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

Minnesota Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

The Cottage Food Law allows for individuals to make and sell certain foods and canned items  (those considered by the state to be non-potentially hazardous) in Minnesota without a license. There are requirements to be trained in advance of selling,  to register with the state, certain types of food that are allowed, food labeling, types of sales locations, and amount of sales allowed by a cottage food producer. Date of the enactment of the Minnesota Statute 28A.152 - Licensing Food Handlers: Cottage Food Exemption (EXT), is 2015.

Here's a quick overview of cottage food producers requirements:

Cottage food producers must

  1. Register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) before selling exempt food regardless of the amount of food sold.
  2. Take an approved food safety course once every three years while actively selling cottage food.  You must take training that is specific to the Cottage Food Law. The required training covers specific considerations about preparing food safely in a home kitchen and covers the Cottage Food Law requirements. See the training section.
  3. Register with the MDA each year food is sold under the Cottage Food Exemption.
  4. Prepare and sell only NON-potentially hazardous food (such as baked goods, certain jams and jellies) and/or home canned pickles, vegetables, or fruits with a pH of 4.6 or lower.
  5. Label food with your name and address, the date produced, and the ingredients, including potential allergens.
  6. Display a sign that says "These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection." If you are selling on the Internet, post this statement on your webpage.
  7. Deliver food directly to the ultimate consumer. The person who makes the food must be the same person who sells and delivers the food.
  8. Sell from a private home, at farmer's markets, community events, or on the Internet.
  9. Check with your local city, county, or township regarding business licensing or sales prohibitions due to zoning requirements.
  10. Sell less than $18,000 in a calendar year. If you sell between $5,000 and $18,000 dollars per year a $50 fee applies to your registration. Cottage food sales are subject to income tax and may be subject to sales tax. Contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue for more information at 651-556-3000.


Which foods are subject to the Minnesota Cottage Food law?

Allowed foods

They don't really have a fixed, absolute list: it changes over time. So, since the list may change, you can also check a food is potentially hazardous by contacting the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Food and Feed Safety Division at 651- 201-6027..  (more details here)

