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Many foodies find that selling food from home is a great way to share their talents and make money while doing something they love—cooking fabulous food that everybody raves about. One of the most important things to consider when you're learning how to sell homemade food, however, is regulations. Selling food from home can be very strictly regulated, depending on the state where you live.
In this article, we will tell you what you need to know about the regulations for selling baked goods from home, selling homemade food online, and some of the ins and outs about how to start an online food business from home. State regulations run the gamut from no regulation at all to an absolute prohibition on selling homemade food, so to stay on the right side of the rules and regulations for your state, county, and town, read on!
In many states, a license is your ticket for admission to the home food selling business. A license, sometimes called a cottage food license, is your state's seal of approval on your training, the cleanliness of your kitchen, your sanitation standards, and sometimes on your recipes and your business plan. It's not quite the same thing as a permit, which assumes that you already have licensed credentials to be in the business of selling food from home, but gives you permission to sell specific foods in specific places.
Before you start looking for answers to questions like "Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home?" or "how to get a license to sell food" or running queries on state specific queries like "home bakery license California," "home bakery license NY," "Do I need a license to sell homemade food in California?", "Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home in NY" and "license to sell food online," ask yourself a more basic question:
"Do I need a license to sell homemade food?"
In some states, you don't need a license. And in other states, you can't get a license to sell food from home.
Let's start with the states that won't give you a license to sell food from home no matter what.
Delaware and Rhode Island permit farmers to sell produce from roadside stands, but they don't permit anyone to sell food they make at home. New Jersey has farmers' markets, but doesn't allow sales of food you make at home (however, for an exception taking effect in October 2021, see the last section below).
The same rule applies to the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, but not the rest of the state.
Then there are states that permit sales of homemade food, but only with a license.
California has two different kinds of licenses for selling food you make at home, one for selling food to the general public and the other for selling food to resellers who sell to the public. Georgia requires a license, a training course, and a home inspection.
Some jurisdictions have other requirements. Alabama requires a food handlers course, but not a license. The District of Columbia requires you to get a business license, but not a license specifically for selling food. Illinois requires a food service sanitation management certificate. Iowa has two levels of certification, for vendors selling perishable and non-perishable foods. Maine requires a license, registration, and kitchen inspection. Massachusetts has rules that vary by county. Minnesota requires registration and passing a food safety course. Montana and Nebraska require certification, but only if you are selling at a farmer's market. New York requires registration, and the state can inspect your kitchen at any time. North Carolina requires a complicated registration form and may come out to your home to make sure you don't have any pets at any time. Ohio regulates home bakeries, but not other kinds of home food production. Oregon requires a food handler's license. Pennsylvania is one of the most laborious states to set up a home-based food business in, requiring a license and product testing. Texas doesn't require a license, but does require a food safety course. Utah requires a business license, a food safety course, a kitchen inspection, and submitting recipes and samples to the health department. Virginia requires a license, training, and kitchen inspection. Washington requires you to get a business license first and then submit an application that includes recipes and a business plan, and then get your kitchen inspected. West Virginia has regulations that differ by county.
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming don't require licenses, but may restrict what and how much you can sell and where you can sell it. Kentucky requires an annual registration, but not a license.
Before you start looking for information on how to get a permit for selling food from home, food operations that do not need permits and the especially sticky rules about food operations that do not need permits in California, how to get a permit to sell food from home, the penalty for selling food without a permit, and specialized queries like Class A class a cottage food permit California, Class A food permit California, permit to sell food from home California, and permit to sell food from home Texas, consider a different kind of permit:
Your sales tax permit.
Sure, you may have to collect sales tax on the food you sell to the public (except in Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon—you wouldn't be required to collect sales tax in Delaware, but they don't permit sales of homemade food). But the reason to get a sales tax permit is so you don't have to pay sales tax on the ingredients you buy to make your homemade food.
Get your sales tax permit number from your state's Department of Revenue or Comptroller's office. Then use it to lower the cost of your ingredients.
What about other kinds of permits you may need to sell food you make in your home?
Making food in one state and selling it in another state requires federal permits. The kind of federal government permit you will need depends on the kind of food you intend to produce. To find out how to get federal permits to sell food you make at home across state lines, start with your local health department. They can steer you to the correct federal agency.
Now let's take a look at some of the stickier rules and regulations in cottage food laws by state. If your state is not on this list of rules on selling food from home, you're in luck! You only need to comply with the applications, regulations, and rules we have already mentioned and you will know everything you need to know (at least at first) about how to sell food from home legally.
Alabama cottage food law limits sales to baked goods, canned jams and jellies, and dried herbs. But you can sell from home, at events, in farmer's markets, and from roadside stands once you have completed your food safety course, up to $20,000 per year.
Are you planning on selling food from home in Los Angeles? The state says yes you can, but the County of Los Angeles says no you can't. The county has not authorized "Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations", so not only can you not sell homemade food, you can't give it away, either.
Indiana cottage food laws require you to learn (or already know) at least a little chemistry. These laws specify that canned fruits and vegetables must have a pH of 4.6 or lower before you can offer them for sale. Lower, acidic pH stops the growth of bacteria that can cause botulism and Salmonella.
Indiana cottage food laws also restrict sales of homemade food to roadside stands and farmer's markets. You cannot sell your homemade food at carnivals, fairs, festivals, or retail stores.
Michigan cottage food law is very specific about what you can sell and where you can sell it. You can sell bread, baked goods, pastries, jams, jellies, plain and flavored vinegar, dried herbs and mixtures of dried herbs, dry baking mixes, dry dip mixes (but not with added dairy products such as sour cream or cream cheese), cotton candy, dry soup mix, popcorn, pasta, coffee, nuts (both coated and uncoated), and chocolate covered items. Michigan allows you to sell homemade food from your home, at farmers' markets, at roadside stands, and at events.
Do a search on "cottage food law NJ 2021" and you will discover that as of 4 October 2021, the State of New Jersey has permitted "home bakers" to sell their goods to the public. However, you have to get a Cottage Food Operator Permit first, which may not be locally available.
Do a search on "cottage food law NY" or "selling food from home NYC" " or "home-based food business New York" and you will be reminded, as we already mentioned, that state health inspectors can demand to inspect your kitchen at any time. New York limits you to selling your goods at venues that are "agriculturally based," like farmers' markets.
Selling food from home in PA? Pennsylvania only permits sales of food that are "not time and temperature controlled for safety." If it is something that you have to keep in the refrigerator, you can't sell it.
Planning on selling food from home in Washington State? The law used to be that you would have to use a licensed, commercial kitchen. But the law still requires a kitchen inspection. The difference now is that you can have the inspector come to your home. Other restrictions have not changed.
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