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Cottage Food Operations

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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. For analysis of the law, see Cottage Food Law FAQ's by Sustainable Economies Law Center.

List of Cottage Foods

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 (as of July 2020):

Note: Updates to the list normally occur January 1 or July 1.

  1. Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas.
  2. Candy, such as brittle and toffee.
  3. Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits.
  4. Dried fruit.
  5. Dried pasta.
  6. Dry baking mixes.
  7. Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales.
  8. Granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
  9. Herb blends and dried mole paste.
  10. Honey+ and sweet sorghum syrup. For honey+ see note at the end of this listing.
  11. Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. *see note at the end of this listing.
  12. Nut mixes and nut butters.
  13. Popcorn.
  14. Vinegar and mustard.
  15. Roasted coffee and dried tea.
  16. Waffle cones and pizelles.
  17. Cotton candy.
  18. Candied apples.
  19. Confections such as salted caramel, fudge, marshmallow bars, chocolate covered marshmallow, nuts, and hard candy, or any combination thereof.
  20. Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese.
  21. Dried or Dehydrated vegetables.
  22. Dried vegetarian-based soup mixes.
  23. Vegetable and potato chips.
  24. Ground chocolate.
  25. Seasoning Salt
  26. Flat icing
  27. Marshmallows that do not contain eggs
  28. Popcorn Balls
  29. Dried grain mixes
  30. Fried or baked donuts and waffles
  31. Dried hot chocolate (dried powdered mixes or molded hardened cocoa pieces)
  32. 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)
  33. Dried fruit powders
  34. Dried spiced sugars
  35. Dessert sprinkles (edible) such as sanding and crystal sugars, non-pareils, confetti, sequins, dragees, sugar-shapes, sugar-strands (jimmies), comfits, mini-chocolates, and pralines.

+Honey: If honey producer owns the bees and does the processing themselves, CFO is NOT required. If using bees from other and processing in home kitchen, CFO is required.

*Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter: Cottage food operations which produce jams, jellies, preserves, and other related products must be sure that their products meet the legal established standards of identity requirements for those products as set forth in 21 CFR Part 150. The purpose of the regulation is to maintain the integrity of the food product to ensure consumers consistently get what they expect. The product name and ingredients listed on the label must be factual and comply with the legal definitions and standards of identity or the product may be considered misbranded. Products made with other ingredients that are not defined in 21 CFR 150 cannot be produced by cottage food operations. Addition of other ingredients or alteration of ingredient profiles changes the chemistry of the food, which can allow the growth of various bacteria and toxins under the right conditions. For example, addition of peppers (i.e. jalapeno pepper) to make pepper jelly is not supported by 21 CFR 150 and the addition of this low acid ingredient could cause the formation of botulism toxin in the product if the proper controls are not used. 

My Product is Not on the List

If the product you want to make is not on the list, it most likely 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 (see Foods Not Allowed in CFO). To make this request, petition CDPH using their Request to Add Food Product to the Cottage Food Approved Food List.

Income limit

The operation shall not have more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) in gross annual sales in the calendar year.

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 $218 + $218/hr over 1 hour review (thru 6/30/2021).
  • 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 $547 + $218/hr over 2.5 hour review (thru 6/30/2021).

Food Safety

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. Classes are available in different languages.

Cottage Food Operators Handbook by UCCE Food Safety.

Preventing Food Borne Illness chapter of Food Safety, Sanitation, and Personal Hygiene provided by BC Campus Open Textbook Collection.

Selling 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. 

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.

Labeling

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. 

Label must be in English, but can include other language or have a link and/or QR code to label in another language.

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.

Zoning

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.

Unincorporated county: 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.

City/Town locations: Check with your local municipality for additional permitting requirements if you are located within city/town limits. These usually include a Business License (Business Tax Certificate) and/or a Home Occupation Permit.

Well and/or Septic

If using a well, testing is required. The test requirements and schedules are located in the FAQ's of the application packet.

*NEW* If on septic, the system to be utilized will need to be self-certified by the applicant. See: Requirements for Cottage Food Operations Using Septic Systems.

Business & Legal

Visit Economic Development Board's site for help with getting started in business including learning about how to analyze the market and plan your strategy, micro loans and more.

Make an appointment with Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to help you with your business plan. Many services are FREE!

Legal: Adding Value to Farm Products by Farm Commons to learn about insurance, employment laws, liability potential, and tax factors for Cottage Food Operations and Farms.

Insurance: talk to your insurance agent for advice about insurance for the CFO. Recommendations for insurance.

Visit Operating Your Cottage Food Business by UCCE Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program for additional business and legal information.

Watch How to Launch a Cottage Food Business Part 1 and Part 2 by NorCal SBDC (video link on Facebook).

Requirements for Businesses

  • Employer Identification Number if filing taxes separate from personal. Consult a tax accountant for all tax advice.
  • Seller's Permit required by CA Dept of Tax and Fee Administration.
  • CA Income Tax all businesses are required to submit a Business Income Tax statement annually.
  • Fictitious Business Name Statement is required when the business name does not include the surname of the individual owner(s) and any partners and other instances, check the website for details.
  • Business License if your business is within city limits, check with your municipality to obtain your business license.
  • Home Occupation Permit usually required for home-based businesses, check with your municipality. NOTE: not required in unincorporated Sonoma County.
  • If you hire an employee/contractor:

Apply for Cottage Food Operation

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. 

More questions: see the FAQ's (also included in the application packet).

Foods Not Allowed in CFO's

Foods that are considered "Time/temperature control for safety food" as defined by FDA Food Code ("formerly potentially hazardous food") means a food that requires time/temperature control for safety (TCS) to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation. See FDA's Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) graphic (pdf) to help the user determine if a food is considered a Time/Temperature Control Safety Food, according to the definition provided in the FDA Food Code.

These foods and/or foods made with meat, dairy or alcohol, must be made with the appropriate permit or license (e.g. Processed Food Registration, Cannery license, winery).

TCS Foods from SateFoodSafety
TCS Foods from SateFoodSafety

  • Bakery goods with fillings such as cream, custard or meringue pies and cakes or pastries with cream or cream cheese fillings, fresh fruit fillings or garnishes, glazes or frostings with eggs
  • Barbeque sauces and ketchups
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, vegetable butters, salsas, etc.
  • Canned pickled products such as corn relish, pickles, sauerkraut
  • Chutney
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Cut fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Fish or shellfish products
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses
  • Food products made from cut fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Food products made with cooked vegetable products
  • Food products that require refrigeration
  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky
  • Fresh or dried poultry or poultry products
  • Ganache
  • Garlic in oil mixtures
  • Ice or ice products
  • Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and cottage cheeses and yogurt
  • Raw seed sprouts
  • Tempered or molded chocolate or chocolate type products
  • Vegetable butter
  • Wine preserves

Links

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!

California Public Health Food Safety Program This page is a fantastic resource for food safety. See also their FAQ's about California Homemade Food Act

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.