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

California Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the California cottage food law: September 21, 2012
Assembly Bill (AB) 1616 Chapter 415, Statutes of 2012, was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 21, 2012; effective January 1, 2013. The bill allows individuals to prepare and/or package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in private-home kitchens referred to as "cottage food operations" (CFOs).


All CFOs have to meet the following requirements (Scroll down the page or click on the links for more information)

Which foods may I prepare at home to sell?

Below is a list from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) of the currently approved food products as of January 1, 2018:

  • Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas
  • Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese
  • Cakes or cupcakes, which are baked, and do NOT contain fillings of cream, custard, or meat or anything that requires refrigeration. You can use icing/frosting as described in the line above.
  • Candy, such as brittle and toffee.
  • Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Dried pasta.
  • Dried or Dehydrated vegetables
  • Dried vegetarian-based soup mixes.
  • Dry baking mixes.
  • Dried fruit powders.
  • Dried grain mixes.
  • Dried hot chocolate (dried powdered mixes or molded hardened cocoa pieces).
  • Flat icing
  • Fried or baked donuts and waffles.
  • Fruit infused vinegar (containing only high-acid fruits such as apple, crabapple, nectarine, peach, plum, quince, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, grape, huckleberry, gooseberry, loganberry, pomegranate, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, tomatillo, youngberry, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange)
  • Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales.
  • Granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
  • Ground chocolate
  • Herb blends and dried mole paste.
  • Honey and sweet sorghum syrup.
  • Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • Marshmallows that do not contain eggs.
  • Nut mixes and nut butters.
  • Popcorn.
  • Popcorn balls.
  • Vinegar and mustard.
  • Roasted coffee and dried tea.
  • Waffle cones and pizelles.
  • Cotton candy.
  • Candied apples.
  • Confections such as salted caramel, fudge, marshmallow bars, chocolate covered marshmallow, nuts, and hard candy, or any combination thereof.
  • Dried or Dehydrated vegetables.
  • Dried grain mixes.
  • Fried or baked donuts and waffles
  • Dried hot chocolate powdered mixes or hardened cocoa pieces
  • Fruit infused balsamic vinegar (containing only high-acid fruits such as apple, crabapple, nectarine, peach, plum, quince, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, grape, huckleberry, gooseberry, loganberry, pomegranate, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, tomatillo, youngberry, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange).
  • Seasoning salt.
  • Vegetable and potato chips.

Special notes for Jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters

Cottage food operations which produce jams, jellies, preserves, and other related products must be sure that their products meet the legal established standards of identity requirements for those products as set forth in 21 CFR Part 150. The purpose of the regulation is to maintain the integrity of the food product to ensure consumers consistently get what they expect. The product name and ingredients listed on the label must be factual and comply with the legal definitions and standards of identity or the product may be considered misbranded. Products made with other ingredients that are not defined in 21 CFR 150 cannot be produced by cottage food operations. Addition of other ingredients or alteration of ingredient profiles changes the chemistry of the food, which can allow the growth of various bacteria and toxins under the right conditions. For example, addition of peppers (i.e. jalapeno pepper) to make pepper jelly is not supported by 21 CFR 150 and the addition of this low acid ingredient could cause the formation of botulism toxin in the product if the proper controls are not

Prohibited foods

These include:

  • processed meat,
  • dairy,
  • fermented foods,
  • juices
  • Pickled products, acidified foods such as chutneys and salsas, foods containing meat, and any food that requires refrigeration are NOT approved cottage foods in California.

If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage Food:

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

Other Requirements:


  • "Cottage Food Production Operation" according to 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
  • CFO - Cottage food operator (you!)
  • "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.
  • 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.). CA-cottage-foods-label-example

Labeling requirements

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

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.,

Permissible locations are:

  1. From your home
  2. At holiday bazaars or temporary events, bake sales or food swaps
  3. At farm stands and Certified Farmers' Markets
  4. Through community-supported agriculture subscription

*Direct sales under 2, 3, and 4 above, may require additional permits.

Flowchart - Do you need a license?

Frequently Asked Questions about the California Homemade Food Act in

[ English | Espanol ]


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


All CFOs, their employees, and members of their household who are involved in the cottage food operation must complete a food processor training course within three months of registering their operation, then every three years thereafter. CFOs may have one full-time equivalent employee (not counting members of their household.)

Each person involved in preparing cottage foods must complete food safety training. They have the option of one of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited food handler courses that are currently required for retail food facility food handlers. ANSI courses are available online or via classroom in a variety of languages for a minimal cost. A food handler card or certificate, provided upon successful completion of the course, must be presented to the local agency responsible for enforcement.

The ServSafe course is the most well known, and is offered by the National Restaurant Association in California.

The ServSafe® training classes for Manager and employees, the 7th Edition Book that accompanies this course should be purchased here.. 

Then you can see where to take the coures:

The complete list of California-accredited Food Handler Certificate Programs is 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.
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


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

More resources:

Los Angeles County and Other counties have good resources: These are PDF files which you can view online, download or print

See this page for more California references and resources

Questions? Contact Information:

PO Box 997377
MS 0500
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377

For General Public Information:
(916) 558-1784.

California state and local health department contact information.