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Ohio Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Ohio

Ohio Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Under the Ohio cottage food law, there are certain types of low risk food products that may be produced and sold out of your home kitchen with no inspection or licensing requirements.

Which foods are subject to the Ohio Cottage Food law?

Only food products that are non-potentially hazardous (as defined by the State of Ohio, not your own definition) fall into the cottage food category. Ohio Administrative Code Section 901:3-20-04 lists the food items approved as cottage food products.

Approved Foods

This list of allowed items is very specific and includes the following food products:

  • Non-potentially hazardous bakery products (such as cookies, breads, brownies, cakes, and fruit pies)
  • Jams, Jellies and fruit butters (like apple butter)
  • Candy (including no-bake cookies, chocolate covered pretzels or similar chocolate covered non-perishable items)
  • Granola, granola bars, granola bars dipped in candy
  • Popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn (does not include un-popped popping corn)
  • Certain baked goods like unfilled, baked donuts, Waffle cones, Pizzelles
  • Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings
  • Roasted coffee, whole beans or ground and Dry tea blends
  • 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)

The following were recent added, effective January 22, 2016

  • 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.

This OSU Extension page explains in more detail.

Prohibited foods

Basically, ANYTHING that is not on the approved list above is by default prohibited.  Here is more explanation: for example, the following are prohibited from home production for sale:

  •  acidified foods,  Acidified food means a low acid food to which acids or acid foods are added (Ex. Beans, cucumbers, cabbage, puddings, etc.).
  • low-acid canned foods. Low acid food means any food with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85.
  • Potentially hazardous food - means it requires temperature control because it is in a form capable of supporting the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms (Ex. Raw or cooked animal products, cooked vegetables, garlic in oil, cheese cakes, pumpkin pies, custard pies, cream pies, salsas, BBQ sauces, canned vegetables, frozen foods 

And recent revisions clarify that the following foods are also prohibited; meaning they do not fall under the cottage food law:

  • Fresh fruit that is dipped, covered, or otherwise incorporated with candy;
  • Popping corn.
  • Fruit in granola products  (If adding fruit to granola, granola bars, or granola bars dipped in candy, which are all cottage food products, the fruit must be commercially dried.)

Definitions:

  • "Cottage Food Production Operation" according to Chapter 3715 of the Ohio Revised Code means, a person who, in the person's home, produces food items that are not potentially hazardous foods, including bakery products, jams, jellies, candy, fruit butter, and similar products specified in rules. These foods must be labeled properly or they will be considered misbranded or adulterated
  • "Home" means the primary residence occupied by the residence's owner, on the condition that the residence contains only one stove or oven used for cooking, which may be a double oven, designed for common residence usage and not for a commercial usage, and that the stove or oven be operated in an ordinary kitchen within the residence.
  • A naturally high acid canned food is a food that has a natural (without the addition of acid) pH of 4.6 or below. Example: tomato based products.
  • An acidified canned food is a low acid food to which an acid or acid food has been added. Example: pickles
  • A low acid canned food is a food that has a pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85. Example: green beans.
  • Prohibited foods include acidified foods, low-acid canned foods, potentially hazardous foods or non-potentially hazardous foods not listed above. Low acid food means any food with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85. Acidified food means a low acid food to which acids or acid foods are added (Ex. Beans, cucumbers, cabbage, puddings, etc.). Potentially hazardous food means it requires temperature control because it is in a form capable of supporting the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms (Ex. Raw or cooked animal products, cooked vegetables, garlic in oil, cheese cakes, pumpkin pies, custard pies, cream pies, etc.).
    For example, salsas, BBQ sauces, canned vegetables, frozen foods and homemade hummus must be produced in a licensed facility.  Specifically, salsas, BBQ sauces, and canned vegetables must be produced in a licensed cannery facility.   Licensing information for these types of food products  is available on the Ohio Department of Agriculture's website.
  • Eggs are a separate case.  See this page for information about selling eggs in Ohio

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.

Labeling requirements

Cottage Food Production Operations must label all of their food products properly, which must include specific information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale.

See this page for label requirements, sample labels and a template to use.

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 Ohio. They may be sold

  • directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced.
  •  through grocery stores,
  • registered farm markets,
  • registered farmers markets, and
  • sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant.

Decision Process

If you want to produce a home-based food product in Ohio, here is the decision process to follow:

  1. Is the food product you want to produce in Ohio's definition of "cottage foods?" If so, you do not need a license. (but you must follow the other requirements above, like labeling, where you can sell, etc.)
  2. If the food product is not a "cottage food," is it a "home bakery" product?
        If it meets the home bakery definition, you will need to obtain a home bakery license and pass a home kitchen inspection.
  3. If the food product is not a "cottage food" and is also not "home bakery" product, You cannot produce the food in your home;.  You may used a licensed kitchen (or co-packer) to produce the food or have it made for you.

More about canned products:

All canning operations are licensed and inspected by ODA, FS, regardless of where the product is sold. All facilities must meet Good Manufacturing Practices. The only exception is for a cottage food operation that produces jams, jellies and fruit butter as noted above. If your canned food product does not meet the exception above the following applies:

  • If you are producing a naturally high acid canned food, you will need to have your product tested to determine the actual pH before calling the Division of Food Safety for an inspection.
  • If you are producing an acidified canned food or a low acid canned food you must attend Better Process Control School, have your product evaluated by a process authority, register with the FDA as a cannery and file your process with the FDA before you call ODA, FS for an inspection. You can contact the division at 614-728-6250.
  • Information on Better Process Control School can be found at: http://www.fpa-food.org/content/BPCS.asp
  • A process authority is someone the FDA recognizes as knowledgeable in food processing. You can contact the Division of Food Safety at 614-728-6250 for more information.
  • To register with the FDA as a cannery go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM076778.pdf
  • To file a process with the FDA go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM076784.pdf

Recommendations:

Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.

Testing of pH

​It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive.
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.

Record-keeping is suggested

Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:

  • ​Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
  • Amount canned and sold
  • Canning date
  • Sale dates and locations
  • Gross sales receipts
  • Results of any pH test

Sanitation

Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:

  • ​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 out
  • Wash hands frequently while working
  • Consider annual testing of water if using a private well

Questions? Contact ODA Division of Food Safety:

1-800-282-1955 Ext 4366

Request an Appointment via email

More Information


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