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

Massachusetts Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Date of the enactment of the Massachusetts cottage food law: December 2008
Home-based food businesses are allowed within specific regulatory limitations.

Retail Residential kitchen operations are restricted to sale directly to the consumer and are inspected and licensed by the local board of health;.

Effective 4/30/2021, Boston allows residential kitchens for the first time.

Wholesale operations may sell their products to retail stores, restaurants, etc., and are inspected and licensed by the Massachusetts Food Protection Program.  There is no sales limit for either.

Which foods are subject to the Massachusetts Cottage Food law?

Residential kitchens are strictly limited to the preparation of non-potentially hazardous foods (non-PHFs), and some Non-PHFs, which have PHF ingredients are acceptable.such as

  • baked goods, Loaf breads, rolls, biscuits, pastries and cookies
  • cakes including celebration cakes (birthday, anniversary, wedding, etc.)
  • fruit pies
  • confectioneries, candies, including chocolate and chcolated coated room-temperature stable food items
  • popcorn, popcorn balls, cotton candy
  • jams and jellies and preserves
  • dried fruits
  • dry herbs, seasonings and mixtures
  • cereals, trail mixes and granola
  • coated or uncoated nuts
  • vinegar and flavored vinegars (without any oil)


The preparation and sale of the following are not permitted in residential kitchens:

  1. potentially hazardous foods (PHF and other foods which can support the growth of diseasecausing bacteria,
  2. perishable foods that require refrigeration , and
  3. all foods that are manufactured or packaged using processes that require state or federal control are prohibited. Processing operations that are prohibited include: acidification, hot fill, thermal processing in hermetically-sealed containers, vacuum packaging, and curing/smoking. The only exception is jams and jellies that are thermal-processed in hermetically-sealed containers. (translation: water bath canned jams using the lid and lid method)

Examples of prohibited foods are:

  • Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and cottage cheeses and yogurt
  • cream-filled pastries,
  • cheesecake,
  • custard 
  • cut fruit and vegetables,
  • chocolates with cut fruit that must be refrigerated
  • tomato and barbeque sauce, ketchups and/or mustards
  • pickled products,
  • relishes and
  • salad dressings. 
  • Pickles, corn relish, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.
  • Garlic-in-oil products
  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky
  • Fresh or dried poultry or poultry products
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, vegetable butters, salsas etc.
  • Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Fish or shellfish products
  • Raw seed sprouts
  • Cut fresh fruits and/or vegetables
  • Food products made from cut fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Food products made with cooked vegetable products
  • Ice and/or ice products
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables and/or cheese

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


  • Residential kitchens are licensed and inspected by local boards of health. You apply for a permit from the local board of health; the annual permit typically costs about $50 to $100.
    See this page for FAQs about inspections and requirements
  • If you want to wholesale, rather than sell direct to consumers, a residential kitchen that wholesales its product is required to obtain a License for Food Processing and/or Distribution at Wholesale from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
    A residential kitchen that wholesales its product required to obtain a License for Food Processing and/or Distribution at Wholesale from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
    An application for a License to Manufacture and/or Distribute Food at Wholesale is available at , under Quick Links, License Application Forms
    A guidance document, "Notice for Applicants for a License to Manufacture/Distribute Food at Wholesale from a Residential Kitchen," is available at the bottom of this page, under Quick Link, License Application Forms


Labeling requirementsSample Massachusetts food product label

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:

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. There are small business exemptions for small food companies, and you may qualify. However, consider that nutritional labeling can be a marketing asset. If you want to qualify for the exemption, call 781-596-7700 and request the Small Business Food Labeling Exemption Notice. (In order to keep your exemption, you must file each May with the FDA.). In addition to the FDA requirements, your label must comply with Massachusetts labeling regulations (105 CMR 520.000 Labeling).

Massachusetts requires the product name; ingredients listed in descending order of predominance by weight and a complete listing of sub-ingredients in a composite food ingredient; total net weight (in ounces, pounds, pints, etc.); dual declaration of net weight if product weighs one pound or more; keep refrigerated or keep frozen if applicable; recommended storage conditions; open date and recommended storage conditions; name/address of manufacturer, packer, or distributor (and name if company is not in the local phone book). If the food has a standard of identity as defined in Standards of Identity and Definitions of Purity and Quality of Food, the food must meet that standard in order to be sold under that product name.  FDA regulations require the following label information: nutrition data; an ingredient statement for standardized food; net weights expressed in dual declarations (ounces/ml); all FDA certified colors declared by the approved name (example: FD&C Yellow #5); food allergen labeling (FALCPA).

