Looking for Iowa Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Iowa in 2021? Scroll down this page and follow the links. And if you bring home some fruit or vegetables and want to can, freeze, make jam, salsa or pickles, see this page for simple, reliable, illustrated canning, freezing or preserving directions. There are plenty of other related resources, click on the resources dropdown above.
Date of the enactment of the law: 2016
Iowa allows Exempted Home Food Operations (commonly called cottage food operations) and Home Bakeries to be subject to reduce regulatory burdens. To sell types of food or quantities that exceed these two categories, the home business must get a regular food establishment license.
Only the following foods (which are "non-potentially hazardous foods"):
• Must meet Standard of Identity in 21 CFR Part 150
Neither bakers nor Exempt home food operations may sell:
Processing of low-acid foods by retort canning, pressure canning or processing of acidified foods is not allowed by a home food establishment. These products must be commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of non-refrigerated storage and distribution. Processing of these food products without the appropriate license is a violation of state law and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. A food processing plant license from the state is needed. All processed foods sold to restaurants, grocery stores, or institutions (for example, salsa or BBQ sauce) must be processed in a state licensed food processing plant. For more information, contact the Department of Inspections and Appeals: www.dia.iowa.gov (and then click on inspections.)
What about other home-canned (water-bath) foods, like canned peaches, applesauce or tomatoes?
At this point, I can't tell. Iowa's guidance is positively awful, it says nothing about foods like this ! It is clear that most baked goods are allowed, and jams, jellies and preserves. And it is clear that acidified foods (like pickles, salsa) are prohibited, as are pressure-canned foods (like corn, green beans), but it says NOTHING about ordinary water-bath canned acidic foods and borderline foods like tomato products. Unfortunately, you'll have to call the state and ask, if you want to make something like those. And be darned sure to GET THEIR ANSWER IN WRITING! and please send me a copy!
If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage
Food, you may still be able to make and sell it commercially,
through a startup approach.
See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do
not meet the Cottage Food definition.
As a home baker you can make and sell some items without a license (hence the term "exempt") and more options with a license.
Home Bakery License - A completed application with appropriate fee must be received by the food inspection agency covering your geographic region at least 30 days prior to the intended opening date. Once the application is received your kitchen must be inspected and approved to operate before production begins. The cost of the license in 2020 is $50.
But the home bakery must have a potentially hazardous food farmers' market license if they sell TCS baked goods at any farmers' market and must also keep a logbook with employee information (30 days)
A license is not required to sell raw, unprocessed produce to restaurants and grocery stores. If the produce is cut, bagged and sealed, or processed in any way, then the firm must be licensed.
Home based bakeries that are also licensed as home food establishments can sell up to $35,000 annually of bakery products on a wholesale basis. If the gross sales of the home bakery are over $35,000 a year, then the firm must be licensed as a food processing plant. The term "baked good" or "bakery product" is limited to the following items per state rule 481-30.1: "breads, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, rolls, cookies, biscuits and pies, except meat pies."
Home Food Establishment License
If you want to sell other perishable foods, or want to sell baked goods at other venues than those allowed under the Home Bakery License, you need to get a Home Food Establishment License.
Exempt Home Food Operations (EHFO)
Home-based firms that only sell non-potentially hazardous food (including non-perishable bakery products) on a direct to consumer retail basis are exempt from licensing.
All Operations must label all of their food products properly, which includes specified information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale.
All processed packaged foods bear a label stating the
It is recommended that honey manufacturers/processors include this additional statement to their product label: "Honey is not recommended for infants less than twelve (12) months of age".
Here is a free Microsoft Word label template which you can download and edit. These labels are already formatted to fit on Avery Template 22820 Print-to-the-Edge Oval, Labels 2" x 3-1/3", 8 per Sheet, Glossy White. You can get the label stock online (see at right).
Depending on the size of your business, your label must comply with Federal label regulations and with the new nutritional labeling law. You can download a copy of the FDA Food Labeling Guide here it s an illustrated booklet that should answer all your questions. You may see that the sample label does not include a "notional panel" (calories, fat, protein, vitamins, etc.) . This is because if you sell (in the U.S. only) fewer than 10,000 units and hire fewer than 10 full-time employees yearly; you do not have to have a nutrition panel on your label, nor file a small business nutritional labeling exemption notice with the FDA.
A Home bakery with a State of Iowa license - may sell at farmers' markets, out of the home baker's home, and wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores. Online sales are also acceptable (nut the consumer must come pick up the food products). The "Home Bakers" with a license restriction are different because they have a license, and their space has been inspected.
Exempt Home Food Operations may sell directly to consumers out of the home for pickup by the consumer. They may sell at farmers markets. They cannot be sold to restaurants, grocery stores, or other types of retailers, schools or other institutions. Exempt Home Food Operations (EHFO) are the producers who are selling non-perishable foods (also do not have a license; hence the exemption). This includes those who are selling non-perishable baked items without a license.
Note: in both cases, farmers market are allowed because they are considered as direct sales to consumer customers.
481-34.4(137D) Annual gross sales. Annual gross sales shall not exceed $35,000. The license holder shall maintain a record of sales of food licensed under Iowa Code section 137D.1(3). The record shall be available to the regulatory authority when requested
Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.
It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day
used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive.
And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper's range includes a pH of 4.6.
Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:
Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:
ISU Extension and Outreach as several resources for Home Based Food Operators in Iowa. Please use the links below to access the information.
The Presto Pressure
canners are out
of stock, but Tfal's
Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book