Frequently Asked Questions
- Is there a limit to how much I can sell as a Cottage Food producer?
- What types of Cottage Foods can I produce in my home?
- Will I need to meet local zoning or other laws?
- Can I utilize commercial type equipment such as large rotary mixers in my cottage food operation?
- Does my equipment, stove and/or refrigerator need to be NSF (a food equipment evaluation group) approved?
- Do I need to have a DBA?
- The farmers market where I want to sell my products says I need a food license, even though I am a Cottage Food business. Can the market require a license?
- Are there any special requirements regarding my home on-site well?
- Are there any concerns related to my home on-site wastewater (septic) system?
- Why are some products not allowed to be made and sold under the guidance document?
- Are pet treats covered in the guidance document?
- Can I produce and sell cooked vegetable products, like salsas, tomato sauces, spaghetti sauces, or focaccia bread with roasted vegetables?
- Can I roast coffee beans in my home kitchen and sell them?
- Can I bake bread in a wood-fired oven?
- Can I make and sell apple butter, pumpkin butter or other fruit butters?
- Can I press and sell apple cider?
- Are honey and maple syrup covered under the guidance document?
- Can I make and sell dehydrated meat or poultry?
- I lease space in a retail building where I operate a small antique shop. As a Cottage Food baker, can I sell my own baked goods from my shop?
- Can I make and sell hard candies or lollipops?
- Can I make and sell sweet breads, muffins or other baked goods made with fresh fruits and vegetables like zucchini, pumpkin, and strawberries?
- Can I use homegrown fruits and vegetables in baked goods?
- Can homegrown produce be canned and used for making baked goods, like sweet breads, at a later date?
- Can I freeze homegrown produce and use it for making baked goods, like sweet breads, at a later date?
- Can I make and sell dry bread or “instant” bread mixes?
- Does my chocolate fountain business qualify as a Cottage Food business? I deliver and set up the fountain, and provide chocolate dipping sauce and items to dip (cut up fruit, pretzels, etc.) that I have prepared in my home kitchen.
- Do I have to put a label on my Cottage Foods?
- What does allergen labeling, as specified in federal labeling requirements, mean?
- Are there any special requirements for tree nuts labeling for allergens?
- I am concerned that some of my product ingredients that are not allergens are "trade secrets" and listing all my ingredients would lead to unfair competition. Do I have to list all of my ingredients or can I protect my trade secrets?
- Do I have to include my home address on my product labeling or is a post office box sufficient?
- Am I required to send my products to a laboratory to obtain an official ingredient list, or is it something I can put together on my own?
- If I make and sell wedding cakes, how can I meet the labeling requirements, when I can't stick a label on the cake?
- Why can't I sell my Cottage Foods to my favorite restaurant or grocery store?
- Can I make and sell products from my motor home kitchen, or cottage or summer home?
- Can I make products in a rented kitchen and sell them?
- Can I make Cottage Food products in an outbuilding on my property, like a shed or a barn?
- Where can I store ingredients and finished products for my Cottage Food business?
- Can nonprofit organizations produce and sell Cottage Foods?
- Can I sell my Cottage Foods over the Internet?
- Can I sell my Cottage Foods to a wholesaler, broker or distributor?
- Can I advertise my Cottage Food products on my website?
- Can I advertise my Cottage Food business in the newspaper or at trade shows?
- Is it possible to place my Cottage Food products in a store or restaurant on consignment?
- Can I serve free samples of my Cottage Food Products?
Some states have limitations in the amount of money a Cottage Food operation may make annually per household and operators that may be needed to maintain sales records and provide them to the regulatory inspector, upon request.
Specific products are listed in the guidance document.
Yes. Cottage Food Operators should contact their local unit of government to determine if there are local regulations that will affect their business. Note that it is possible, even in a state with a Cottage Food Law, for a local city or town government to ban home food production.
No. Typically a private home is not equipped with sinks required to effectively wash, rinse, and sanitize large commercial equipment.
No. As a Cottage Food operator, you are not required to meet NSF standards for your equipment used to manufacture Cottage Food products.
A DBA (Doing Business As) may be a requirement of your county or local municipality.
Yes. Even though an entity may meet the requirements of a Cottage Food Operation and be permitted, some farmers markets or other direct marketing venues may require vendors to have a food establishment license or to meet other requirements. Local policies enacted by farmers market boards and other local governing bodies are generally outside the scope of any Cottage Foods regulations.
Yes. Only potable water from a properly constructed on-site well or municipal water system can be used. If a well is used, the well water should be tested, at least annually, for coliform bacteria and nitrates.
Water from wells with any of the following features should be avoided:
- · Very shallow depth (< 25 ft)
- · Producing cloudy water
- · Located in below-ground pit
- · Buried wellhead
- · Missing cap or seal
- · Opening around casing pipe
- · Located in close proximity to septic system
- · Dug well
A list of water testing laboratories may be available from the regulatory agency. Local Health Departments can provide consultation on drinking water quality and well construction.
