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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
- Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings,
such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and
- Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream
fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream
- 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 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
- 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 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
- 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,
- 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
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
- processed meat,
- fermented foods,
- 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
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
- "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.).
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:
- From your home
- At holiday bazaars or temporary events, bake sales or food
- At farm stands and Certified Farmers' Markets
- Through community-supported agriculture subscription
*Direct sales under 2, 3, and 4 above,
may require additional permits.
Frequently Asked Questions about the California Homemade Food Act in
[ English |
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.
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.
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
Los Angeles County and Other counties have good resources: These are PDF files which you can view online, download or print
page for more California references and resources
Questions? Contact Information:
PO Box 997377
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
General Public Information:
California state and local health department contact information.