October 19, 2018

Cottage Food Industry Guidance

The cottage food industry is growing in America. This industry, where people make food at home and sell it directly to the public, is limited to foods with a lower potential for foodborne illness, including baked products and jams. The foods can’t be sold in retail stores, through the internet, by mail order.

FDAThe laws and rules governing these sales vary by state, even though the FDA Food Code states that “Food prepared in a private home may not be used to offered for human consumption in a food establishment.” It’s up to the individual proprietor to make sure she is complying with local and state regulations, including zoning ordinances.

So the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) has prepared a guidance document of “best practices” to help potential entrepreneurs and local food safety regulators navigate the system. Some key points:

  • Permits should be required for cottage food operations, and a premise inspection conducted before the permit is issued. In addition, regulators should be able to inspect the premises at any time.
  • Operators should complete a food safety training program before the business is opened.
  • Products will be available at “farmers markets, craft fairs, and charitable organization functions”, not over the internet, through mail order, phone order, consignment, or through grocery stores or restaurants.
  • Pets, small children, and anyone other than the permittee and persons under her direct supervision, are not allowed to participate in preparation or packaging of the food products. In addition, pets, infants, and small children can’t be in the kitchen during food preparation.
  • Examples of permitted foods:
    • Loaf breads, rolls, biscuits
    • Cakes
    • Pastries
    • Cookies
    • Candies
    • Fruit pies
    • Dried fruits
    • Jams, jellies, and preserves
    • Cereals and granola
    • Vinegar and flavored vinegars
  • Food items that require temperature control, low acid canned foods, and fresh fruit or vegetable juices are not allowed, including:
    • Fresh or dried meat or meat products
    • Canned fruits, vegetables, salsa
    • Raw sprouts
    • Milk and dairy products
    • Garlic in oil
    • Ice
    • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables and/or cheeses
    • Fruit butters
    • Canned pickled products
  • A label is required, stating the name and address of the operation, ingredients, an allergy statement,  and other information, including this statement: “Made in a Cottage Food Operation that is not Subject to Routine Government Food Safety Inspection.”
  • Assurance that potable water is used during food preparation.


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