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Pennsylvania Cottage Food (Limited Food Establishments) Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts
"Limited Food Establishments"
Pennsylvania is different from other states in that there is no
explicit Cottage Foods law. Instead, the PA Department of
Agriculture has a category called "limited food establishments" that meet specific
guidelines that provides flexibility once they're set up. There is a
registration process with a $35 fee to register but some types
of products require lab testing. A business plan and an inspection
of the home is also required prior to approval. In addition, pets
are never allowed in the parts of the home where the food
establishment operates. Read on for more details.
Which foods are subject to the Pennsylvania Cottage Food law?
Generally, the types of production that can occur in 'limited food
establishments' (whether an actual home-use kitchen or a kitchen
designed in a residential fashion) are limited to foods that are not
'time and temperature controlled for safety' (TCS) foods (i.e.,
potentially hazardous foods, 'PHF'). TCS foods are foods that will
support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and require
temperature controls (kept hot or cold). TCS foods can only be
produced in a licensed / registered 'commercial' food establishment
kitchen that meets the full regulatory code requirements, including
separation from residential-use areas, and adequate plumbing
fixtures. This does not specifically prohibit processing of TCS
foods from a residential property, but the foods could only be
produced in a second 'commercial' processing kitchen separate from
the private home kitchen or any residential personal use areas, and
that meets the full regulatory standards for a food establishment.
If you only want to sell fresh fruit and vegetables that you grow your self, see this page
Pennsylvania: Selling Fresh, Unprocessed Vegetables and Fruit from Your Garden
Non-potentially hazardous foods that may be processed in a home
kitchen may include:
- Bakery Products like Cakes, fruit pies, breads, rolls,
brownies, cookies, fruit pastries, muffins, etc.
- Canned naturally acidic foods (apples, peaches, lemons, etc.
- Jams and Jellies - Fruit varieties, etc.
- Acidified Foods (Equilibrium pH of 4.6 or lower) such as
Salsa, pickled vegetables, hot sauces, chow-chow, pickled beets, and BBQ sauce).etc.
- Fermented foods (e.g., Korean kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, green olives, etc.)
- Candy: Lollipops, fudge, chocolate, rock candy, hard candy,
Potentially hazardous foods may be prepared in a home, if
processed in a kitchen other than what is used for home-use and the
facility has its own outside entrance. For safety, time and/or
temperature controls are needed to limit pathogen growth or toxin
formation in potentially hazardous foods. Potentially hazardous
foods may include, but not limited to, any of the following
- low-acid canned foods (e.g., corn, beans, soups, and
vegetable mixtures) , foods with a ph above 4.6,
- layer cakes with fresh fruit,
- cheese-filled products,
- pumpkin pies,
- custard pies,
- Creams and custards,
- meringue pies and pastries,
- meat-filled products, etc.
- In general, most products that would require temperature
control of the finished product.
Potentially hazardous (TCS foods) may only be made in a completely separate approved kitchen under the full regulations not the limited food
If you want to make and sell acidified foods:
- You must have written recipes (or formulas) and procedures.
- You must provide a process flow for products, and have it approved by the food inspector prior to registration and sale of product.
- If you are unsure if the product is considered an acid, acidified or fermented food, discuss with the food inspector.
- For further information review PDA information on this page:
Pennsylvania Limited Food Establishments.
The PDA Regional Food Sanitarian/Supervisor reviews the
notifies you of its approval/disapproval. PDA supports seven regional offices across the Commonwealth. Inquiries about regulations and to speak with
a regional Food Sanitarian can be directed to the appropriate
More information and resources for start-up food businesses are available in Penn State's
Food Entrepreneurs article .
Home manufacturing of "temperature control for safety" (TCS) foods,
also known as potentially hazardous foods (PHFs), is permitted only
if prepared in a separate kitchen used only
for this purpose. Because of their high moisture and low acid
content, TCS foods can become unsafe to eat if they are not kept
TCS food examples include milk or other dairy products,
eggs, meat, and cooked pasta or vegetables. Pennsylvania regulations
forbid the manufacture of TCS foods in a dual-use home kitchen. Instead,
you will need to construct a completely separate kitchen that is used
only for your food business. Keep in mind that no PHF products may pass
through or be stored in the home at any time; therefore, you may need to
construct separate entrances and exits to food processing and storage
areas. Ask a PDA sanitarian for more information if you decide to make
TCS products in your home.
Making TCS foods in a commercial licensed kitchen
It is more complicated, but there are resources that will help.
this page for much more information.
- "Limited food processor" or 'residential-style
kitchen' means a home-style kitchen, residential style
kitchen or a personal use kitchen, regardless of the location -
on or off an actual residential property.
- Acid foods are foods that have a natural pH of 4.6 or below.
- Low-acid foods have an equilibrium pH above 4.6 and water activity above 0.85.
- Acidified foods are defined by the FDA as low-acid foods to which acid(s) (vinegar or lemon juice) or acid food(s) are
added, and which have a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below and a water activity (aw) greater than 0.85.
- "Juice" means the liquid expressed from one or more fruits or vegetables and includes purees of the edible portions of one
or more fruits or vegetables, or any concentrates of such liquid or puree (see 21 CFR 120.1). The regulations differ depending on whether the
producer of the juice sells it directly to end consumers or offers it for wholesale distribution.
