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If you are interested in launching a small food business from your home or kitchen, you are most likely impatient to begin the process of cooking or baking, packaging your delicious treats, and selling them to locals. Amidst all the excitement, it is important to additionally focus on the requirements and regulations that must be followed in order to ensure the legality and safety of your business and products.
In order to begin selling food from your home, it is necessary to take federal and state cottage laws into account, as well as any updates from the state department of health or agriculture. Cottage laws, also called home-food processing rules, determine the types of food that can be sold, the manner in which it must be processed and distributed, the locations it can be sold at, and the cut-off point in earnings to classify as a commercial food manufacturer and retailer. Furthermore, you must also acquire the necessary permits to handle and sell food, promoting and preserving safety standards. In this article, we will examine precisely how to sell food from home legally such that you can initiate and maintain your food business correctly.
Most states permit selling foods from home, although it is important to verify both the legality of the initial business and the types of food you wish to sell before launching your small business. The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic indicates that states such as Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have all restricted selling food from your home.
If you live in a state that does allow cottage food production and distribution, it is typically limited to foods that are “not potentially hazardous.” The Food and Drug Administration of the United States defines this as any perishable food that has milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, or other ingredients that can cause food-borne illness. Each state may have a more detailed list of foods that are not allowed.
There are many foods that would be considered low-risk for your business, although it is wise to verify and check updates, such as selling baked goods from home. Other popular products include candies, cereals, coffees and teas, honey, dry herbs, jams and jellies, nuts, and trail mixes.
Additionally, a key element to any cottage food business is to label food items properly. You may be accustomed to viewing grocery store products with indications that the food has been inspected for safety and meets regulation standards. In the same manner, your product must specify that it has not been inspected. You must also indicate if your product has been prepared in an environment with or contains any known allergens.
There are various steps that an individual interested in starting a cottage food business must follow; the main elements include having a safe and sanitary cooking environment, a permit or certificate, a business license, and adhering to rules regarding distribution or purchase points.
States may require you to receive a kitchen inspection prior to selling any food or they may only perform an inspection if a consumer complaint is made. In any case, it is important to set up a kitchen in a manner where you can properly handle and store food. Additionally, you may be required to obtain a zoning permit that allows you to use your home for food production.
In most states, it is essential to receive a specific permit to sell food from home such as a food permit, and/or a food service sanitation certificate. However, other states do not require any licensing of any kind. For instance, if you are selling food from home in Florida you do not require a license, as indicated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
That said, it is important to register or obtain your business license in order to declare revenue at the end of each year, as well as ensure you are paying the proper amount of taxes. Additionally, it confirms that you are abiding by the proper regulations, as cottage food laws generally have a cap on revenue before you are subject to commercial food laws.
Furthermore, cottage food laws by state will each indicate criteria regarding where you can sell your home goods. You are generally permitted to sell cottage food at farmers' markets and bake sales. In these cases, you may have to take additional steps to be able to sell your food. To illustrate, in order to sell at Chicago or other Illinois farmers' markets you must register with the local health department, according to the cottage food law Illinois. If you are permitted to sell to restaurants or retail shops, you may have to adhere to more policies as well.
Cottage laws will vary across the United States, signaling the significance of looking into cottage food laws by state. It is advantageous to conduct research before setting up a cottage food shop, as you risk being fined or shut down if you do not abide by your state requirements. It is also advised to receive the assistance of an attorney or lawyer who is knowledgeable in cottage law, as they can ensure you obtain all the necessary documentation. Overall, understanding the relevant cottage food laws will protect your business in the future.
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