Both the Massachusetts and federal labeling regulations require the following information on every food label:

  • Common or usual name of the product.
  • All ingredients listed in descending order of predominance by weight, and a complete listing of sub-ingredients. Example of a sub-ingredient: Flour (bleached wheat flour, malt barley, flour, niacin, iron, potassium thiamine, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin).
  • Net weight of product. Dual declaration of net weight, if product weighs one pound or more. Example: 1 pound [16 oz.]
  • If the product is perishable: "Keep refrigerated" or "Keep frozen"
  • All perishable or semi-perishable foods require open-dating and recommended storage conditions printed, stamped, or embossed on the retail package.
  • Once an open-date has been placed on a product, the date may not be altered.
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor. If the company is not listed in the current edition of the local telephone book under the name printed on the label, the street address must also be included on the label.
  • Nutrition labeling. If a food product has a standard of identity, the food must meet the standard in order to be offered for sale under that product name. All FDA certified colors. Example: FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Red #3


The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) addresses the labeling of foods that contain any of the eight major food allergens. FALCPA defines "major food allergens" as

  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Egg
  • Crustacean
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

All ingredients that contain a major food allergen must be labeled, even if they are exempted from labeling by being a spice, flavoring, coloring or incidental additive.Get Allergen awareness training; see here.

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

You can sell at any venue within Massachusetts. They may also be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced. They may also be sold through grocery stores, registered farm markets, church bake sales, schools, registered farmers markets, and sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant. Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.  In other words,  only be sold within the state.

Other requirements

  • a residential kitchen operator must use a standard recipe for each batch of product.  Persons preparing food products must maintain a standardized recipe of the products used in the preparation of the food: listing all ingredients in order of weight. Any change in the recipe constitutes a recipe deviation, and new analysis may be required.
  • Only household members may be employed in the operation.
  • The use of brokers, wholesalers, and warehouses by residential kitchen operators to store, sell, and distribute foods prepared in residential kitchens is prohibited.
  •  Zoning: check your zoning laws to see if home businesses are allowed, and if so, what types are allowed.
  • Training and certification: you will have to get the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification (105 CMR 590.003(A)(2), ). While only one person in the operation needs to be certified, it is wise to have everyone who may be involved certified.
  • Allergen awareness training.
  • Inspection: kitchens are licensed and inspected by the local board of health;.
  • Private Well Testing - if the water you use comes from a private well.
  • Private Sewer Inspection - If you have your own septic tank or other sewage treatment rather than a public system


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:

If you have questions about retail residential kitchen operations and licensing, please contact your local board of health.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental Health

Food Protection Program 617-983-6712

305 South Street Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Additional information is available on the MA website at

Standards Specific to Cottage Food Operations or at or by contacting the Food Protection Program at

Guidance document, "Notice for Applicants for a License to Manufacture/Distribute Food at Wholesale from a Residential Kitchen

If you want to sell WHOLESALE rather than direct to consumers, this applies:

The state keeps renaming and moving this document around, so it is often very hard to find on their website, so I have copied it below:

It is important that applicants for a license to manufacture and/or distribute food at wholesale from a Residential Kitchen remember the following:

You Must:

  •  Meet the relevant requirements of 105 CMR 500.000: Good Manufacturing Practices
  • Meet the requirements of 105 CMR 520.000: Labeling
  • Manufacture and/or distribute only non-potentially hazardous foods, e.g., cakes, breads, brownies, etc., and foods that do not require refrigeration
  • Manufacture all products in your home kitchen
  • Employ only family members

 You may not manufacture:

  • Low-acid foods packaged in hermetically-sealed containers
  • Modified-atmosphere-packaged foods
  • Acidified foods
  • Dairy, seafood, meat or poultry products
  • Any potentially hazardous foods (phfs)

Remember:  A potentially hazardous food is defined as:

Any food or ingredient, natural or synthetic, in a form capable of supporting

(1) rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms or
(2) slower growth of C. botulism. (Included are any foods of animal origin, either raw or heat treated, and any foods of plant origin which have been heat treated and raw seed sprouts.)
(3) excluded are the following:

  1.  air dried hard boiled eggs with shells intact;
  2.  foods with a water activity (aw) value of 0.85 or less;
  3.  foods with a hydrogen concentration (pH) level of 4.6 or below;
  4.  foods in unopened hermetically sealed containers, which have been commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of non-refrigerated storage and distribution; and,
  5.  foods for which laboratory evidence (acceptable to the Department) demonstrates that rapid and progressive growth of infectious and toxigenic microorganisms or the slower growth of botulism cannot occur.