  •  Baked foods that do not require refrigeration and have a final water activity value of ≤0.85 or pH of ≤ 4.6.
    Examples including, but not limited to: • Bars • Biscuits, fruit-filled • Biscotti • Breads • Cakes • Cookies • Cupcakes • Meringue Cookies • Pastries • Pies, fruit-filled • Pineapple upside down cake • Pecan pie • Pretzels • Quick breads (See exceptions) • Flavored with alcohol. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume.
  • Icings, Fillings, Frostings, Sugar Art, Toppings in which the final product pH ≤4.6 or water activity ≤0.85.
    Including but not limited to: Icings, fillings, frosting • Buttercream • Cookie dough frosting- must use commercially treated flour • Gum paste • Flat • Fondant • Fudge • Glaze • Royal icing with meringue powder Sugar art items: • Cake toppers • Cream cheese mints • Cupcake toppers • Modeling chocolate figurines • Sugar flowers • Other decor items Toppings: • Stabilized commercial nondairy whip cream products • Dried or freeze dried fruit • Edible flowers • Herbs like culinary lavender, mint • Whole fruit • Fruit peels or zest • Bacon topping, cooked, commercially sources and final products consist of less than 2% by weight of cooked bacon • Flavored with alcohol. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume
  • Beverages, like Teas, coffee, soft drinks in which the final product pH ≤4.6 or water activity ≤0.85.
    Packaged items, ie. jar and lid examples, including but not limited to: • Fermented beverages (see fermented product section) • Soft drinks, packaged • Teas, packaged • Pasteurized or home-canned high-acid juices • Lemonade and fruit flavored ades, packaged.
  • Candy and Confections in which the final product does not require refrigeration for food safety and has a final water activity value of ≤0.85.
    Including but not limited to: • Bon bons • Brittle • Caramel apples • Caramels • Chocolate • Chocolate, ground • Chocolate-covered, non-perishable foods, such as nuts, dried fruits, marshmallows, pretzels • Cotton candy • Fudge • Hard candy • Popcorn balls • Flavored with alcohol. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume.
  • Fruits that have an equilibrium pH value of ≤ 4.6 and heat-treated to kill vegetative cells.
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Apples • Applesauce • Apricots • Berries • Cherries • Cranberries • Cranberry sauce • Figs, acidified • Fruit based chutneys • Fruit ciders • Fruit juices • Fruit puree • Fruit salsas • Grapefruit • Grapes • Mangoes, green • Mixed fruit cocktail • Nectarines • Oranges • Papaya • Peaches • Pears • Pineapple • Plums • Rhubarb.
  • Pie, cake fillings and toppings that are canned, Jarred and packaged, and  in which the final product has an equilibrium pH value of ≤4.6 or water activity value of ≤0.85 and heat treated to kill vegetative cells.
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Fruit toppings like peach, sweet cherry • Pie filling (thickened with ClearJel® or Thermflo®): apple, blueberry, cherry, peach, green tomato • Lemon or lime curd • Flavored with alcohol. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume.
  • Fruit Butters, Jams, Jellies, Preserves, Syrups Final product pH ≤4.6 or water activity ≤0.85. Use lab-tested recipes (like those we have here)
    Including but not limited to: • Conserves • Fruit butters • Fruit syrup • Sorghum syrup • Jam • Jelly • Marmalades • Preserves • Fruit based refrigerator or freezer jam • Flavored with alcohol ie. wine, beer jelly. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume. • fig preserves, mint jelly, pepper jelly, tomato jam.
  • Pickled products that have an equilibrium pH ≤ 4.6 and heat-treated to kill vegetative cells.
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Pickled asparagus • Pickled beets • Pickled cantaloupe • Pickled carrots • Pickled chow chow relish • Pickled corn relish • Pickled green, yellow beans (Dilly Beans) • Pickled green tomatoes • Pickled okra • Pickled relish • Pickled summer yellow squash • Pickled three-bean salad • Pickled watermelon rinds • Pickles, sweet or dill
  • Vegetables acidified and have an equilibrium pH ≤ 4.6 and heat-treated to kill vegetative cells.
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Bloody Mary Mix • Minnesota Tomato Mixture • Tomatoes, acidified with bottled lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar. • Tomatillos, acidified • Tomato juice, acidified • Tomato paste with citric acid • Tomato sauce, acidified • Vegetable juice blend, acidified.
  • Fermented fruit, vegetables, pickles, sauerkraut, which have an equilibrium pH value of ≤4.6.
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Kimchi • Pickles • Sauerkraut • Water Kefir soda • Kombucha with alcohol content not more than one-half of one percent by volume • Sourdough starter culture fermented to ≤4.6 verified by home pH testing.
  • Condiments, which have an equilibrium pH value of ≤4.6 and heat treated to kill vegetative cells
    Examples, including but not limited to: • Barbeque sauce • Catsup • Chili sauce • Chutneys • Fruit salsas • Syrups • Horseradish (acidified) • Mustard • Pepper sauce • Salsa, Chile • Salsa, green tomato • Salsa, tomato • Salsa Verde (tomatillos green salsa) • Taco sauce • Flavored with alcohol. Final alcohol content must be less than one-half of one percent by volume.
  • Dried, Dehydrated, Roasted Products in which the final product water activity value of ≤0.85.
    Includes but not limited to: • Baking mixes • Beans • Coconut • Coffee beans • Culinary lavender • Dates • Fruit • Fruit leathers • Grains • Garlic • Granola, cereals and trail mixes • Herbs • Herb blends • Freeze dried fruit, vegetables and herbs • Milled cornmeal, flaxseed, etc. • Mushrooms, mushroom jerky, etc. - Only use mushrooms from a commercial source. Must be dried, dehydrated and not roasted. • Nut mixes • Onions • Pasta, noodle without eggs Popcorn • Popcorn snacks • Potato chips • Seasoning salt • Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower • Soup mixes (dry) • Tea (dry) • Tomatoes • Tree nuts and legumes, coated or uncoated • Vegetable leathers like pumpkin or mixed vegetable • Vegetable chips • Vegetables • Vegetarian-based soup mixes (dry)
  • Frozen Foods in which the final product pH ≤4.6 or water activity ≤0.85.
    Including but not limited to: • Fruit-based frozen treats, ie. Popsicles, sorbet, ice snow cones, etc. • Fruit-based freezer jams Note: Imported frozen berries were identified as the source of several viral outbreaks. Outbreaks of both norovirus and hepatitis A have been associated with frozen berries worldwide. Boiling berries for one minute to make juice prior to re-freez

