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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:
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;.
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
- cakes including celebration cakes (birthday, anniversary,
- fruit pies
- confectioneries, candies
- 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
- potentially hazardous foods (PHF and other foods which can
support the growth of diseasecausing bacteria,
- perishable foods that require refrigeration , and
- 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
- Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and
cottage cheeses and yogurt
- cream-filled pastries,
- cut fruit and vegetables,
- 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
- Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables
- Fish or shellfish products
- Raw seed sprouts
- Tempered and/or molded chocolate or chocolate type products
- 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
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
- 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
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
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
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).
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,
- Net weight of product. Dual declaration of net
weight, if product weighs one pound or more. Example: 1 pound
- "Keep refrigerated" or "Keep frozen" (if product is
- 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.
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
- Tree Nuts
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?
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.
- a residential kitchen operator must use a
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
- Only household members may be employed in
- 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
- 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
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
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
Questions? Contact Information:
If you have questions about retail residential kitchen operations
and licensing, please
your local board of health.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental
Food Protection Program 617-983-6712
305 South Street Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
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,
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 is important that applicants for a license to manufacture
and/or distribute food at wholesale from a
Residential Kitchen remember the following:
- 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
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
(1) rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic
(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
(3) excluded are the following:
- air dried hard
boiled eggs with shells intact;
- foods with a water activity
(aw) value of 0.85 or less;
- foods with a hydrogen
concentration (pH) level of 4.6 or below;
- 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,
- 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