Two-Tiered Permit & Registration System
All Cottage Food Operations must register with their local Environmental Health Agency
There are two classifications of CFOs:
Class A: CFOs are only allowed to engage in “direct sale” of cottage food in any county within California.
Class B: CFO’s may engage in both “direct sale” and “indirect sale” of cottage food.
“Direct sale” is defined as a transaction between a CFO and a consumer, where the consumer purchases the cottage food product directly from the CFO. This requires that cottage food products must be delivered in person; they cannot be mailed to the customer. Direct sales include, but are not limited to, transactions at temporary events, such as bake sales, holiday bazaars or food swaps, transactions at farm stands, certified farmers markets, or through community-supported agriculture subscriptions, and transactions occurring in person at the cottage food operation. Cottage food sales may made by the CFO at such locations anywhere within California.
“Indirect sale” is defined as an interaction between a CFO, a third-party retailer, and a consumer, where the consumer purchases cottage food products made by the CFO from a third-party retailer that holds a valid permit issued by the local environmental health agency in their jurisdiction. Indirect sales include, but are not limited to, sales made to retail food facilities including markets, restaurants, bakeries, and delis, where food may be immediately consumed on the premises.
Class A CFO kitchens and food storage areas (referred to as “registered or permitted area”) are not subject to initial or routine inspections. However, Class A CFOs must complete a self-certification checklist and renew their permit annually. Class A permit fees vary widely across counties.
Class B CFO kitchens and food storage areas are inspected prior to the permit being issued. Class B CFOs are limited to indirect sales within the county where they are registered. Some counties have developed reciprocal agreements that allow Class B CFOs registered in one county to conduct indirect sales in another. Class B permits must be renewed annually; the registration fees vary widely across counties.
If the local environmental health agency has reason to suspect that unsafe food has been produced by a cottage food operation or that a cottage food operation has violated California food safety laws, a representative of that agency may inspect the registered or permitted area of that cottage food operation. AB 1616 defines a “registered or permitted area" as “the portion of a private home that contains the private home's kitchen used for the preparation, packaging, storage, or handling of cottage food products and related ingredients or equipment, or both, and attached rooms within the home that are used exclusively for storage.”