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North Carolina Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in North Carolina
North Carolina Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts
North Carolina does not have a cottage food law, but you
can still produce certain foods at home. IF your food products meets the allowable definitions, you must still complete an application and pass an
inspection of your home kitchen before you can start producing or selling the food. See below for the details,
restrictions, process and requirements. This page summarizes the North Carolina Home Process Requirements, but you may find
this checklist useful to review first!
Which foods are subject to the North Carolina Cottage Food law?
Low-risk packaged foods are the only products allowed to be
produced at home. These can include:
- Baked goods (cookies, cakes, breads, chips, etc) as long as
they do not need to be refrigerated
- Jams and jellies
- Dried mixes
- Some sauces and liquids (see the prohibited foods section
below; you will need to contact them and MAYBE they will
determine that yours is not prohibited and does not require
- Pickles and acidified foods
Please contact the Raleigh office at (919) 733-7366 for
information with the regards to the production of shelf stable
sauces, dressings, salsas, pickles, and acidified foods. All of
these products will require laboratory testing.
University's Food Science Department will analyze products for risk.
For more information, go to:
The NCSU Extension's Entrepreneurial Program offers Product Testing & Processing Recommendations They will analyze a shelf-stable product sample, classify it (as
acid, acidified, water activity controlled or other) according to Federal and State regulations and provide processing recommendations. As of 2020,
the cost was $150 per sample.
The evaluation of your product is a two step process:
- First: You will need to complete and submit an ONLINE REQUEST FORM with detailed information
about your product. They will need a list of ingredients, with
quantities, along with your contact information. Do not send any
samples until you have been contacted by them.
- Second: They will contact you with
instructions on specific samples that will need to be mailed to their laboratory and total fees. Please include payment with your
For sauces, marinades and other liquids, they typically will need
two samples. One sample is your final product as it is to be sold
and another sample with certain ingredients omitted from the
formulation. They will do a pH test on these products.
For baked or dried products or syrup, they will measure the water
activity (Aw) of the product.
If you have questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate
to call us at 919.513.2090.
All high-risk products must be produced in a non-home based
commercial facility . These include, but are not limited to:
- Refrigerated or frozen products
- Low-acid canned foods
- Dairy products
- Seafood products
- Bottled water
If you are uncertain if your canned goods are low-acid or
acidified, contact a Food Compliance Officer at 919-733-7366 for
If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage
Don't give up. You may still be able to make and sell it commercially,
through a startup approach.
First, you may be able to rent space in a local licensed commercial kitchen.
Second, if that doesn't work, you may be able to get a co-packer to make the food for you.
See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do
not meet the Cottage Food definition
There is no license, but there is an application that must be
submitted, a home inspection and possible product testing. Within two weeks of receipt of your application, a Food Regulatory Specialist
will contact you to arrange for a home processing facility inspection. See the
Other Requirements section below.
Any products to be sold to consumers must be packaged to protect
them from contamination. A label must be affixed to the package
- Product name
- Manufacturer's name and physical address. NOTE: The use of a
website address cannot be substituted for the required
information. Application for Home Food Processor
- Net quantity contents of the product in either
ounces/pounds and the gram weight equivalent, or fluid ounces
and the mL equivalent.
- Complete list of ingredients in order of predominance by
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).
Also, The NCSU Entrepreneurial Program offers a service for Nutritional Information using a Nutrition Database to input a product formulation and
provide a Nutrition Facts Panel and Ingredient Statement for food products. They currently provide one format of the label, the Nutrition Labeling
and Education Act 1990 Nutrition Facts Panel format. As of 2020, the cost was $150 per item or sample. .
Directions about how to create the ingredient statement:
Step 1: List ingredients in descending order by weight. The
ingredient that weighs the most in the recipe is listed first and
the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.
Step 2: Review the ingredient statement that is listed on each
ingredient package. Any ingredient which has two or more components
must be declared in parentheses beside of the ingredient.
The label can be produced by the following methods: -
- Format onto the self-adhesive sticker type label that can be
printed from a personal computer;
- Print a paper label and affix (glue or tape) to the package
- Use a professional printer
individually packaged for self-service sale must be labeled and
adequately packaged to protect them from contamination. Foods
"custom made" or "on demand" for sale as a single unit (ie:
wedding cake, cake for a restaurant to serve, or a dozen cookies
in bulk package for a restaurant to serve) can be exempt from
individual labels. Also, if the product is served on demand from
a secure bulk container or display case when the customer asks
you for it, you can be exempt. However the ingredient
information must be available upon request by the consumer. If
you do not make comparative nutrition claims (ex. low fat, sugar
free) you may be exempt from including the nutrition facts panel
information on your product as a small business.
information on labeling requirements is available at:
Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?
Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.
In other words, only be sold within the state. They may be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced.
They may also be sold through grocery stores, registered farm markets,
church bake sales, schools, registered farmers markets,
and sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant.
