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District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)
District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts
Date of the enactment of the Cottage Food Act: 2013
The Act allows residents of the District of Columbia to register as a Cottage Food Business and prepare certain foods from their residential
kitchens and sell them at farmers markets and public events.
- breads, cookies,
- fruit pies,
- jams, jellies, preserves, fruit
- honey, sorghum,
- cracked nuts,
- packaged spices and spice
- dry cookie, cake, bread, and soup mixes;
Only the foods that have been approved by DC Health can be sold. However, section 103.3 and 103.4 of the D.C. Cottage Food Regulations in Title
25-K of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations: an owner has the opportunity to request to produce, package or sell a food product that is
not on the approved list if the owner can present a confirmation of the food product's pH value and water activity from any state accredited
laboratory to DC Health for review and approval.
Some examples of prohibit include (but is not limited to):
- beer or other alcohol products
- canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned vegetable butters, and canned salsas
- apple butter, pumpkin butter, or other fruit butters
- Meat and poultry: fresh, frozen, dried or other
- pet treats
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
Where may the foods be prepared?
Cottage food products can only be prepared and packaged in a home kitchen that is located in the primary residence of the cottage food business
owner as listed on the Cottage Food Business Registry Application. Cottage food products must also be stored within the kitchen in which they are
approved to be made. The use of a shed or garage is not approved for the storage of finished products. You may not use a rented kitchen, church
kitchen, a vacation home, other second home
- A "potentially hazardous food" or "Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food (TCS)" is a food that requires time and temperature controls to
prevent pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation. It includes an animal food that is raw or heat-treated, a plant food that is
heat-treated or consists of raw seed sprouts, cut melons, cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes or mixtures of cut tomatoes that are not modified to
prevent pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation, or garlic-in-oil mixtures that are not modified to prevent pathogenic microorganism
growth or toxin formation when held outside of refrigerated temperatures.
Residents of the District of Columbia must register as a Cottage Food Business. The owner of a cottage food
business must obtain a Cottage Food Business Registry Number by submitting a Cottage Food Business Registry Application in compliance with the DC
Cottage Food Regulations prior to the business operating..
To get started:
- Home Occupancy Permit (Home Occupancy Permit dc.gov/quick/1457)
from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)
- Proof of calibrated scale(s) if your food will be sold by weight from the Office of Weights and Measures at DCRA
- Certified Food Protection Manager's Certification (CFPM)
(Certified Food Protection Manager's Certification .dc.gov/node/1405511).
- DC-Issued Certified Protection Manager ID-Card, Issued by DC Health based on your CFPM Certification
- Submit a Cottage Food Business Registry Application DC Health at 899 North Capitol, St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
- Submit an application review fee of $50.00 (which covers 2 years) to DC Health in the form of check, money order, cash, or credit/debit. Make
checks payable to DC Treasurer.
A DC Health inspector is authorized to enter your home to:
- Conduct a preoperational inspection on an agreed upon, scheduled date and time during normal business hours from Monday through
- Investigate a foodborne illness outbreak, consumer complaint or other public health emergency,
- Whenever DC Health has reason to believe the cottage food business is operating in violation of the D.C. Cottage Food Regulation in Title
25-K of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, or is operating in an unsanitary manner.
Cottage food products may be sold in food grade packaging; food grade containers are those that do not transfer toxic substances to the food which
is contained in the package. Packages should be used for their intended purpose. You can check with the manufacturer of the packaging you would like
to use to see if it has been approved for use as a food contact by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or NSF (NSF International, formerly the
National Sanitation Foundation). Cottage food products may be sold in food grade packaging that is suitable for the product,
with the following exceptions:
- Hermetically sealed food jars may not be used
- Reduced oxygen packaging methods may not be used
- Acidified or as low acid canned foods packaging may not be used
All packaged cottage food products are required to have the following label information on the packaging:
- Cottage food business identification number
- Name of the cottage food product
- Ingredients of the cottage food product in descending
order or amount of each ingredient by weight
- Net weight or net volume of the cottage food product
- Allergen information as specified by
federal labeling requirements in 21 CFR Section 101, Food Labeling, if the cottage food product is made from foods including but not limited to:
eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts (such as pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts), soybeans, fish (such as bass, flounder, cod),
and crustacean shellfish (such as crabs, shrimp, and lobsters)
- If any nutritional claim is made, nutritional information as specified by
federal labeling requirements in 21 CFR Part 101, Food Labeling and 9 CFR Part 317, Subpart B, Nutrition Labeling
- A statement printed in
10-point font or larger type with in a color that provides clear contrast to the background of the label that reads: Made by a cottage food
business that is not subject to the District of Columbia's food safety regulations.
