these foods are inherently inhospitable to transparency, can be easily padded with poor or bad ingredients, and so on. For a complete list of these food items and the permitted foods items with a complete description of the reasoning behind each permitted item and each prohibited item, please visit here

Cottage Food Laws by State

Cottage food laws vary either greatly or slightly from state to state. We've already mentioned some notions of how the laws in New Hampshire are unique. If you intend to sell across state lines, you should understand the cottage food laws in the adjoining states where you hope to do business. It's important to understand that if you're very accustomed to the food laws in your state, it can be perilous to assume that what's in the spirit of the law in one location is in the spirit of the law in another. 

 Food license Michigan 

Food laws in Michigan are among the most permissive you're likely to encounter. No license is required and many types of non-perishable foods are allowed.

 Food service license Illinois 

There are two categories of food service laws in IL, one set for cottage food laws, and one newer set for “home kitchen operations.” The older set is much simpler, but it is advised to understand both to do business in IL. 

 Food service license Texas 

After many revisions, Texas now has what experts consider “good food laws.” Its upper limit for unlicensed sellers is very high, and its list of permitted food types is the longest in the country.

 Food service license NY 

Not surprisingly, New York state has some of the most restrictive food laws in the nation, if not the most restrictive. All producers/sellers have to register with the ag dept. Obtaining legal representation before selling cottage foods in NY may be advisable.

 Food service license Wisconsin 

WI cottage food laws give you two avenues to selling homemade food. The Wisconsin bakers association has lawmakers under their control, and unfortunately, they have ensured upstarts will have an uphill battle getting started.

 Bakery licenses and permits Florida 

Florida's cottage food laws have become more flexible in recent years, but it is still one of the most heavily regulated states. Even so, the upper limit for unlicensed homemade food sellers is the highest in the country at $250,000 of non-perishable food sales.

 Food service license Massachusetts

A leader in cottage food laws, MA drafted its “residential kitchens” law in 2000, long before the recent surge in the popularity of this industry took off. Only non-perishable foods may be sold from a home kitchen, but there is no limit to the amount of sales you can make, and sellers may operate at any venue.

New Hampshire has a two-tiered cottage food law system. New Hampshire's cottage food laws are especially good if you're only wishing to sell a small amount of food from your home.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer


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