I love practicing law, but if I had the recipe for my friend’s grapefruit marmalade, or family member’s pepper butter, I’d be very busy making these items and making a lot of money selling them with my home-based food business. If you want to make food items to sell, what are the rules?
Many people make goods to sell at their local farmer’s market. This has spawned the “cottage food” industry—making food to sell at local venues. The first thing to keep in mind is that, if you want to ship food outside of your state, you typically need to meet more requirements (licenses, inspections, labeling, etc.) than what is required under cottage food industry regulations, because these regulations pertain to making specific items typically from a home kitchen, and selling locally.
Let’s assume, then, that you want to make food items in your kitchen and sell them at your local farmer’s market. I will also assume you reside in Ohio, the state where I practice law. (If you reside elsewhere, be certain to check your state’s requirements for home-based food business.) Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you need licensed, and what other requirements you might need.
- Is your product included in the “cottage food” list? These are non-potentially hazardous food items listed specifically in Ohio Administrative Code Section 901:3-20-04:
- Non-potentially hazardous bakery products (such as cookies, breads, brownies, cakes, and fruit pies)
- Candy (including no-bake cookies, chocolate covered pretzels or similar chocolate covered non-perishable items)
- Fruit butters
- Granola, granola bars, granola bars dipped in candy
- Popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn (does not include un-popped popping corn)
- Unfilled, baked donuts
- Waffle cones
- Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings
- Roasted coffee, whole beans or ground
- Dry baking mixes in a jar (for making items like breads and cookies)
- Dry herbs and herb blends
- Dry seasoning blends (such as dry barbeque rubs and seafood boils)
- Dry tea blends
- Flavored honey produced by a beekeeper, if a minimum of 75% of the honey is from the beekeeper’s own hives;
- Fruit chutneys;
- Maple sugar produced by a maple syrup processor, if at least 75% of the sap used to make the maple syrup is collected directly from trees by the processor;
- Waffle cones dipped in candy;
- Dry soup mixes containing commercially dried vegetables, beans, grains, and seasonings.
If your food product is specifically included in this list, it is a “cottage food” and you do not need a license to sell it. On the packaging, however, you must state that the product is “home produced.” (Click here for more labeling and packaging information.)
- Is your food product not a cottage food? Then you need licenses and possibly a home inspection.
- If you are making foods considered potentially hazardous, then you need to comply with Ohio’s regulations for “home bakeries.” Potentially-hazardous foods include baked goods that need refrigerated, such as cheesecakes, filled doughnuts, cream and custard pies. You will need licenses (Ohio Department of Agriculture, and local health department) and a home inspection, but you can sell outside of Ohio.
- Certain foods require production in licensed facilities, or in canneries. These include salsas, BBQ sauces, canned vegetables, frozen foods and homemade hummus, which must be produced in a licensed facility. In fact, salsas, BBQ sauces, and canned vegetables must be produced in a licensed cannery.
For more information on home-based food businesses in Ohio, visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss starting your own home-based food business.