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Are you an independent chef, home-based food artisan, or cottage cook planning to sell homemade foods in Alaska? If so, there are various Alaska cottage food law considerations to abide by. While the state of Alaska has fairly moderate cottage food laws, only in-person sales are permitted, and gross annual sales are limited.
This article reviews Alaska cottage food law specifics about the types of food you can sell, appropriate venues, safe food worker training resources, product labeling requirements, and licensing. We will also look at how Alaska’s cottage food laws compare with those of other states.
The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) reports that state legislators introduced more than 700 new bills on food safety, preparation, and sales in 2019. Of those, 132 are currently being enacted and 17 have become laws.
New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii topped the other states with 63, 59, and 46 new bills respectively, while Ohio and Alaska introduced no new cottage food bills.
What are cottage food laws and why do they matter?
Cottage food laws (home food processing rules, baker’s bills) are legal requirements that pertain to the production and sales of processed foods. Cottage food law differs from state to state but all are in place to enhance food safety and public health.
Typically, the state department of health or department of agriculture oversees businesses that offer cottage foods. In general, cottage food laws allow individuals to prepare certain food products in their home kitchens and market them on a small scale for profit.
Some states, including Alaska, allow providers to sell the food products at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and from their homes. Very few states allow sales to restaurants, grocery stores, and other public venues.
In most states, cottage food proprietors do not need a licensed kitchen and are not privy to routine inspections, as long as the foods they offer do not require refrigeration and meet other state-specific requirements.
In June 2012, the Alaska Division of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Food Safety & Sanitation Department released the state’s newest cottage food code regulations.
Key points of this legislation include:
Alaska cottage food laws are in place to allow the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods directly to the consumer without an Alaska food establishment permit - if certain conditions are met.
So, what is meant by “non-potentially hazardous foods”?
In general, non-potentially hazardous foods are those that do not support the growth of harmful bacteria. Microbial proliferation in cottage foods can result from certain pH levels, water activity values, or a combination of the two.
As a rule of thumb, non-potentially hazardous foods do not require refrigeration.
If you want a deeper dive into this topic, here’s an extensive PDF guide from the FDA.
Permitted venues for selling cottage food products in Alaska include farm markets, roadside stands, and from home. However, you may not sell your products online, in restaurants, or retail stores.
Providers are allowed to offer delivery services, or customers can pick up the goods at a provider’s home. Catering services, mail-order sales, and wholesale operations are prohibited in Alaska.
Alaskan cottage food product providers are required to maintain accurate records of gross sales, which are not to exceed $25,000 in any calendar year. Note that Alaska does not currently charge any income tax.
Alaska Food Code regulations allow the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods without a permit under certain conditions.
There is confusion between the cottage food laws for all areas of Alaska outside the Municipality of Anchorage and those within its boundaries.
As of February 10, 2021, within the Municipality of Anchorage, Health Permit fees and applications for the hospitality industry have been temporarily waived due to the effects of the Covid-19 public health emergency.
To get the up-to-date details on which, if any, permits or licenses you need to launch a home-based cottage food operation in Alaska, please call Anchorage Environmental Services at (907) 343-4200.
Further, you can ask general questions about Alaska business license costs and requirements from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
ALL cottage foods that are not prepared in an inspected and approved DEC kitchen must be marked with a sign, placard, or another label that reads: “THESE PRODUCTS ARE NOT SUBJECT TO STATE INSPECTION”
The label should display the business name, license number, physical address, and other current contact information of the provider who prepared the food products. This will allow the DEC to contact the provider if there are any complaints or other concerns about the cottage foods in question.
Along with a glossary of food safety terms, the Alaska Safe Food Worker Handbook provides detailed information on:
You can view, download, and print the Alaska Safe Food Worker Handbook. It will teach you everything you need to know about Alaska food safety and how to launch a cottage food product business in the state.
In most states, getting a kitchen approved for cottage food production involves obtaining a permit from the health department or department of agriculture as well as a basic business license.
However, there are numerous differences in the regulations between states, and cottage food laws are constantly in flux as societal demand continues to grow.
Handmade in Alaska cottage food operations are allowed to make their products in home-based DEC kitchens or DEC-approved commercial kitchens. You can learn about the inspection and approval process from the Alaska Food Safety & Sanitation Program.
Note that the Municipality of Anchorage has unique laws governing the production and sales of cottage foods. Some laws may differ there relative to the rest of the state.
What is considered cottage food in Alaska? There are many cottage foods from various categories that are allowed to be made and sold in Alaska. Here are some examples:
Prohibited Alaska cottage foods include meat jerkies, low-acid canned foods, and perishable baked goods. You can get more details about Alaska-made food products from the Institute of Justice.
How do Alaska’s cottage food laws compare to those of other states? They are middle-of-the-road, moderate. Some states have more regulations for independent chefs and home-based cottage cooks to abide by than others.
For instance, California cottage food law mandates that providers can earn gross revenue up to $50,000 annually, which is twice the Alaskan limit.
Oregon cottage food law prohibits various foods that are allowed in Alaska - like mustards, ketchup, oils, nut butter, jams, jellies, and fermented foods to name several.
And Washington state cottage food law makes it mandatory for aspiring cottage cooks to obtain a permit, take a training course, obtain a business license, get recipes approved, submit a highly detailed business plan, and have a home inspection.
Preparing and selling cottage foods in Alaska can be a rewarding way to earn extra money while supplying healthy and delicious foods to your neighbors. While your earnings are capped at $25,000 annually, Alaska cottage food law is otherwise relaxed and leaves home-based food artisans largely in control of their operations.
If you have questions about starting a cottage food operation in Alaska, it is best to contact the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Health’s Food Safety and Sanitation Program.
It’s located at 555 Cordova St, Anchorage AK 99501, and the phone number is (907)269-7501. You can also send a Fax to (907)269-7510 or visit the website for further information and resources
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