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Cottage industries have a long history in America's economy. Since the early 1800s, the government began regulating those households that were looking for how to make money selling food from home to make sure public health and safety remained a priority.
If you're wondering, “can I sell food from my house?,” the answer is yes. Starting a home-based food business will demand a few steps to be taken for it to be done legally. Even selling homemade food online has restrictions and guidelines. The most commonly asked questions will be answered here in this guide to starting a home-based food business.
Selling food like veggies and fruit without any other preparation or cooking is one way to profit from a home-based business. Many people will grow crops on their own land, then set up a produce stand in front of their home.
Selling uncooked produce does not require a license, but in most states the items sold must have been grown organically. That is, without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
Many cooks have a signature recipe and decide to sell their culinary dishes directly from their home kitchen. This type of business definitely requires a permit or a cottage food license. And, depending on where you live, you may also need to pass a kitchen inspection and proof that you've completed a food handling and safety course.
Baked goods are the most popular food items that are sold from home. Here again, your home kitchen must pass state safety requirements, and you must be licensed to sell food that has been cooked from home. Also, many states do not allow the sale of baked goods that contain ingredients that spoil easily, like custard, cream, or meat fillings.
You will want to avoid selling food from unapproved locations or from your home without the proper permits or licenses. In most states, you will need a permit to sell food from home and keep in mind that each state will have different requirements.
To learn about your state's home kitchen operation law, you will need to search for the cottage food guidelines which can often be found on your state's Department of Agriculture website, the state's Department of Health, or Cottage Food Laws by State.
This type of site will describe how to sell food from home legally and how to get a permit to sell food from home.
First, your food products must meet the state's definition of a 'cottage food'. That means the food must be cooked in a home kitchen and sold from that same location. Or, the food can also be sold at non-commercial establishments like community events, a farmer's market, and even on the internet.
The person that is selling home-cooked food to the public must also be the same person that is delivering the food - and that delivery must be made to the consumer without any middle-man. So, while you can advertise and sell your home-cooked foods on the internet, you must deliver them directly to the person who is buying your products.
The types of food that are typically fine for selling from home include:
Always check with your state or local cottage food regulators to confirm that you are able to sell certain types of food. Some states have different types of permits that will allow you to sell home-cooked meals from your home kitchen. Visit your state's particular site to learn how to get license to sell food like dinners, sandwiches, pizza, and other foods.
For these types of foods, you will have to register your establishment as a catering company, take food handling and safety courses, and keep track of your sales for the purpose of paying taxes.
For states that grant a baking license for at home business, your kitchen will likely need to pass an inspection for Level 2 Food Safety in Catering. Your kitchen must pass hygiene tests and any pets or children in the home will have to remain outside the kitchen area while preparing, packaging, and distributing your food products.
There have been many changes to the cottage food law since its inception in the early 1800s. Recent statistics show:
Here we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions concerning cottage food laws by state and the types of foods that can be sold in different states.
In the state of New York, food made at home can be sold directly to customers from the home and at events, but not through stores or restaurants. In-state shipments of food can be sold online without any sales limits.
You do not need a license or an inspection to run a cottage food operation in Michigan. But you will have to label and package the foods and have processes in place that prevent adulteration, according to the Michigan Food Law.
To sell BBQ in Texas, you will need to apply for a Texas state retail food operation permit, register your operation as a business, and pay sales tax on all the orders you sell. In Texas, you will be operating similar to any other local business. This is necessary because barbecue is outside the category of cottage foods.
Florida's cottage law allows residents to use their home kitchens without a license to prepare and sell those foods listed above as 'cottage foods'. As long as you stay within this list of non-perishable foods, then the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does not require you to have a food permit, but your sales are limited to under $50,000 annually.
California allows home-based businesses to sell food directly to residents within their own county with a Class B permit. If you obtain a Class A permit, then you can sell food to anyone within the state of California. For either permit, you will need to submit a list of the products' ingredients, your food sources, and details about the food's packaging and labeling.
Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home in PA?
Yes, you do need a license to sell food from home in Pennsylvania. Your home-based kitchen will be labelled a 'limited food establishment'. This means you can sell food that is not time and temperature-controlled. There is a $35 registration fee, and you will need a business plan and an inspection of the home.
The state of Massachusetts allows for residential kitchens to operate for non-profit without a license or permit. But, if you are selling your homemade food products to the public, then you will need a license or permit either as a Retail Residential Kitchen or as a Wholesale Residential Kitchen. This state allows for “direct to the consumer” food sales at includes like farmers markets, craft fairs, and sales by internet or mail.
If you stick to the state's list of cottage foods that you will sell from your home, then Florida does not require a license, permit, or inspection of your home kitchen. But, the food products must be labeled - “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.” and the home-based business must not exceed $50,000 annually in sales.
Check to see if you are in one of the 8 counties in Illinois that allows for home bakeries to operate without inspections or any health and safety training requirements. But, there is an income limit of $1,000 per month and the baked goods are limited to breads, cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries.
From the above list of frequently asked questions about selling food from a residential home, it is obvious that nationwide regulation is needed to simplify and clarify cottage food laws.
Consider investing in food e-commerce software that can help you manage your menus, customer requests, and pick-up or delivery times. You can also post pictures of your food products in creative or fun ways that can make a big difference in sales.
These apps also make it easier for the customer to view your offerings and ingredients, just in case of skin sensitivities or allergic reactions.
There are many benefits to using an app that is specifically designed to support local cooks, and not just an app for keeping track of sales. You will also find that some of these apps give you the ability to sell your home-cooked foods online.
Home chefs are a popular trend, since most people believe that these meals are healthier, and are better proportioned for calories, fat, and salt.
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