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Ontario, Canada Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Ontario, Canada

Ontario, Canada Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

There are no specific cottage food laws in Ontario, Canada, but Ontario allows producers to sell some lower-risk homemade items at farmers' markets (only)with permits issued by the government.

Which foods are subject to the Ontario, Canada Cottage Food law?

Allowed foods

The only allowed foods for home preparation are Low-risk foods are considered non-hazardous which do not require refrigeration. This includes:

  • baked goods,
  • pickles,
  • Jams, jellies and preserves,
  • chocolates, hard candies and brittles, fudge and toffees,
  • granola, trail mix,
  • nuts and seeds, and
  • coffee beans and tea leaves.

Prohibited foods

Everything else. 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.

Steps to Starting a Home-based Food Business - Guidance

The Ontario government has prepared a Guide to Starting a Home Food Business in Ontario, which includes an broad overview of many requirements, such as public health, business licenses, etc.. And abbreviated version is presented below:

Step 1: Deciding what food you want to sell.

Home-based food businesses (e.g. private chefs, farmer's market vendors) are allowed to sell food in keeping with the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) and the Food Premises Regulation. Changes to the Food Premises Regulation that took effect on January 1, 2020 makes it easier for individuals and businesses to sell low-risk, home-prepared foods.

What Are Low-Risk Food Items?

Low-risk food items are generally considered non-hazardous and do not require time and temperature control.

Some examples of low-risk foods include:

  • Most breads and buns (without meat, cream filling, etc.);
  • Most baked goods (with no custard);
  • Chocolate, hard candies and brittles;
  • Fudge and toffees;
  • Pickles, jams and preserves;
  • Granola, trail mix, nuts and seeds;
  • Cakes (icing that doesn't require refrigeration), brownies, muffins and cookies.
  • Coffee beans and tea leaves;

Two canning myths:

  1. I can make my own unique recipe and safely package it.
  2. I can make at home any food I see in the shops.

Neither is true. Once your seal food in a jar, you create the potential for botulism to grow. Food companies conduct many trials and lab tests, examining the properties of the food product, including bacterial counts, pH, water content, etc. to determine that each recipe, process and packaging yields a shelf-stable product that will be safe for a consumer to eat months later. At home, you do not have the ability to perform this type of testing. When it comes to canning foods, you MUST stick to recipes, equipment and procedures that have been tested. All of the recipes here have been tested (by universities and government labs).


Step 2: Application process

You are required to contact your local public health unit where your home-based food business will be located to let them know you are a new food operator by completing an application form, which is often located on the public health unit's website. Your local public health unit and its staff will provide guidance on food safety measures to consider depending on the food you are planning to prepare (i.e., food preparation activities, safe operational practices, etc.)

Step 3: Review public health requirements

All food premises, including home-based food businesses, are subject to the requirements of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), the Food Premises Regulation and periodic inspection by inspectors from their local public health unit. Please note: Home-based food businesses that prepare only low-risk foods are exempt from certain regulatory requirements, such as:

  • Specified handwashing stations in food premises;
  • Compliance with commercial dishwashing requirements; and
  • Food handling training certification.

For more information on compliance with the Food Premises Regulation, you can review the following Ministry of Health resource for the full list of public health requirements and best practices to help guide you: Food Premises Reference Document. For additional helpful resources to assist with food labeling, declaring allergens and food safety measures, please review the Reference Document for Safe Food Donation and Food Donation Supplemental Materials. These documents offer information about the recent regulatory changes and best practices.

Step 4: Opening your business!

For any questions about public health requirements in the Health Protection and Promotion Act or the Food Premises Regulation, please contact the local public health unit where your home-based food business is located and speak with a public health inspector.

For information and support about running your home-based food business such as funding, business and legal advice, etc., please visit the Small Business Access website.

Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to provide legal advice on the requirements of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) or the Food Premises Regulation (O. Reg. 493/17) under the HPPA and is for information purposes only. In the event of any conflict between this guidance and the regulation, the requirements under the regulation prevails. It is also recommended to review any zoning by-laws, municipal permits and licensing requirements that pertain to your region.

Related Information

These guides will help you deal with Ontario regulations, financing, taxation, managing your business, advertising and much more:

Contact Information for Questions

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300

Contact our Business and Investment Development team for knowledge, connections and resources to help you expand your food business.


Small Food Business Practicalities

When you are starting out, there are some basic steps to follow and a learning curve. The Ontario government has prepared a Guide to Food and Beverage Manufacturing in Ontario, a PDF which you can download free.

Food Safety and Quality Control

  • Improve your food safety and quality procedures - Find links here to important information on issues of food safety, including your responsibilities and obligations, federal, provincial and municipal regulations and contacts and on-line links directing you to resources.

Preparing your product

You made a prototype at home, now at the microbusiness stage you will need to use an approved and inspected site for food preparation. Many entrepreneurs start up in an inspected church, community centre, or municipal food incubator kitchen.

Product sales

Products tend to be sold at seasonal craft sales and farmers' markets or at a local specialty food store. Some microbusinesses have a market booth a few days a week, or sell through roadside on-farm stands. You may want to sell your product at farmers' markets and craft shows, or invest in a booth to open a seasonal spot in a local mall.

Marketing and new product strategies

  • Growing your Business; Read this guide for fresh ideas about marketing and advertising, market research, financing and export strategies. You will also find a number of resources to help you explore potential areas of growth.
  • Getting an edge with research - Learn about the research OMAFRA and its partners are doing to help build a strong, healthy food industry in Ontario. This includes research with universities and food processors to create new and improved products and processes.
  • Co-Packing - Find out how food co-packers can help you bring your products to market. You can also find information on how to find and choose a co-packing partner.

Product labeling

Check the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to access the Industry Labeling Tool. This is a food labeling reference tool for all food inspectors and stakeholders in Canada. It replaces the Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising, and the Decisions page to provide consolidated reorganized and expanded labeling information. In this stage, products are often labeled by hand. If you make your own product you may deliver and/or sell it at road-side stands, craft shows, flea markets, local farmers' markets, specialty stores or a sugar bush. You do not need nutrition information on your labels for packaged products when your annual sales are less than $50,000.

Product costing and pricing

There is a difference between product cost and product price. Product cost is the sum of all of the costs you incur to manufacture your product. As a new start-up business you need to be prepared for any additional costs later on. You cannot change your price to the consumer once you have set a retail price point. See Section 4.1: Manufacturing Your Product to learn more about product costing models. Product price is your final selling price of your product. The pricing of your product will be based on your product cost and what customers are willing to pay (see Section 5.2: Pricing Your Product).

Packaging, ingredients and gross margin

The cost of packaging (including labeling) and ingredients for successful microbusinesses generally ranges between 20 to 40 per cent of the product's selling price. The remainder of the sale price after the cost is paid is called the gross margin. For example, a bottle of jam priced at $9 may cost between $1.80 and $3.60 to make, leaving a gross margin that will range between 80 and 60 per cent respectively (see Table 1: A Sample Product Costing Model in Section 4.1: Manufacturing Your Product). Operational costs These include the rent you pay on the space you use for production as well as financing, utilities and transportation costs. Section 4.1: Manufacturing Your Product provides a good example of a product costing model that you can easily follow. Remember to pay yourself and keep good records using either a software program or the services of an accountant.


  • Building your workforce - Find links here to research on Ontario's food processing labour force. This includes sector-specific information and self-assessment tools for employers.

Environment and energy



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


Take the 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.
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

Best Practices

  • 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 allergens are
    • milk,
    • eggs,
    • fish,
    • crustacean shellfish,
    • tree nuts,
    • peanuts,
    • wheat and
    • soybean.
  • 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 discarded.

More resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300