Prohibited foods

If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage Food, you can apply for a regular food license. To find out more, go to the MDA Food Licensing Wizard. With that license, you can sell it commercially, through a startup approach.  See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do not meet the Cottage Food definition.

Here are some examples of prohibited foods: (more details here)

  • Anything baked, canned, fermented or frozen with a final product pH >4.6
  • Non-acidified home-canned bananas, figs, melons i.e. cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon.
  • Pickled foods: pickled radishes, there are no tested recipes from reliable resources for canning pickled radishes with water bath canning or pressure canning. • Pickled eggs • Pickled fish • Pickled meats • Pickled bison • Pickled seafood • Refrigerator pickled products
  • Frozen vegetables • Pesto • Hummus • Home-canned lowacid foods: fish, meat, poultry, vegetables, soups stews, and legumes/pulses, ie. Chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and beans
  • Fermented products requiring refrigeration for food safety • Fermented products with alcohol content greater than one-half of one percent by volume.
  • Fruit based chutneys with nuts • Pesto • Freshly prepared sauces like guacamole or salsa requiring refrigeration. • Oils such as sunflower, flaxseed, canola, rapeseed • Infused oils • Oil based flavored vinaigrettes • Home-canned caramel and chocolate dessert sauces
  • Flavored with alcohol and final alcohol content is more than one-half of one percent by volume
  • Certain pies:
    Pie fillings with tapioca, starch or flour added before canning • Mincemeat pie filling • Mole paste • Pineapple, orange, raspberry, rhubarb, etc. curd (only lemon or lime curd has a safe research tested home canning method) • Lemon or lime curd flavored with ginger or herbs like thyme.
  • These baked items: Cheesecake • Pies: banana cream, meringue pies, pumpkin, squash pie, etc. • Fillings with: • Meat • Bison • Poultry • Fish • Seafood • Vegetables • Flavored with alcohol and final alcohol content is more than one-half of one percent by volume. • Non-baked dairy (butter, cheese, cream cheese, yogurt), example: nobake cheesecakes. • Non-baked product containing raw eggs • Final product decorated or garnished with cut fresh fruits, vegetable or meat • Pizza • Cake, brownies, bread baked in a jar • Frozen doughs • Recipes from Come and Bake It 1 & 2 editions tested as potentially hazardous including: Sweet potato cinnamon bread, pumpkin scones, carrot cake, pumpkin roll filling, pumpkin pie, lemon zucchini bread, applesauce nut bread, pumpkin cake, orange pumpkin muffins, pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin layer cake, pumpkin blondies, cake mix pumpkin cake, cream cheese kolaches, banana bread, Savory cheddar cheese quick bread, Cheddar cheese herb yeast bread • Final product pH > 4.6 or water activity > 0.85
  • Prepared, ready-to-serve beverages like coffee, tea, lemonade are considered foodservice requiring licensing • Fresh squeezed juice • Cold brew coffee that requires refrigeration for food safety
  • Candies flavored with alcohol and final alcohol content is more than one-half of one percent by volume. E.g., liquid filled chocolate with a liqueur filling • Chocolatecovered fresh fruit, ie. berries, pineapple, melon • Anything containing raw eggs • Cream based filling • Meat, fish, seafood, poultry, vegetable filling.
  • Jerky: fish, meat, poultry, seafood specialized process requiring a license and extra precautions and food safety controls • Roasted vegetables or fruits, ie. peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc. • Dried noodles with eggs • Fresh, frozen or cooked pasta • Popcorn, kettle corn made onsite at a farmers' market or community event. This is foodservice and requires a license
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables • Frozen uncooked or partially cooked bread doughs, batters, pies, etc.
  • Icings and frostings that have egg, cream, milk or cream cheese; unless final product using these ingredients is documented as a non-potentially hazardous food • Flavored with alcohol and final alcohol content is more than one-half of one percent by volume. • Recipes from Come and Bake It 1 & 2: edition tested as potentially hazardous including: Italian meringue buttercream, Chocolate French Buttercream, Coconut-Pecan Frosting (2011, 2014), Pineapple curd, Brown Sugar Swiss meringue buttercream, Cooked flour buttercream
  • Cut melon
  • butters and jams made from Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato.
  • Bacon jam (bacon, onions, vinegar, spices)

