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If you’re looking for food operations that do not need permits, a cottage food operation may be the answer. While most food businesses require specific licenses and permits (depending on your state), a cottage food business usually doesn’t require any special license.
Cottage food means any food that isn’t hazardous to the general public. They’re called “cottage foods” because they’re homemade, and cottage food operation law usually requires you to disclose the homemade status somewhere on your menu.
To sell cottage foods, some states require a cottage food permit. You may need to take a food handling course to obtain your cottage food permit. However, some states don’t require a food license or coursework. Check the laws in your state for full guidelines.
For example, Georgia cottage food law requires business owners to obtain a Georgia food service permit. You’ll need to complete an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited food safety training program to obtain your permit. Then you may sell cottage foods from your home.
Cottage food businesses are the only food operations that do not need permits in Florida. As long as your gross sales don’t exceed $250,000, you may sell cottage foods from your home in Florida without a permit.
Cottage food examples include:
If you’re wondering, “Do I need a business license for a cottage food operation?” The answer depends on your state.
Cottage food laws differ from state to state, so your location determines where you need a license to sell food from home. For example, 32 states allow cottage food businesses to sell food online. Each state’s guidelines differ, though. Some states require food handling permits, some require a business license, and some have a cap on your annual gross sales.
Here’s an example of how to get a cottage food license in Washington State:
1. Make sure your food products are included in the allowable cottage foods list.
2. Fill out the permit application.
3. Pay a nonrefundable application fee of $230. You must pay via check or money order.
4. The application process takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete.
5. Your gross sales may not exceed $25,000 annually.
6. Check with your city and county to find any local laws that may apply.
Other states will have similar procedures to obtain a cottage food license. Check with your state’s Department of Agriculture website to start the process.
You’ll also need to check with your city municipal office to inquire about local business license requirements.
Cottage food law is possibly the most frustrating aspect of running your own cottage food business. Cottage food laws vary widely by state. You’ll need to check with your state, county, and city government office to determine whether you need a license, permit, coursework, or business license to operate in your area.
You’ll also need to thoroughly examine any special requirements or guidelines regarding your license. Find out which foods you may serve, whether there’s a cap on your gross sales each year, whether you need a food handler’s permit, whether you need a separate application for each member of your business, how you may sell your foods, and any other important notes.
Some states require cottage food labels to inform consumers that your food is homemade. Here are a few common cottage food laws by state:
Cottage food law in Michigan: Michigan doesn’t require any permits or licenses to sell cottage foods from home. There is a $25,000 cap on gross sales each year.
Illinois cottage food law: Illinois allows cottage food operations with an approved permit. The permit fee shouldn’t exceed $25.
Cottage food law in Wisconsin: Home bakers in Wisconsin are exempt from local food laws. You can see the full guidelines here.
Florida cottage food laws 2021: Florida is a friendly state for cottage food businesses. You don’t need a special permit or license, and the annual cap is $250,000. You may also sell your cottage foods online in Florida. Cottage food law in Florida doesn’t require you to collect or pay sales tax.
Texas cottage food law: Texas doesn’t require a cottage food law certificate to sell goods from home. However, there is a cap of $50,000 in annual gross sales, and you may not sell your foods online. You must also obtain a food handler’s permit.
A cottage food license is different from a business license. If your state requires a food sales establishment license, you’ll need to fill out a cottage food license application.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about cottage food license applications:
The process varies by state, but you can expect an average of 4 to 6 weeks for mail-in applications. If you can complete the application online, the processing time may be much faster. Some states don’t require a license at all.
Costs vary widely. Some states don’t require a license or don’t charge a fee for the application. Some states charge a simple $25 application fee. Others require a much more expensive fee (upwards of $100 or more).
California requires a cottage food license for every home-based food business. You must contact your local health department to apply for your license. Once you’ve obtained your license, you must also complete a food safety course.
You must register your cottage food business with your local health department and pay a $25 fee to operate a home-based food business in Illinois.
Alabama doesn’t require a cottage food license, but you must pass a food safety class to sell food from home.
Washington State requires an application and $230 fee to obtain a cottage food license.
You don’t need a cottage food permit to sell cottage foods in Wisconsin.
Oregon requires a domestic kitchen license application and fee to sell cottage foods.
So, what is cottage food, and what is a cottage food business? Cottage foods are nonhazardous food items that don’t pose a danger to the general public. A cottage food business is a home-based business that prepares and sells these products to the general public. Each state has its own list of allowable cottage food products and banned cottage food products. You’ll need to check with your local food safety agency to determine whether your products are allowable or not. However, here are some common cottage foods to give you an idea of what you can sell.
The following items are usually not allowable cottage foods:
While the list of banned foods is longer than allowed cottage foods, there are plenty of options that let you start your own cottage food business from home. You can expand your menu later if needed, too.
These cottage foods lists include the best selling cottage foods and popular business ideas. Hopefully, these items will you help you brainstorm your own cottage food business ideas and products.
All of these items are approved cottage foods in Florida:
You could sell birthday cakes and deliver them directly to birthday parties. You could deliver candy and popcorn balls for special events. You could sell jams, jellies, preserves, and dried herbs at craft fairs and festivals. You could set up a home bakery and sell flavored breads and rolls directly to your customers. You could start a beekeeping hobby and sell the honey.
California cottage food laws include plenty of options.
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