Depending on the nature and volume of the food products which will be manufactured for sale, there can be adverse effects to the existing system serving the home. For instance, adding significant bakery wastewater cannot only increase the total volume discharged, but may also result in the increase in the organic strength of the wastewater discharged to the drain field, leading to the possibility of accelerated system failure. The adequacy of the home system to handle additional wastewater loading should be evaluated by the local health department prior to initiating manufacturing. The health department can advise you if modifications to the existing system may be necessary.
The Cottage Food guidance document allows food entrepreneurs to operate small food businesses and produce a variety of food products that are low risk from a food safety standpoint, if prepared properly in an unlicensed and uninspected kitchen, while protecting public health to the greatest extent possible. The allowable products list is based on the food safety risk level associated with certain types of food. People who operate a licensed and inspected food processing business have to meet certain requirements for training, food safety and handling. Since Cottage Food businesses are uninspected, it is necessary to limit food products allowed under the law to those that are considered low risk, or non-potentially hazardous.
No. The Cottage Food guidance document applies to human grade food only.
No. Food products made with cooked vegetable products do not qualify under the Cottage Food guidance document. Manufacturers of cooked vegetable products like salsas and tomato sauces must meet significant federal and state training and licensing requirements. Cooked vegetables, whether fresh or canned, usually are made from a combination of low acid and acidified foods, and are considered a Potentially Hazardous Food. Cooked vegetables must be held either hot (above 135°F) or cold (below 41°F). They can't be stored at room temperature, which makes them ineligible for production in a cottage food operation.
Yes. You can roast and sell whole bean coffee or ground coffee, as long as you meet all of the provisions of the Cottage Food guidance document (labeling, storage, etc.); however, since beverages are not allowed under the Cottage Food guidance document, you may not sell ready-made coffee.
Yes, as long as that oven is in your home kitchen.
No. Fruit butters have significantly less sugar than a traditional jam or jelly. It is the combination of acid, sugar, pectin and heat that assures the safety of jams/jellies. In fruit butters, the combination of sugar and pectin is not large enough to assure that the butter is safe. Additionally, with lower sugar and pectin levels, spoilage organisms are more likely to survive the cooking process, which would allow for a micro-environment to develop and allow for the growth of Clostridium botulinum.
No. Apple cider is not a food allowed to be produced. Actually, no beverages are allowed to be produced under the Cottage Food guidance document.
No. Honey and maple syrup are not considered cottage foods, because state regulatory requirements and exemptions typically have some significant differences.
No. Meat and poultry are a potentially hazardous food and are not allowed under the Cottage Food guidance document exemptions.
Yes, as long as they are labeled correctly and completely, and the label includes any allergens the product may contain. However, you can't sell other people's products (e.g., consignment) nor have other people sell your products (e.g., wholesalers).
Yes. Hard candies, lollipops and peppermint candies are allowed under the Cottage Food guidance document, as long as they are labeled correctly and completely, the label includes any allergens the product may contain, and all other provisions of the guidance are complied with.
Yes, as long as the fruits or vegetables are incorporated into the batter and properly baked, labeled and packaged. The baked goods may not be decorated or garnished with fresh fruits or vegetables.
Yes. You should take care to thoroughly wash the homegrown produce and the fruits or vegetables must be incorporated into the batter and properly baked, labeled and packaged. The baked goods may not be decorated or garnished with fresh fruits or vegetables.
No, but you can use commercially-canned products for baked goods, like canned pumpkin, cherry pie filling, etc. Most home-canned products are not approved for production under the Cottage Food Law, with the exception of jams and jellies.
Yes, as long as the frozen fruits or vegetables are incorporated into the batter and properly baked, labeled and packaged. The baked goods may not be decorated or garnished with fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables.
Yes. Dry bread mixes are an acceptable product to produce and sell under the Cottage Food guidance document, as long as you meet all requirements of the law.
Does my chocolate fountain business qualify as a Cottage Food business? I deliver and set up the fountain, and provide chocolate dipping sauce and items to dip (cut up fruit, pretzels, etc.) that I have prepared in my home kitchen.
The type of business you have described is a catering service or food service business and is not eligible to operate under the Cottage Food guidance document. Cottage Food products must be prepackaged and properly labeled prior to sale.
Yes, you are required to label your Cottage Foods. The basic information that must be on the label is as follows:
· Name and address of the Cottage Food operation.
· Name of the Cottage Food product (All capital letters or upper/lower case are both acceptable).
· The ingredients of the Cottage Food product, in descending order of predominance by weight. If you use a prepared item in your recipe, you must list the sub ingredients as well. For example: soy sauce is not acceptable, soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt) would be acceptable. Please see the following label for further examples.
· The net weight or net volume of the Cottage Food product (must also include the metric equivalent; conversion charts are available online).
· Allergen labeling as specified in federal labeling requirements.
· The following statement: "Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to routine government food safety inspection" (All capital letters or upper/lower case are both acceptable).