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

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

A registered cottage food producer can sell the food they make from:

  • your home,
  • a farmers market, and
  •  a community event. Examples of community events include public gatherings sponsored or hosted by a town, county, city, or municipality (for example, a county fair); or by a religious, charitable, or educational organization where the food is sold (for example, a school, fire, police, or parent/teacher association). A community event must be open to the public and not intended for profit.
    • NOTE: The cottage food producer who prepared the food product must be physically present to conduct sales at the booth or stand.
  • If cottage food is ordered by a customer for delivery, the cottage food producer must personally deliver the food to the customer's home, or meet the customer in person at another agreed-upon location within Minnesota to deliver the food directly to the customer. This means food cannot be shipped or delivered through the mail or a third-party shipping service.
    *NOTE* Arranging pick up at your location with distancing OR delivering directly to your customers with distancing is allowed. If "porch delivery" is taking place, please remember to protect packages from the elements. This may include putting packages in a protective bin with a lid or a protective exterior package that customers can open to remove their individual packaged food order.
     

Food that is home-processed and home-canned, like pickles and salsa, cannot be sold outside of the State of Minnesota.

For sales of other homemade food outside of the state (like baked goods), it depends on whether the OTHER state allows it, so please review those states' laws to ensure the sale of homemade food is allowed.

Definitions:

  • "home food

Licensing / Registrations

To be able to sell foods as a cottage Food producer you must register in advance.

This registration is for individuals only (including sole-proprietorships). Businesses such as firms, partnerships, corporations, societies, associations, and companies may not be registered as a cottage food producer.

The passage of the Cottage Food Law in Minnesota changed sections of legislation under MS 28A.15 previously known as the 'non-potentially hazardous foods section' and 'the pickle bill'. The cottage food law replaces both of these sections.

Basic Registration Process:

Step one:

Complete the MN training for Cottage Food Producer Registration (PDF) online for gross annual food sales of $0-5000.

OR

Complete an MN advanced training offered by the University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety Program for gross annual food sales of $5001-18000.

Step two:

Based on the training, determine if you are eligible to register for this license exemption.

Step three:

After finishing the training, complete the cottage food producer registration form. Registration can be completed online or through the mail.

To register online, visit the MDA Online Licensing and Payment System.

To register through the mail, download and complete the MN Cottage Food Producer Registration form (PDF) or you can request a paper copy of the form by contacting our main office at 651-201-6027.

Step four:

Submit the registration form with the fee, if required.

If you are registering online, payment of any fees can be completed online at the same time as your registration.

If you are registering through the mail, send the registration form and the fee, if required, to the mailing address on the form. If you are in the $0-$5,000 level and do not need to send payment, you can also email your form to [email protected].

