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If you are just getting started selling food from home, you might be okay flying under the radar for a couple of weeks. But the more you sell your goods and the greater your audience gets, the more you put yourself at risk for running against the law. Cottage food laws will exist in some form or fashion in every state and just about every cottage food law will require sellers to obtain a cottage food license.
So yes, the answer to do I need a license to sell homemade food is a resounding yes in almost every city, state, and county. The good news is that most jurisdictions have made the process for how to get a license to sell food and how to get a permit to sell food from home fairly straightforward. This is because cottage industries and home start-ups have been a big part of the American economy since even before its official founding; since when the first colonies got started.
The following article is going to provide a more in-depth overview of what sellers can expect as they join this exciting tradition of making and selling food from home in terms of making sure they are abiding by local laws and obtaining the right cottage food license and permit.
Cottage food laws do vary across states and even counties within those states. However, no matter where you live, you can expect the following common cottage food law elements:
In addition to all of these provisions, most states will have different tiers or types of cottage food producers and each tier or type will have its own set of the above laws.
For example, a home-based bakery will have different labeling provisions and licensing requirements than someone selling dried fruits. This is because a home-based bakery will have more safety concerns and thus will often need to undergo food safety courses or permitting procedures to prove to the local jurisdiction that they are following safe procedures regarding the storage and usage of things like dairy products.
Cottage food laws are thus important to keep the general population safe while simultaneously giving sellers a framework through which to be successful. After all, a home-based bakery that can't prove it is following good food safety protocols isn't going to attract a lot of customers. By getting a cottage food permit and undergoing any requisite safety courses, that same home-based bakery can give customers a level of assurance and trust. That is just good business sense for everyone.
Once you have looked through your state and county laws regarding what is allowed and what isn't, you are ready to start the cottage food license application. What type of information is needed to obtain a permit to sell food from home will vary, but in general, you can expect the application process to ask you the following key information:
Finally, when you sign and complete the cottage food license application for your state, you will almost always be offering the state permission for the Department of Agriculture to access the places where you manufacture, process, pack, or otherwise store food and ingredients related to your operation.
While some of these things may seem invasive, remember that all of them are aspects intended to keep the consumer safe. By proving you are capable of responsible and safe manufacture of home-based foods, you earn the confidence of the public at large. The penalty for selling food without a permit can also be high and in some cases may lose you the ability to sell your wares altogether.
How long does it take to get a cottage food license? This will depend upon your state but generally, so long as the information you submit on the cottage food license application is correct and complete, sellers can expect a 4 to 6-week wait. Thus, it is best to start the food application process as soon as you can.
Let's take a look more specifically at the requirements different places in the United States have for obtaining a cottage food business license:
Everyone looking to obtain a cottage food license MN is required to undergo specialized training. This training is specific to the state's Cottage Food Law and must be re-taken every three years if you want to continue selling food from home in Minnesota. At the end of the training, you'll be able to apply for your cottage business license and permits.
Wisconsin, as we noted in a previous article, recently changed its allowance for certain cottage foods via lawsuit. It remains the only state that has successfully done so. Most specifically this law pertains to running a home bakery in Wisconsin and allowing individuals to get a Wisconsin home bakery license.
Whether you are a home bakery or not, all cottage food sellers will have to undergo a Wisconsin food license application. The Wisconsin food license cost will depend upon what type of food you sell, how much food you plan to sell, and the size of the facility in which you plan to sell it. Read this Wisconsin food processing guide and cost list for a more detailed breakdown.
The answer to both do I need a license to sell homemade food in Washington state and do I need a license to sell food from home in Washington state is yes. Obtaining a cottage food license in Washington state is a complicated affair, almost as complicated as getting a commercial license. Whether you're selling home-made foods or selling produce in Washington state, you will need a business license, the business plan outlined in the cottage food application, approved recipes, home inspection, and pay both an initial and annual fee of around $240.
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