It is recommended that honey manufacturers/processors include
this additional statement to their product label: "Honey is not
recommended for infants less than twelve (12) months of age".
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. You may see that the sample
label does not include a "nutrional panel" (calories, fat, protein,
vitamins, etc.) . This is because if you sell (in the U.S. only)
fewer than 10,000 units and hire fewer than 10 full-time employees
yearly; you do not have to have a nutrition panel on your label, nor
file a small business nutritional labeling exemption notice with the
If your Cottage Food product has tree nuts as an ingredient, you must identify which tree nut you are using. For example, if you made Nut
Bread, an acceptable ingredient list would be: Ingredients: wheat flour, water, almonds, salt, yeast. The following would not be acceptable:
Ingredients: flour, water, nuts, salt, yeast.
Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?
Foods prepared in residential kitchens by approved Cottage Food Businesses are permitted to be sold only at farmers markets and public events within
the District of Columbia. Internet sales and wholesale are not allowed.
- inspections: DC Health is required to conduct a pre-operational inspection of the residential kitchen where cottage food products will be prepared and
packaged. The kitchen must be approved by DC Health before a cottage food business can begin operating.
- Individuals can only sell their products directly to
consumers, (that allows sales from home and at events, as defined
by DCPA) But good luck finding the definition of a "public event". I still haven't found it.
- Annual revenue from the sale of cottage food products shall not exceed $25,000.
- Taxes: A cottage food business is not exempt from any applicable District of Columbia or federal tax laws.
- Commercial equipment may not be used for a cottage food business. Only equipment designed for residential use is permitted.
- Recalls: If an ingredient I use is subject to a recall because it may make people sick or has been determined as the cause
of foodborne illness outbreak, you should notify DC Health at email@example.com and cease
distribution of the product immediately.
More D.C. resources:
Title 25-K of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (Food
Safety and Hygiene Regulations) provides the regulations that pertain to this kind of operation.
Below are documents for guidance on safely operating your Cottage Food Business. This is not a complete list and you are
encouraged to learn as much as you can about safe food handling. Please review the checklist below. It contains contact information for the Office
of Zoning Administration (OZA) to obtain the Home Occupancy Permit (HOP) as well as Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) if you need
to have scales certified for food items sold by weight. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cottage Food Business Guidance:
DC Cottage Food Important Information
DC Cottage Food Business Regulations
The Cottage Food Business Registry Application is below. The application must be submitted to DC Health's Processing
Center located at 899 North Capitol Street NE, Washington DC 20002, with an application fee of $50. Complete applications will be
reviewed within thirty (30) business days. Once your application has been reviewed and approved, a representative from the Food Safety and Hygiene
Inspection Services Division will contact you to schedule your pre-operational inspection. All inspections will take place during normal business
hours unless previously approved by a supervisor. To prepare for your inspection, please familiarize yourself of Subtitle K of Title 25 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations and view our guidance materials.
Law 23-61 removes the annual revenue cap on cottage food businesses and allows all direct sales of cottage food products. It also revises
Cottage Food Business Registry Application:
DC Cottage Food Registry Application
Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) Certificate:
DC CFPM Information
DC Application for CFPM ID card
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
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
- 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
- crustacean shellfish,
- tree nuts,
- wheat and
- 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
General information from other sources
Questions? Contact Information:
Please review the checklist below. It contains contact information for the Office of Zoning Administration (OZA) to obtain the Home Occupancy
Permit (HOP) as well as Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) if you need to have scales certified for food items sold by weight.
you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Division
DC Health Department
899 North Capitol Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.
DC Department of Health (DC Health) at (202) 535-2180.