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Thank goodness for 2021 reforms to Montana's cottage food laws! Montana Senate Bill 199 from the 167th legislature eliminated many remaining restrictions, making Montana one of the best places to start a cottage food business! Knowing Montana food cottage law can help you get started in your own catering business, and start selling food in Montana.
If any state needed reforms, it was Montana. It was illegal to sell fresh cakes, cookies, jellies, and other home-baked goods in Montana until 2015, and even then, there were very restrictive cottage food laws, including the requirement to register with the local Environmental Health Agency and the necessity to submit a detailed recipe for every food item including each and every ingredient that a home baker planned to use. These requirements made it very difficult for small businesses to start a cottage food establishment.
Cottage laws in Montana now allow you to sell food directly to a consumer, but not through a third party like a store or restaurant. If an entrepreneur wishes to sell to the public through a retail business, there are additional permitting and testing requirements for commercial and retail kitchens.
Let's dive deeper into cottage food laws in Montana.
Montana cottage food laws in 2021 do still require you to get a cottage food license, similar to a Montana food vendor license, and pay a one-time cottage food application fee of $40, but there are no labeling laws other than to clearly write that your food was prepared in a home kitchen. Food permit renewal isn't needed. It's a one-time application.
Governor Greg Gianforte’s Senate Bill 199 (SB 199) also known as the Montana Local Food Choice Act and a “Food Freedom” bill, states that “a state or local government agency cannot require licensure, permitting, certification, packaging, labeling, or inspection that pertains to the preparation, serving, use, consumption, delivery, or storage of homemade food or a homemade food product.”
You can find all the information you need to obtain the registration form for starting a cottage food business at the Montana DPHHS Cottage Food Operation Guidance and Registration site.
Cottage food laws are one thing, and retail food selling in Montana is another. If a retail food establishment is to operate lawfully, they need to assign a person-in-charge, like an owner or manager who then must be a Certified Food Manager (CFM) as outlined by the FDA Food Code. This individual must also pass an accredited ANSI food safety certification test. A retail food permit is then issued. The test includes sections like:
No testing and certification is needed if you are a cottage food company in Montana.
Commercial kitchen requirements are more stringent than cottage food kitchen requirements in Montana. Selling food in Montana will depend on the extent of your business plans. The Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development offers a checklist of things that you need to start a retail business in a commercial kitchen, including all the permits and licenses you need. If you are starting a restaurant, convenience store, catering company, food truck, coffee kiosk, or grocery store with a commercial kitchen, you’ll need to get an approval, license, and inspection through the state before you get started cooking and selling.
Applications for retail food establishments are also available in person at Lincoln County Environmental Health, 418 Mineral Ave, Libby, MT 59923. The Montana Health Department of Food Safety (DPHHS) also has links for food permit renewal, and ways to locate your local environmental health and sanitation office.
Cottage foods that are permitted to be sold in Montana include:
Cottage foods that are not permitted to be sold in Montana include:
Montana’s food laws are some of the most supportive of food sovereignty in the U.S., and starting your own cottage food business. Compare Montana’s food laws with those of a few other states to decide if you should begin as a resident of Montana, or consider starting your food business in another state so that you have more liberty in what you can create and sell.
Idaho cottage food laws are great for food producers. Neither the local Public Health District or the Department of Health and Welfare require any license or certifications for you to start a cottage food business. Idaho cottage food laws are a little contrived. You can sell what you want without a license or inspection, but there is quite a long list of prohibited foods that you aren’t allowed to sell. This includes things like salsa, barbecue sauce, condiments such as ketchup and mustard, dairy products, or anything that requires refrigeration of eggs or cheese, juices, meats, and homemade cake icing, among other foods.
Florida cottage food laws in 2021 are very friendly to entrepreneurs. You don’t need a license, a permit, or any training to start your own cottage food business. Florida cottage food law supports small businesses. You don't need a wholesale food license in Florida to start a cottage business.
The Illinois Cottage Food Operation law (PA 097-0393) allows food to be made in home kitchens and sold in farmer’s markets with limited regulations. You have to obtain a food sanitation certificate though through the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Illinois cottage food laws in 2022 might change, so keep an eye on food bills.
Massachusetts food laws are different across jurisdictions. State guidance is that you have to pass an inspection before you ever sell something as a cottage food business. If you are interested in a wholesale food license in Massachusetts, visit the Food Protection Program’s website: www.mass.gov/dph/fpp. A Massachusetts wholesale food distributor license is required if you sell your foods to restaurants and other small businesses.
Cottage food laws in NJ have been updated in 2021. It used to be the only state that would not allow you to sell baked goods made at home to the public. You had to operate out of a commercial kitchen. With recent updates, you can now legally sell home-baked goods.
You don’t need a wholesale food license in Colorado to start a cottage food business. Nor do you need a home kitchen inspection. However, cottage food producers do have to take a food safety course that’s given at a state university or a district public health agency.
North Dakota cottage food laws are friendly to home-bakers and entrepreneurs. House Bill 1433, effective as of August 2017, allows cottage food sales in the state. No license or inspection is needed.
Wyoming cottage food law is by far the best of any other state. HB 188, part of the Food Freedom Act gave many entrepreneurs relief. You can cook any food you like and sell it to the public without a license, inspections, or any certifications as long as it isn’t meat. You must also tell your buyer that the food you prepared was made at home by labeling it as such.
Cottage food bakers can sell food from home due to Bill 1616, also known as the California Homemade Food Act signed into law by Governor Brown.
While Montana still requires you to have a license to sell food in a cottage food business, there are fewer restrictions on what you can’t bake or prepare. Wyoming's cottage food laws are the best in the U.S., but compared to New Jersey, which only recently changed its very strict food preparation laws, Montana is still a great state to start a cottage food business. As many entrepreneurs know, licensing and testing are just added hoops that impair otherwise creative and eager business owners that could be creating birthday cakes, salsas, pastries, and specialty food items that would delight their friends and families in a local market, without a retail food permit.
Montana's cottage food laws aren't perfect, but they're supportive of small businesses looking to get started.
For individuals looking to expand into a retail or commercial kitchen, they can always start small in their own kitchens, test the food market for their preferred goods, and then expand into a commercial or retail space with additional overhead, inspection, and licensing requirements that are required by the state of Montana.
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