Application and Registration process
Anyone wishing to prepare food from home or home style kitchen must
fill out a completed "PA Application
for a Limited Food Establishment". Among other things, it wants
details like the number of employees, working hours, tax
documentation, and, recipe and food product labels. Please allow 3 to 5 weeks for
Because only limited types of food may be prepared from the home or
home - style kitchen and in some cases laboratory testing of the
product must occur, it is necessary to closely evaluate these
businesses. It may additionally be necessary for those facilities
wishing to sell their products interstate to register with the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA). More detailed information on Limited
Food Establishments is layed out in the Application Packet.
The Limited Food Processor Application must be submitted to the
department as soon as possible. There is no money required for the
Application/Plan Review process.
Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?
Cottage Food Products Establishments can sell anywhere they want
(including interstate), and there is no limit on the amount they can
Limited Food processors are regulated under The Food Safety Act
(3 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 5721 - 5737). Regulations under this Act include
all federal regulations related to food, and can be found in Title
21 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR's). CFR's can be accessed
at www.ecfr.gov. In
some cases, businesses may additionally be regulated under PA Code
Title 7, Chapter 46, Food Code (if products are retailed direct to
consumers from the business).
- A business plan and an inspection of the home is
required prior to approval.
- Pets are never allowed in the parts of the home where the
food establishment operates.
- Children and infants are not permitted in the kitchen area
during the processing for retail sale and/or wholesale business.
- No other activities: When processing for retail sale and/or wholesale
business, no other activities may take place in the kitchen
area, such as family meal preparation, etc.
- Separation - All ingredients, equipment and supplies for the retail
and/or wholesale food business must be kept separate from what
is used for home-use. A separate drawer, shelf, cabinet, pantry
shelf, etc. may be used. All ingredients, equipment and supplies
must be properly stored and maintained.
To sell Canned Foods (as described above) - you must:
- have written recipes/formulas and procedure;
- provide a process flow for your products and have it approved by
your sanitarian prior to registration and sale of your product.
Check with the PDA sanitarian to make sure you are following all state
and federal regulations before you start canning.
- prove that the product equilibrium pH is 4.6 or lower within
24 hours of processing by having it tested at an independent commercial
- use new canning lids each time.
- Reused jars must be thoroughly washed and sanitized before filling.
- You may also be required to register and file your process with the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
To sell Jams, Jellies, Conserves, Preserves, etc.
- document and adhere to all written procedures and formulas. Although
pH testing is not required, these products must be tested at a
commercial laboratory to make sure they meet quality standards for
soluble solids content. Requirements for new lids and sanitization of
used jars are the same as described above. Fruit butters, preserves,
artificially sweetened fruit jelly, each have specific standards of
identity and soluble solid requirements. Conserves, marmalades, and
"spreads" do not have standards of identity and do not require soluble
- Candies with very low water content, hard candies such as lollipops,
candy canes, and rock candy are not considered TCS foods and can
therefore be commercially prepared in dual-use home kitchens.
- Chocolate-covered fruits may not be made from a limited food
establishment unless the fruit in the candy has a pH of 4.6 or below
(for example, lemons, oranges, apples, strawberries). If you aren't
certain, you must use a pH test performed to determine acidity
- Cream-filled chocolates, fudge, or candied fruits - since the amount
of moisture available for microbial growth can vary widely depending on
the recipe the PDA may require you to have your product tested for water
activity at a commercial laboratory to determine if refrigerated storage
Juices and beverages
Selling juices is more complicated.
- Juice producers who sell only retail.
Juice processors who sell their own processed product directly to consumers (no wholesale activity
and no custom processing) are not required to process the juice under a HACCP system as required by 21 CFR 120 juice regulation. However,
packaged fruit and vegetable juice produced in an LFE is subject to certain food labeling regulations that require a warning statement to be
applied on the juice packages stating that the juice has not been pasteurized or otherwise treated to prevent, reduce, or eliminate pathogenic
microorganisms. Juice producers who produce from an LFE must have their products tested for pH to determine if the product is non-TCS (pH < 4.6
or lower). Note that the product may only be sold directly to the consumer from the production site or a satellite of the production site, such
as a farmers market or roadside stand owned by the producer. In most cases, if the product is sold from the production site in packaged form,
only a food registration is needed. However, any retail location would need to be evaluated to determine if a retail food license would also be
- Juice producers who sell any or all of their product wholesale.
Wholesale juice sales, as defined by the federal government in 21 CFR
120.1(a), are subject to the requirements of the juice HACCP regulation. Any juice of this type must be pasteurized or otherwise processed using
an approved and verified process that can achieve a 5-log reduction of pertinent micro-organisms and is operating under a HACCP plan. Juice of
this nature typically cannot be produced in a limited food establishment. Residential-style kitchens would not typically have the required
equipment to obtain a 5-log pathogen reduction.
Philly has additional requirements. call 215-685-7495 or use walk-in
hours at the Office of Food Protection, 321 University Avenue, 2nd
Floor, Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Although PA does not spell it out, foods sold by a cottage food production operation
properly packaged and labeled. The food must be packaged in a manner that
prevents product contamination, except for foods that are too large
and or bulky for conventional packaging. Food labels should include the following
- Producer's name and address
- Ingredients of food product
- Net weight and volume
- The common or usual name of the product, if a food is made
with a major food allergen, such as eggs, nuts, soy, peanuts,
milk or wheat that ingredient must be listed on the label; and
- The labels must be legible.
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.
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
used. 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
You should absolutely do/havethe 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
- Wash hands frequently while working
- Consider annual testing of water if using a private well
Questions? Contact Information:
- Bureau of Food Safety
- Stefanie Smith,
Chief, Division of Food Safety Policy & Programs
- Christopher Marlowe