Cottage Food Operations
About the Cottage Food Law
Are you ready to sell your home made foods?
The California Homemade Food Act created a new category of retail food facilities known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), which allows persons using home kitchens to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods. Cottage food products are non-potentially hazardous foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has established a list of currently approved food products that meet the definition as non-potentially hazardous foods. Additional foods may be added or removed through a 30 day review process. Requests to add a food product to the approved foods list may be submitted to the California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch by using this form (pdf).
The current list of approved cottage food products includes:
- Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas.
- Candy, such as brittle and toffee.
- Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits.
- Dried fruit.
- Dried pasta.
- Dry baking mixes.
- Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales.
- Granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
- Herb blends and dried mole paste.
- Honey and sweet sorghum syrup.
- Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
- Nut mixes and nut butters.
- Vinegar and mustard.
- Roasted coffee and dried tea.
- Waffle cones and pizelles.
- Cotton candy.
- Candied apples.
- Confections such as salted caramel, fudge, marshmallow bars, chocolate covered marshmallow, nuts, and hard candy, or any combination thereof.
- Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese.
- Dried or Dehydrated vegetables.
- Dried vegetarian-based soup mixes.
- Vegetable and potato chips.
- Ground chocolate.
- Seasoning Salt
- Flat icing
- Marshmallows that do not contain eggs
- Popcorn Balls
- Dried grain mixes
- Fried or baked donuts and waffles
- Dried hot chocolate (dried powdered mixes or molded hardened cocoa pieces)
- Fruit infused vinegar (containing only high-acid fruits such as apple, crabapple, nectarine, peach, plum, quince, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, grape, huckleberry, gooseberry, loganberry, pomegranate, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, tomatillo, youngberry, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange).
- Dried fruit powders
Have a question?
Ask the Ag Ombudsman
In order to obtain a CFO registration or permit, the cottage food operator must complete an application and submit payment to the County of Sonoma Department of Health Services. The applications are available at their site.
Sonoma County Department of Health Services Cottage Foods
Visit this page for latest information and when you are ready to apply for registration in Sonoma County.
UCCE Cottage Foods website. Great resources for CFO's!
AB-1616 Food safety: cottage food operations on the State of California's Legislative Information site.
FDA-iRISK web-based system designed to analyze data concerning microbial and chemical hazards in food and return an estimate of the resulting health burden on a population level.
My Product is Not on the List
If the product you want to make is not on the list, it must be made in a commercial kitchen with a Processed Food Registration. This is a more involved process, but it will allow far more flexibility in the types of products that can be made.
Request that a food product added to the CFO Approved Food List. Keep in mind that the food must be a shelf stable product and have virtually no potential for growth of pathogens. To make this request, petition CDPH using their Request to Add Food Product to the Cottage Food Approved Food List.
Types of Cottage Food Operations
There are two classifications of Cottage Food Operations; they are Class A and Class B:
- Class A “Registration” CFOs may sell cottage foods directly from their homes, certified farmers' markets, bake sales, and community events. Class A operations will be required to complete a self-certification process and obtain an annual registration from Sonoma County Department of Health Services. The self-certification check list will demonstrate that the cottage food operation conforms to safe food handling and preparation requirements. The annual fee for Class A CFO is $188 + $188/hr over 1 hour review (9/2018).
- Class B “Permit” CFOs will be required to obtain an annual permit from Sonoma County Department of Health Services and will be inspected annually. In addition to direct sales from home, they are also permitted to sell cottage foods indirectly through local shops, restaurants and other third party sales. The annual fee for Class B CFO is $417 + $188/hr over 1 hour review (9/2018).
Cottage Food Operator Training
Persons involved with preparing or packaging cottage food products must complete a Food Processor Course within three months of obtaining a registration or permit. For the latest information and links to classes, check the CDPH Cottage Food Operations website.
Sale of Cottage Foods
Once registered/permitted, a CFO may sell directly from their home, a certified farmers’ market, wholesale from a local restaurant (class B), as well as other similar type locations. CFO products may not be shipped to the customer; they must be delivered directly by the operator.
There is a limit to the amount of revenue a Cottage Food Operations may generate annually for 2015 and beyond, the limit is $50,000 per year.
In order to sell CFO foods at a farmers market or other community event, the operator must obtain a Temporary Food Facility permit from the County of Sonoma Department of Health Services. If the CFO product(s) will be sold at farmers market and is made primarily with produce grown by the seller, the CFO product(s) may qualify to be sold in the certified section of the farmers market. A Certified Producer Certificate is required to sell produce and CFO foods in the certified section of the farmers market, and in that case, a Temporary Food Facility permit is not required. The Certified Producer Certificate is issued by the County of Sonoma Agricultural Commissioner office.
Food made in a CFO must be labeled properly and a sample of the label for each cottage food product must be submitted with your application. The label must include the statement “Made in a Home Kitchen” in 12 point type, descriptive name of the product, contact information and location of the CFO, the permit/registration number, ingredient list in descending order of weight, the net quantity in English units and metric units, and declaration of food allergens.
NOTE: Any nutrition claims require a nutrition facts label, no exception. E.g. Gluten Free, Protein Packed, High in Iron, and so on. Recommendation: do not make nutrition claims.
While CFOs may operate out of a private residence, they may be required to meet zoning and planning criteria, which can include issues concerning parking, noise, traffic control, density and well as other standards. Check with your City planning department (contact information included in the CFO application packet) or the Agriculture Ombudsman for assistance with this.
A Home Occupation permit, which is issued by County of Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Department, is NOT required for Cottage Food Operations in the unincorporated areas of the County. Check with your local municipality for additional permitting requirements if you are located within city/town limits.
Legal: View webinar Adding Value to Farm Products: Getting the Legal Ducks in a Row by Farm Commons to learn about insurance, employment laws, liability potential, and tax factors for Cottage Food Operations and Farms.