If have a pet that comes in your home at any time
(even if only at night)
foods in your home. This practice is a violation of the Good
Your home processing area must meet the standards set by:
And in addition, for acidified foods (like pickles) , the following are
Zoning and other local requirements may also apply:
County government links:
City or town government links:
Water requirements: If your home has municipal/city
water, you will need a copy of your most recent bill.
If your only water
source is from a well, the water must be tested for coliform bacteria before an
inspection is made. Test results within 1 year of your application and must be
attached with your completed application. Water testing is available from
private companies or your local health department.
Food contact surfaces must be smooth and easily
Restroom and hand washing facilities must have hot and
cold running water easily accessible from processing area. Kitchen
sink is for food preparation only, hand washing must be done in a
Thermometer must be kept in refrigerator to monitor
Waste must be carried away from the house in an
acceptable fashion (sewer or septic system)
All light bulbs in the kitchen must have protective
shields or be shatter-proof.
If you plan to sell acidified foods (like
pickles), you must take a course on safe production practices. NCSU offers
Acidified Foods Manufacturing School, which is
done 100% Online
The Acidified Foods Manufacturing School provides instruction primarily for operating supervisors, the individual who is in
the plant or kitchen at the time an acidified preserved food product is packed and processed. The school is particularly intended for operators or
operating supervisors involved in production of thermally processed acidified foods. If you are a manufacturer of Low-Acid Canned Foods you will
want to consider taking the Better Process Control School (BPCS) which covers topics associated with Low-Acid Canned Foods.
For more information and course registration, visit the official
Acidified Foods Manufacturing School website.
You must complete the Application for Home
Application for NC Home Food Processor Inspection writable
PDF (back up link:
Application for Home Processor Inspection)
Application for Home Processor Inspection Microsoft
Word (back up link:
Application for Home Processor Inspection)
mail the completed form to:
or Mail the completed form to:
Kaye J. Snipes
169 Boone Square
Hillsborough, NC 27278
Then within two (2) weeks
of sending your application, a Food Regulatory Specialist will
contact you to arrange a home processing facility inspection. You
will be sent a copy of all relevant federal and state regulations
for your review and to prepare your facility for inspection.
After sending your
completed application, please check your Email periodically for
correspondence from our Regulatory Specialists. Inspection
appointments are typically made over email. For applicants without
email access, appointments will be made by phone.
Product Testing may be required - After receipt
of your application the Food Regulatory Specialist may determine
that product testing is required to ensure your product can be
manufactured in a home kitchen. Product testing is available through
N.C. State University or other commercial labs. The following
products may need to have product testing:
Acidified foods (ex Pickles): pH testing
"Moist" breads/cakes, and some pies: Aw
(water activity) and pH
Any questionable products: Aw and/or pH
Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and
reducing liability suggests you should do the following.
ServSafe® training classes for Manager and employees, the 7th Edition Book that accompanies this course should be purchased here..
Testing of pH
It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day
I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive.
And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
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.
Record-keeping is suggested
Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale,
- Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
- Amount canned and sold
- Canning date
- Sale dates and locations
- Gross sales receipts
- Results of any pH test
Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing
- Use clean equipment that has been effectively sanitized
prior to use
- Clean work surfaces and then sanitize with bleach water
before and after use
- Keep ingredients separate from other unprocessed foods
- Keep household pets out of the work area
- Keep walls and floors clean
- Have adequate lighting
- Keep window and door screens in good repair to keep insects
- Wash hands frequently while working
- Consider annual testing of water if using a private well
- Allergens: Most state home baking
acts require an "ingredient statement" and/or an "allergen
listing" on the label of the bakery item for sale; but if your
state does not, you should anyway. The eight major food
- crustacean shellfish,
- tree nuts,
- wheat and
- Cross-allergenicity: There are also
ingredients available, even flours, that can cause a
cross-allergenicity. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma &
Immunology explains cross-allergenicity as an allergic reaction
when proteins in one substance are similar to the proteins found
in another substance. For example, consumption of lupine flour
may trigger an allergic reaction to peanuts, and cricket flour
may trigger an allergic reaction to shellfish. Again, providing
such information might be a beneficial marketing tool and help
keep potential consumers safe.
- The 2 Hour/4 Hour Rule - Anyone
wishing to make and sell refrigerated bakery items should
remember to follow the "2 Hour/4 Hour Rule." This is a system
that can be implemented when potentially hazardous foods are out
of temperature control (temperatures greater than 45 degrees
Fahrenheit) during preparation, serving or display for sale. The
rule guidelines are as follows:
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for 2 hours or less, then it may
continue to be used or be placed back in the refrigerator.
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for more than 2 hours but less than 4
hours, it needs to be used quickly or discarded.
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for more than 4 hours, it must be
Questions? Contact Information:
Food Program, Anita MacMullan, Food Administrator
Address: 1070 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1070
Address: 4000 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
(919) 733-7366; FAX: (919) 733-6801