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Making the decision to start an at-home baking business is more than pursuing your dreams. At-home businesses are required by law to follow certain guidelines, trainings and, at times, licensing. Many home-based entrepreneurs fall under the label of cottage cooks, but even cottage cooks need to work within the legal guidelines of their state.
The majority of states define cottage food as non-perishable foods or baked goods. Some of these baked goods include cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, rolls, crackers and biscuits. Other products that may fall under the cottage food label include nuts, granola, candy and suckers, spice blends and bread mixes. Cottage foods are those that do not carry a botulism risk, which eliminates making foods such as pickled products and acidified foods such as some jams. Your local health agency has the most up-to-date list of foods that are allowable in your county. Your local environmental health agency will also inform you if a cottage food license or cottage food permit are required based on your domestic kitchen's location and products to be made.
The answer depends on which state you are baking in, what products you are selling and where you are selling your products. For instance, in California, if you are required to register your home baking business and receive permission from the local health agency, but are not required to purchase a home kitchen license if you are selling the products from home. In Oregon, the same types of restrictions apply, with a domestic kitchen license available for those who expand their business.
As a cottage cook, you may not be required to obtain a license, but most states require the completion of a food processing course. While this course does not always have to be complete when you register your business, you must pass the course within a certain time period. Typically, you have three months to complete your cottage food training.
You must register your at-home kitchen and receive permission from your local environmental health agency.
Then, in addition to completing a food processing course, your cottage food operation is required to follow food safety and sanitation guidelines. Some domestic kitchens, such as those in Oregon, may have to pass an inspection. Those in California that will be selling products at restaurants and markets are also required to pass a kitchen inspection.
While a cottage business license may not be required, your operation is mandated to follow certain rules such as not selling your product online, packaging your products with labels that signify it was made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected, and to limit your sales to a certain amount. For instance, Oregon cottage food sales may not exceed $20,000 per year.
Some cottage business license laws also prohibit who may be in the area while you are preparing food. For example, in California, children, pets and people who are smoking are not allowed in the kitchen while you are preparing food for sales.
California divides cottage cooks into two classes. Class A food preparers bake good at home and sell them at home or at local community events. Class B food preparers do the same, but also sell their foods to restaurants or markets for distribution. Class A cottage cooks are exempt from an inspection that Class B cooks are required to pass. In addition, all cottage cooks must register their businesses and have permission from their local environmental health agency prior to selling food.
Oregon's requirements for many at-home cooks include obtaining a domestic kitchen license. If the kitchen is located on a property with a septic and well, the state has additional requirements. Oregon makes exceptions from this license for cottage cooks that limit their production and sales to baked goods to be eaten by humans. Some of these baked goods include doughnuts, cookies, crackers, cakes and pies.
The microenterprise home kitchen operation guidelines for California allow for increased food products that you can sell. Not all states and counties have this new ordinance, so it is best to check with your local health agency for guidance. However, if you want to expand your sales and plan to make and sell your food on the same day, a microenterprise home kitchen permit may be for you. This permit removes the labeling restrictions and increases your annual sales. However, in California, you are limited to no more than sixty meals sold within a week. This permit also limits the number of employees, so check with your local health agency to ensure you are following the laws.
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