What is the Cottage Food Law?
As defined by the National Conference of State Legislatures:
The growing demand for locally produced or small-scale food products has led state legislatures to enact laws that limit or eliminate regulatory oversight of these products. Foods that are produced outside of a regulated commercial food establishment are commonly known as “cottage foods.”
As the name implies, these foods are made in small, kitchen-based operations with locally grown produce designed for sale at farmers markets, roadside stands or small food operations. Cottage food laws provide regulatory relief to these operations, allowing vendors to sell their products absent food safety requirements required for commercial food kitchens.
Since the federal government has limited oversight regarding state food laws, it rarely preempts state efforts. The FDA Model Food Code does reference low-risk foods being safely prepared in homes and sold to the public at farmers markets or charity events. But the code affirms that potentially hazardous foods should be subject to regulatory oversight.
Cottage food efforts began during the last recession to promote local entrepreneurship, support local agriculture and allow for new food products to enter the market. Legislatures provided relief from food safety requirements, which in turn spurred investments in small-scale food production. Since 2008, cottage food sales have grown from $5 billion annually to an anticipated $20 billion in 2019.
Each state has taken a different approach to cottage foods, but in general, each law provides:
- Exemptions from licensing for small food producers that sell directly to consumers.
- Labeling requirements stating the product has not been inspected.
- Rules for handling potentially hazardous foods, such as those that need a certain cooking time or temperature to ensure safety.
- Training courses for people who prepare foods.
More Information By State
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