Hand-printed labels are acceptable if they are clearly legible, written with durable, permanent ink, and printed large enough to equal the font size requirements listed above.
It means you must identify if any of your ingredients are made from one of the following food groups: milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, fish (including shellfish, crab, lobster or shrimp) and tree nuts (such as almonds, pecans or walnuts). So, if you have an ingredient made with a wheat-based product, you have two options:
1. Include the allergen in the ingredient list. For example, a white bread with the following ingredient listing: whole wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. In this example, the statement “whole wheat flour”, meets the requirements of federal law.
2. Include an allergen statement ("Contains:") after the ingredient list. For example a white bread, with the following ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, sodium caseinate, salt and yeast. Contains wheat and milk.
The "Contains" statement must reflect all the allergens found in the product. In this example, the sodium caseinate comes from milk.
Yes. If your Cottage Food has tree nuts as an ingredient, you must identify which tree nut you are using.
For example, if you made Nut Bread, an acceptable ingredient list would be:
Ingredients: wheat flour, water, almonds, salt, yeast.
The following would not be acceptable:
Ingredients: flour, water, nuts, salt, yeast.
I am concerned that some of my product ingredients that are not allergens are "trade secrets" and listing all my ingredients would lead to unfair competition. Do I have to list all of my ingredients or can I protect my trade secrets?
According to federal regulations (Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 21CFR 101.100g(1)(2)), exceptions to labeling can be made. In particular, if the Commissioner of Food and Drugs finds that alleged secret ingredients are harmless, an exemption may be granted. You should contact the FDA to discuss and propose an exemption from labeling.
You must use the physical address of your home kitchen on your product label, not a post office box. The purpose of including an address on product labels is to be able to locate the business in case of a recall or traceback associated with a foodborne illness complaint or outbreak. The Cottage Food guidance document specifies that the name and address of the business of the Cottage Food Operation must be included on the label.
You are not required to have your product analyzed by a laboratory to obtain an official ingredient list. You must, however, list all ingredients, in descending order of predominance by weight. If you use a prepared item in your recipe, you must list sub-ingredients as well. For example, if you use soy sauce as an ingredient, listing soy sauce is not acceptable; soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt) is acceptable. Allergen labeling, as specified in federal labeling requirements, must also be included.
For wedding cakes, birthday cakes and other specialty cakes that are not easily packaged, you must include all labeling requirements on the invoice and deliver the invoice with the cake. Smaller cakes must be boxed, and the label must be included on the box.
Because the kitchen is not routinely inspected, the safe food handling practices are not evaluated by any food safety official. Since the safe food handling practices are not being evaluated, the food is not considered an approved source for use in a restaurant or grocery store. Also, it is not possible for the final consumer to discuss your food safety practices with you, since you are not selling or serving the product to the consumer.
The Cottage Food guidance document applies only to non-potentially hazardous foods made in the kitchen of your primary residence. Second homes, vacation homes or motor homes do not qualify if they are not your primary residence.
No. The Cottage Food guidance document applies only to non-potentially hazardous foods made in the kitchen of your primary residence. Even if the rented kitchen is a licensed facility, you would need a food establishment license to sell your products.
No. The guidance document requires the Cottage Food products be made in your kitchen and stored in your single family domestic residence.
Ingredients and finished Cottage Food products may be stored in your single family domestic residence where the Cottage Food products are made. This includes your kitchen, a spare room or a basement that is free of dampness/water, pests or other insanitary conditions. You may not use a garage, shed, barn or other outbuilding as a storage facility for your Cottage Food business.
No. Nonprofits do not have a single family domestic residence and, therefore, do not qualify as a Cottage Food business.
No. While you can advertise your product on the Internet, you cannot take orders over the Internet and then ship directly to consumers. Sales and product delivery must be directly from the producer to the consumer, in a person-to-person transaction, and not delivered by mail.
No. Under the Cottage Food guidance document, it is not legal for a producer to sell to a wholesaler, broker or distributor who would then resell the product.
Yes. You can use your website to advertise your products or market your business, but cannot take orders or sell products via your website.
Yes. Advertising is allowed; however, the actual sale must be made person-to-person between the producer and the consumer.
No. Cottage Food products cannot be sold on consignment. The sale must be person-to-person, from the producer to the actual consumer.
Yes. As long as your product meets the requirements of the Cottage Food guidance document and is a non-potentially hazardous food, sampling is allowed. Samples must be pre-packaged in your home kitchen (e.g., if you sample bread, you can't cut it at the market, but can cut it in your home kitchen and individually wrap or package the bread samples into sample cups with lids). Although you do not need an individual label for each sample, you must have properly labeled packages of your product on display with the samples so your customer can review the ingredient list. Your product cannot be cooked or prepared in a way that makes it a potentially hazardous food/temperature control for safety food (e.g., you can't add a dried dip mix to sour cream or serve anything that can't be kept safely at room temperature - these examples would require a food license).