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

North Carolina Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

 North Carolina does not have a cottage food law, but you can still produce certain foods at home. IF your food products meets the allowable definitions, you must still complete an application and pass an inspection of your home kitchen before you can start producing or selling the food. See below for the details, restrictions, process and requirements.  This page summarizes the North Carolina Home Process Requirements, but you may find this checklist useful to review first!

Which foods are subject to the North Carolina Cottage Food law?

Low-risk packaged foods are the only products allowed to be produced at home. These can include:

  • Baked goods (cookies, cakes, breads, chips, etc) as long as they do not need to be refrigerated
  • Jams and jellies
  • Candies
  • Dried mixes
  • Spices
  • Some sauces and liquids (see the prohibited foods section below; you will need to contact them and MAYBE they will determine that yours is not prohibited and does not require testing))
  • Pickles and acidified foods

Prohibited foods

Please contact the Raleigh office at (919) 733-7366 for information with the regards to the production of shelf stable sauces, dressings, salsas, pickles, and acidified foods. All of these products will require laboratory testing.
N.C. State University's Food Science Department will analyze products for risk. For more information, go to:  If you are uncertain if your canned goods are low-acid or acidified, contact a Food Compliance Officer at (984) 236-4820 for guidance.

The NCSU Extension's Entrepreneurial Program offers Product Testing & Processing Recommendations They will analyze a shelf-stable product sample, classify it (as acid, acidified, water activity controlled or other) according to Federal and State regulations and provide processing recommendations. As of 2020, the cost was $150 per sample.

The evaluation of your product is a two step process:

  1. First: You will need to complete and submit an ONLINE REQUEST FORM with detailed information about your product. They will need a list of ingredients, with quantities, along with your contact information. Do not send any samples until you have been contacted by them.
  2. Second: They will contact you with instructions on specific samples that will need to be mailed to their laboratory and total fees. Please include payment with your samples.

For sauces, marinades and other liquids, they typically will need two samples. One sample is your final product as it is to be sold and another sample with certain ingredients omitted from the formulation. They will do a pH test on these products.

For baked or dried products or syrup, they will measure the water activity (Aw) of the product.

If you have questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to call us at 919.513.2090.

All high-risk products must be produced in a non-home based commercial facility . These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigerated or frozen products
  • Low-acid canned foods
  • Dairy products
  • Seafood products
  • Bottled water

If you are uncertain if your canned goods are low-acid or acidified, contact a Food Compliance Officer at 919-733-7366 for guidance.

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


There is no license, but there is an application that must be submitted, a home inspection and possible product testing. Within two weeks of receipt of your application, a Food Regulatory Specialist will contact you to arrange for a home processing facility inspection. See the Other Requirements section below.

Labeling requirementsNorth Carolina sample cottage food label

Any products to be sold to consumers must be packaged to protect them from contamination. A label must be affixed to the package with:

  1. Product name
  2. Manufacturer's name and physical address. NOTE: The use of a website address cannot be substituted for the required information. Application for Home Food Processor
  3. Net quantity contents of the product in either ounces/pounds and the gram weight equivalent, or fluid ounces and the mL equivalent.
  4. Complete list of ingredients in order of predominance by weight Tthe ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts. Ingredients such as “eggs” or “salt” that are single source ingredients are to be listed using the common name of the ingredient. In the ingredient statement, if an ingredient is made up of more than one component, all subcomponents are to be listed in parentheses immediately following the name of the ingredient. For example, “Butter” would be listed as Butter (cream, salt). The easiest way to know what needs to be listed is to look at the ingredient statement on the ingredient package and copy it into your label. Nutritional labels are not required under the home processor program, however. If certain claims are made on the product (i.e. low fat, sugar free, etc.) then a nutritional label must also be added to your product.

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).

Also, The NCSU Entrepreneurial Program offers a service for Nutritional Information using a Nutrition Database to input a product formulation and provide a Nutrition Facts Panel and Ingredient Statement for food products. They currently provide one format of the label, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act 1990 Nutrition Facts Panel format.  As of 2020, the cost was $150 per item or sample. .


Directions about how to create the ingredient statement:

Step 1: List ingredients in descending order by weight. The ingredient that weighs the most in the recipe is listed first and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.

