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

Iowa Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the law: 2016

Iowa allows Exempted Home Food Operations (commonly called cottage food operations) and Home Bakeries to be subject to reduce regulatory burdens. To sell types of food or quantities that exceed these two categories, the home business must get a regular food establishment license.

This PDF is a good summary with graphics and comparison

Which foods are subject to the Iowa Cottage Food law?

Allowed foods

A home bakery may ONLY sell baked goods:

  • Breads, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, rolls, cookies, biscuits, and pies.
  • Or any temperature control for safety (TCS) baked good. Examples:
    Soft pies, cheesecakes, and baked goods with custard or cream fillings (except meat pies)
    Pastry fillings, cheese fillings, toppings, glazes, frostings, and puddings.

Exempt Home Food Operations (EHFO) may prepare and sell:

Only the following foods (which are "non-potentially hazardous foods"):

  • Loaf bread, rolls, biscuits
  • Pastries and cookies
  • Candies and confections
  • Fruit pies
  • Jams, Jellies, and preserves
  • Cereal, trail mixes, and granola

• Must meet Standard of Identity in 21 CFR Part 150

Prohibited foods

Neither bakers nor Exempt home food operations may sell:

  • Raw doughs
  • Acidified, low acid canned foods,
  • cured foods
  • fermented foods,
  • juices
  • Pickles
  • Salsa
  • Sauerkraut
  • snack foods

Processing of low-acid foods by retort canning, pressure canning or processing of acidified foods is not allowed by a home food establishment. These products must be commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of non-refrigerated storage and distribution. Processing of these food products without the appropriate license is a violation of state law and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. A food processing plant license from the state is needed. All processed foods sold to restaurants, grocery stores, or institutions (for example, salsa or BBQ sauce) must be processed in a state licensed food processing plant. For more information, contact the Department of Inspections and Appeals: (and then click on inspections.)

What about other home-canned (water-bath) foods, like canned peaches, applesauce or tomatoes?

At this point, I can't tell. Iowa's guidance is positively awful, it says nothing about foods like this ! It is clear that most baked goods are allowed, and jams, jellies and preserves. And it is clear that acidified foods (like pickles, salsa) are prohibited, as are pressure-canned foods (like corn, green beans), but it says NOTHING about ordinary water-bath canned acidic foods and borderline foods like tomato products. Unfortunately, you will have to call the state and ask, if you want to make something like those. And be darned sure to GET THEIR ANSWER IN WRITING! and please send me a copy!

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


  • Home Bakery - A business on the premises of a residence that is operating as a home-based bakery where baked goods are prepared for consumption elsewhere. "Home Bakery" does not include a residence where food is prepared to be used or sold by churches, fraternal societies, or charitable, civic or nonprofit organizations.
  • A home food establishment means a business on the premises of a residence in which prepared foods (bakery items only) are created for sale and the food is consumed off the premises. Prepared food means soft pies, bakery products with a custard or cream filling, or any other potentially hazardous baked goods (requires refrigeration to 41°F or below after preparation). Prepared food does not mean nonhazardous baked goods, including but not limited to breads, fruit pies, cakes, or other nonhazardous pastries. (See or for more information.)


As a home baker you can make and sell some items without a license (hence the term "exempt") and more options with a license.

Home Bakery License - A completed application with appropriate fee must be received by the food inspection agency covering your geographic region at least 30 days prior to the intended opening date. Once the application is received your kitchen must be inspected and approved to operate before production begins. The cost of the license in 2020 is $50.

But the home bakery must have a potentially hazardous food farmers' market license if they sell TCS baked goods at any farmers' market and must also keep a logbook with employee information (30 days)

A license is not required to sell raw, unprocessed produce to restaurants and grocery stores. If the produce is cut, bagged and sealed, or processed in any way, then the firm must be licensed.

Home based bakeries that are also licensed as home food establishments can sell up to $35,000 annually of bakery products on a wholesale basis. If the gross sales of the home bakery are over $35,000 a year, then the firm must be licensed as a food processing plant. The term "baked good" or "bakery product" is limited to the following items per state rule 481-30.1: "breads, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, rolls, cookies, biscuits and pies, except meat pies."

Home Food Establishment License

If you want to sell other perishable foods, or want to sell baked goods at other venues than those allowed under the Home Bakery License, you need to get a Home Food Establishment License.

Exempt Home Food Operations (EHFO)

Home-based firms that only sell non-potentially hazardous food (including non-perishable bakery products) on a direct to consumer retail basis are exempt from licensing.

Iowa sample labelLabeling requirements

All Operations must label all of their food products properly, which includes specified information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale.

All processed packaged foods bear a label stating the

  • name and address of the manufacturer/processor preparing the food,
  • common name of the food,
  • name of all the ingredients in the food in descending order of predominance by weight.
  • the net weight of the food in English or metric units.
  • Home Bakery only: Nutrition labeling information is required unless exempt. Exemption and labeling provision for small businesses may be found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 101.9(i).

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 "notional 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 FDA.

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

A Home bakery with a State of Iowa license - may sell at farmers' markets, out of the home baker's home, and wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores. Online sales are also acceptable (nut the consumer must come pick up the food products). The "Home Bakers" with a license restriction are different because they have a license, and their space has been inspected.

Exempt Home Food Operations may sell directly to consumers out of the home for pickup by the consumer. They may sell at farmers markets. They cannot be sold to restaurants, grocery stores, or other types of retailers, schools or other institutions. Exempt Home Food Operations (EHFO) are the producers who are selling non-perishable foods (also do not have a license; hence the exemption). This includes those who are selling non-perishable baked items without a license.

Note: in both cases, farmers market are allowed because they are considered as direct sales to consumer customers.

Other requirements

Home bakery:

  • Must be licensed and inspected by the DIA or Regulatory Authority (Current annual fee $33.75) see Home Food Establishment License .
  • Annual sales cannot exceed $35,000

Exempt Home Food Operations:

  • There are no annual sales limitations,
  • No DIA license is needed.
  • Customers reserve the right to "self-inspect" the food operator's kitchen.

Home Bakeries Regulator citation:

481-34.4(137D) Annual gross sales. Annual gross sales shall not exceed $35,000. The license holder shall maintain a record of sales of food licensed under Iowa Code section 137D.1(3). The record shall be available to the regulatory authority when requested


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:

ISU Extension and Outreach as several resources for Home Based Food Operators in Iowa. Please use the links below to access the information.