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Cottage food laws apply to home-based cooking operations that sell products to the public or other retailers. For many years, states like Massachusetts had laws in place that prohibited homemakers from selling their homemade, non-perishable food items to the public. While they could sell vegetables and fruits that were grown on their property, the ability to sell ended when it came to prepared foods such as jams, jellies, candies, cookies, and pastries. A few short months ago, in April of 2021, Massachusetts enacted the law that Boston residents could sell items made in residential kitchens as long as the individual was in compliance with local and state laws.
Residential kitchens are only allowed to prepare what is commonly known as non-PHFs, or non-potentially hazardous foods. Cakes, fruit pies, baked goods, confectioneries, popcorn, cereals, granola, dried herbs/spices, and jams/jellies. Even though these foods may contain potentially hazardous foods like eggs, cooking or processing the foods will help to render them safe.
Potentially hazardous foods cannot be sold by a residential kitchen. This includes foods that must be processed using specific processes that are governed by state or federal regulations. A few of the foods that are prohibited include cheesecake, cream-filled pastries, pickled products, fresh or dried meat/chicken, canned foods of any kind, and freshly cut fruits or vegetables. This is only a partial list.
In Massachusetts, residential kitchens must pass a strict inspection by the state board of health. Once the kitchen has been inspected and passed, you can apply for a state license to operate legally. The application fee ranges between $50 and $100. There are specific requirements that must be met in order to be able to produce cottage foods in the state, including a retail residential kitchen permit Massachusetts.
If you plan on starting a cottage food business in Massachusetts, you will need to adapt your kitchen to meet the requirements of the state. You will also need to call your local health department and schedule an inspection. Once the inspection has been completed and you have passed, the inspector from the health department will give you a certificate for your records. When you apply for your cottage food permit, you will have to submit a copy of the certificate along with a money order for the required fees. Once you receive your permit or license, you will be required to follow all of the Massachusetts food service laws pertaining to all types of foodservice, including cottage food laws.
Cottage food operations in the state of Massachusetts involve retail sales that are “direct to the customer”. This type of operation is referred to as a residential kitchen and all of the baking and cooking required takes place in a private kitchen in the owner's home. In order to operate this type of business, the owner will have to be in compliance with Massachusetts Cottage Food laws. This includes having the kitchen inspected on a regular basis, maintaining a valid permit, and selling only the foods allowed on the cottage food list.
When operating a cottage food business in the state of Massachusetts, there are several things you need to know. Most cottage food businesses have no limit on the amount of food they can sell. You are also limited on the number of employees that can work in the business. In Massachusetts, only members who live in the household are allowed to legally assist with the preparation of the food items that are going to be sold. No sales are permitted between states or through the mail. Another main rule when operating a cottage kitchen is that no pets are allowed in or near the cooking area.
In Massachusetts, as the owner of a cottage food operation, you must obtain all of the necessary permits. This includes the permit or license to operate a cottage food operation in the state of Massachusetts after you have passed a strict health inspection. You may also need a retail food permit that will allow you to sell your items to customers. With a retail food permit, you can sell to both public customers as well as wholesalers who will resell your items in their stores. You will also need to understand how to properly label your products. For a better understanding, you will want to obtain a copy of the FDA Food Labeling Guide.
The MA Food Protection Program was established to enact and enforce rules and regulations governing the sale of food and services offered within the food and hospitality industries. Licenses are issued through the program for everything from selling or transporting bottled water, baked goods, or frozen desserts. This also governs food processing and distribution at the wholesale level. The program is also responsible for investigating foodborne illnesses. The organization also offers safety guidelines and maintains strict health and safety standards for almost every aspect of the foodservice industry.
Early in 2021, Boston's City Council voted to allow Boston Home Cooks the opportunity to start selling their home-cooked foods. Home cooks are now able to sell cottage foods that are non-perishable, or that do not spoil easily. This includes cakes, pastries, fruit pies, dried fruits, and pasta. Although laws in Massachusetts allow home cooks to offer foods that are considered to be shelf-stable, the local communities are able to create their own set of rules and regulations. For the longest time, Boston had not established any type of permit process or regulations to oversee home cooks and the sale of cottage foods.
Once the law was in place, the regulations were made public. In addition to having their kitchen thoroughly inspected, the applicant must also pass an allergens awareness training and a safety course. At this time, only non-perishable or shelf-stable homemade foods can be sold. The Boston laws are not as encompassing as Massachusetts' cottage food laws, but in the future, those laws may change. At this time, the law is specifically meant for cottage foods prepared in private kitchens by home cooks who may not have the resources to open a restaurant or larger commercial cooking company.
In Massachusetts, anyone who wants to sell cottage foods must obtain a permit. In addition to complying with state regulations, you will also be required to abide by local regulations as well. Many regions follow along with the state guidelines, but there are a few that have added their own regulations as well.
State requirements must be in place before a home cook can open their doors and sell their cottage foods to the public.
Every region throughout the state has specific guidelines that must also be followed. Once you have applied at the state level, you will also need to provide information showing compliance with all of the regulations and guidelines in your area.
Most states that have cottage food laws require that foods be labeled according to the FDA guidelines. All labels must include:
In Massachusetts, the only individuals who are allowed to work in a cottage food kitchen are those who live in the household.
Another requirement for cottage food kitchens is that all food purchased to be used in the business must be stored separately.
Massachusetts bill 105 CMR 590 goes into detail when it comes to the requirements that must be met in order to prepare cottage foods in a private kitchen. The list of requirements can be found on page 3587 of the bill.
If you have questions concerning the sale of cottage food and the kitchen requirements that must be met to operate this type of business, there are several resources you can utilize to find the information you need.