Step 2: Review the ingredient statement that is listed on each ingredient package. Any ingredient which has two or more components must be declared in parentheses beside of the ingredient.

The label can be produced by the following methods: -

  • Format onto the self-adhesive sticker type label that can be printed from a personal computer;
  • Print a paper label and affix (glue or tape) to the package of food
  • Use a professional printer

Any food individually packaged for self-service sale must be labeled and adequately packaged to protect them from contamination. Foods "custom made" or "on demand" for sale as a single unit (ie: wedding cake, cake for a restaurant to serve, or a dozen cookies in bulk package for a restaurant to serve) can be exempt from individual labels. Also, if the product is served on demand from a secure bulk container or display case when the customer asks you for it, you can be exempt. However the ingredient information must be available upon request by the consumer. If you do not make comparative nutrition claims (ex. low fat, sugar free) you may be exempt from including the nutrition facts panel information on your product as a small business.
More information on labeling requirements is available at:

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.  In other words,  only be sold within the state. They may 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.

Other requirements

  • If have a pet that comes in your home at any time (even if only at night) then you cannot manufacture foods in your home. This practice is a violation of the Good Manufacturing Practices.
  • Your home processing area must meet the standards set by:
    And in addition, for acidified foods (like pickles) , the following are required:
  • Zoning and other local requirements may also apply:
    County government links: (Click on the map there)
    City or town government links:
  • Water requirements: If your home has municipal/city water, you will need a copy of your most recent bill.
    If your only water source is from a well, the water must be tested for coliform bacteria before an inspection is made. Test results within 1 year of your application and must be attached with your completed application. Water testing is available from private companies or your local health department.
  • Food contact surfaces must be smooth and easily cleanable.
  • Restroom and hand washing facilities must have hot and cold running water easily accessible from processing area. Kitchen sink is for food preparation only, hand washing must be done in a separate sink.
  • Thermometer must be kept in refrigerator to monitor temperature.
  • Waste must be carried away from the house in an acceptable fashion (sewer or septic system)
  • All light bulbs in the kitchen must have protective shields or be shatter-proof.
  • If you plan to sell acidified foods (like pickles), you must take a course on safe production practices. NCSU offers Acidified Foods Manufacturing School, which is done 100% Online
    The Acidified Foods Manufacturing School provides instruction primarily for operating supervisors, the individual who is in the plant or kitchen at the time an acidified preserved food product is packed and processed. The school is particularly intended for operators or operating supervisors involved in production of thermally processed acidified foods. If you are a manufacturer of Low-Acid Canned Foods you will want to consider taking the Better Process Control School (BPCS) which covers topics associated with Low-Acid Canned Foods. For more information and course registration, visit the official Acidified Foods Manufacturing School website.
  • Application for Home Processing Inspection.

  • You must  complete the Application for Home Processing Inspection.
    Application for NC Home Food Processor Inspection  writable PDF  (back up link: Application for Home Processor Inspection)
    Application for Home Processor Inspection Microsoft Word   (back up link: Application for Home Processor Inspection)
    mail the completed form to: or Mail the completed form to:
    Kaye J. Snipes
    169 Boone Square Street, #168
    Hillsborough, NC 27278
    Then within two (2) weeks of sending your application, a Food Regulatory Specialist will contact you to arrange a home processing facility inspection. You will be sent a copy of all relevant federal and state regulations for your review and to prepare your facility for inspection.
    After sending your completed application, please check your Email periodically for correspondence from our Regulatory Specialists. Inspection appointments are typically made over email. For applicants without email access, appointments will be made by phone.
  • Product testing

    Product Testing may be required - After receipt of your application the Food Regulatory Specialist may determine that product testing is required to ensure your product can be manufactured in a home kitchen. Product testing is available through N.C. State University or other commercial labs. The following products may need to have product testing:

    • Acidified foods (ex Pickles): pH testing
    • Dressings/sauces: pH
    • "Moist" breads/cakes, and some pies: Aw (water activity) and pH
    • Any questionable products: Aw and/or pH.



    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:

    Email questions to:


    Food Program, Daniel Gaines, Food Administrator
    Mailing Address: 1070 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1070
    Physical Address: 4400 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
    Phone: (984) 236-4820; FAX: (919) 831-1323