In Virginia, you can sell cottage food at farmers markets and directly from your home.
Virginia allows bread, candies, condiments, dry goods, pastries, preserves, and snacks to be sold.
Labels must include business address, business name, date produced, phone number, product name, and a note that your product was made in an uninspected kitchen.
There is no limit to how much a home-based vendor can sell in Virginia. There is a $3,000 limit applied to sales of pickles/acidified foods.
All sales must be direct with your customers and sold within the state of Virginia.
Contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in your region. For Northern Virginia, call 804-625-3033; for Southwest Virginia, call 540-562-3641; for Tidewater, call 757-363-3840; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Virginia'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.
The original cottage laws in the state of Virginia were incredibly restrictive and did not allow for much freedom. Originally, foods could only be sold from the home directly to customers or at farmers markets. Even worse, the foods were extremely restricted. The cottage food laws Virginia have changed over the years.
In 2013, the law was amended to allow a few more types of foods. The Virginia health department food regulations were slightly lifted to ensure food operators could start to sell goods like pickles and honey. Virginia had another round of bills (HB 1290 and HB 135) shortly after that was aimed at lifting more of the restrictions. However, the bills were too ambitious and did not pass. Many groups in Virginia are still fighting to pass the food freedom initiative to this day.
Current cottage laws do not require any license for a Virginia home food processing operation. Since no license is required, that means there is no need to complete a Virginia cottage food license application. Additionally, this means that food operators are exempt from the annual inspection. The annual inspection is typically $40. Should a cottage food operation receive the $40 bill, they can easily dispute it with the Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Despite not needing a license, there are local zoning requirements that must be met. Each city has its own regulations that need to be fulfilled. On average, a new food operator can expect to have to register with a business license along with a federal tax ID number. There are no caps on gross sales, but all income must be reported at the end of the tax year.
The Virginia cottage food laws 2021 are fairly straight forward. A cottage food operator does not need to obtain a Virginia department of health food permit because of Virginia’s new home kitchen food processing exemptions. Cottage food operations do not have to complete the Virginia department of health food establishment permit application or meet the Virginia food handling requirements.
Depending on the location of a cottage food operation, the answer to the question, “Do I need to register my business in Virginia?” will vary. Each jurisdiction can require whether or not a Virginia business license renewal is required each year. The Virginia home-based business laws allow local jurisdictions the ability to require business licenses and or insurance, based on zoning laws.
Virginia cottage food laws allow operators to produce any foods or baked goods that do not require time or temperature control after preparation. These non hazardous foods are limited to the following approved items:
Typically, there are no gross sales caps on cottage food products in Virginia. However, there are two expectations to this rule. Those who wish to sell pickles and acidified vegetables must have a pH level no higher than 4.6, and they are limited to only $3,000 per year. Additionally, while honey can be sold, no honey infused products can be sold. Furthermore, the following must be placed on any honey: “PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION. WARNING: Do Not Feed Honey to Infants Under One Year Old.”
Regarding labels, certain statements must be included on all products. This includes: "NOT FOR RESALE - PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION." Aside from the all cap statement, following must be included:
Cottage food operators are permitted to have a website and advertise only. However, no online sales are permitted. Orders may be placed over the phone. Payments must be accepted in person and goods must be delivered face to face. Customers are permitted to come pickup the products, but the food operator cannot delivery the products. Additionally, food operators may sell their goods at farmers markets. Farmers markets have the right to require food operators to acquire additional licenses and/or insurance.
As mentioned above, there is no cottage food license or food permit application that is required in Virginia for cottage food operators. It is possible for farmers markers to have their own set of requirements for cottage food operators, however. They have the right to request a food vendor license Virginia before they allow someone to sell on their premises.
The food vendor license is legally known as the temporary food establishment license. This allows operators to sell their goods at farmers markers for no more than 14 consecutive days. The license is $40 each time it is needed and an inspection of your at-home kitchen is required. Failure to pass inspection will result is not receiving the permit or a refund. It can also raise flags about your cottage food operation.
For those interested in selling produce in Virginia, it’s important to note that freshly cut fruit is not permissible under the cottage food laws. However, uncut fruit and dried fruit are allowed to be sold. Fruit jellies and jams are also allowed to be sold, so long as they do not require refrigeration. Even most fruit pies are allowed to be sold, so long as they are not pumpkin, sweet potato, or cream based pies.
Now that we have covered the cottage laws in Virginia, let’s look at other states. We will start with Virginia’s closest neighbor, West Virginia, and then briefly move on to other states around the country.
West Virginia has one of the most lenient cottage food laws in the nation. The West Virginia food code was passed under SB 285. This meant nearly all the restrictions of the West Virginia cottage food law were removed in 2019. Residents of West Virginia can easily sell any non-hazardous food online and through the mail without any sales limit.
Most cottage foods can even be sold at farmers markets without any issues. The WV farmers market vendor guide 2020 simply asks cottage food operators to meet the same West Virginia food safety regulations that food establishments are required to meet. Compared to Virginia, WV cottage food law 2021 is incredibly freeing and relaxed.
Aside from removing restrictions with food, the latest laws also exempt home based cookies from all government regulation. This means there are no permits or inspections required to start a home based food business in West Virginia. The only time the government can step in is if someone files a complaint about a foodborne illness. Since no permits or inspections are required, it is virtually “free” to get started. Operators only need to purchase ingredients and determine how they wish to market their business.
Even the label requirements in West Virginia are relaxed! The only requirement is to add “This product was produced at a private residence that is exempt from State licensing and inspection. This product may contain allergens." Of all the states we are about to cover, you will quickly see that none are as easy as West Virginia.
Moving on to the rest of the nation, we are not going to cover every state. However, we will hit states across the country to briefly showcase different laws. For example, to apply for a cottage food license Washington state, a business name, EIN, and detailed recipe guide are required. The same is required to apply for cottage food license California. Both states require an inspection to get started.
Surprisingly, to apply for a cottage food license Oregon, cottage food license Nevada, or cottage food license Florida, few requirements need to be met. A short application with the name of the business and specific products must be included. However, the ingredients list is not required. Additionally, none of these states require an inspection.
The Louisiana cottage food law is in between the strictness of some states and the leniency of others. With a sales limit of $20,000, entrepreneurs are not expected to operate under cottage food law permanently. The state truly wants to see entrepreneurs move from a home based business to a commercial kitchen. Unlike the other states mentioned, these food operators can actually sell to restaurants!
As you can see, cottage food laws greatly vary from state to state and county to county. Local jurisdictions are the best guidelines to follow. Even if your home state was mentioned in this article, it is always best to follow up with your local health department. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information about the inspection requirements. They can also point you in the right direction or who you should call for zoning and license requirements in your city, town, or county.
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