Step five:

MDA will send you a registration card in the mail that will contain a unique registration number.

You will be registered once your complete information has been received by the MDA.

Business licenses

Labeling requirements

Cottage Food Production 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,  ( You canuse a post office box as an address on the label as long as it is a contact address of the person who made the food. However, when you register as a cottage food producer, you do need to provide the physical address of where the food is made. In addition to the contact address on the label, you may provide additional contact information, if you choose.)
  • date the food was prepared
  • 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.

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 FDA.

Other basic requirements

  • Cottage food producers can receive orders over the internet. The customer can then collect the food they ordered by going to the producer's home, by picking up the food at a booth or stand at a farmers market or community event, or by the producer delivering the food to the customer.
  • Acid and acidified home-canned products must be heat treated in a hot water bath or an approved hot-fill-hold process
  •  Acidified or fermented foods: You must the pH of each batch you make
  • Label each jar or package with name and address (street or post office box, city MN zip), date food was prepared, all ingredients and allergens.  See labeling instructions above.
  • Report income to IRS
  •  Charge Sales Tax, if applicable. See MN Department of Revenue, revenue.state.mn.us/guide/sales-food 
  • Registered Cottage Food Producers can sell these products up to an $18,000 per year, per producer limit.  
  • All food must be delivered directly from the producer to the end consumer, not through an intermediary like the Postal Service, Uber Eats, FedEx, etc..
  • You must display a sign at point of sale stating: "Products are homemade and not subject to inspection."  Examples of Signs to be Displayed
    Magenta sign: These canned goods are homemade and not subject to state inspection
    Green sign: These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection

Recommendations:

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

Training

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

Sanitation

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:

Minnesota resources

 

Testing labs

You may choose a commercial testing lab that fits your needs. Pricing varies but averages $15/pH test, $30/water activity and $100/alcohol content test/per product.

• Market Fresh Food Testing Laboratory, (612)331-4050, Minneapolis, http://www.marketfreshlabs.com/. • Minnesota Valley Testing Lab, (507) 354-8517, New Ulm, http://www.mvtl.com/. • Medallion Labs, 1-800-245-5615 or (763)764-4453, Minneapolis, https://www.medallionlabs.com/. • Mocon, Minneapolis, (763) 493-6370, https://www.mocon.com/.

 

General resources

  • FDA Food labeling information.
  • Good to know (not a requirement): Guidelines for Determining Metric Equivalents of Household Measures (October 1, 1993)
  •  Massachusetts has a Food Processors Resource Manual that is a practical guide for specialty food and start-up food processors published by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. The marketing and practical tips can be very useful to a cottage food kitchen in any state.  The chapters are available online and as a downloadable document pdf format
    Introduction
    Starting Out
    Production
    Residential Kitchens: Questions and Answers
    Developing a Business Plan
    Label and Product Regulations
    Label Design
    Promotion
    Distribution and Sales
    Trade Shows
    Using the Internet for Marketing
  • Approximate pH of Foods and Food Products. April 2007
  • Local Food Resources. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA). https://www.misa.umn.edu/resources/local-food-sales-resources. • National Center for Home Food Preservation. http://nchfp.uga.edu/. • Why Add Lemon Juice to Tomatoes and Salsa Before Canning? June 2012. North Dakota State University https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/why-add-lemon-juice-to-tomatoes-and-salsa-before-canning RESOURCES • Minnesota Cottage Foods Producers Association, [email protected] • Minnesota Department of Agriculture Cottage Foods Producers Guidance and Registration, https://www.mda.state.mn.us/foodfeed/cottage-food-producer-registration • Minnesota Farmers' Market Association, [email protected], www.mfma.org • MN Registered Cottage Food Producers Group - Facebook • University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety Team, https://extension.umn.edu/courses-and-events/cottage-food-producer-foodsafety-training

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