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Virginia Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Virginia
Virginia Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts
Date of the enactment of the Virginia cottage food law: 1999
Click here for more information about this state's cottage food requirements.
On July 1, 2013 an amendment to § 3.2-5130 of the Code of Virginia
went into effect that expanded the types of prepared foods
individuals can make and sell from their homes or at farmers markets
without VDACS inspection including certain low risk foods and
acidified vegetables. The original exemption included candies,
jams and jellies not considered to be low-acid or acidified low acid
products and baked goods that do not require time or temperature
control for safety and are produced in a private home. The home food
processor must complete the application process which includes a
To try to make this gobbledygook more clear:
Virginia has TWO standards:
- The original for low risk jellies. jams and candies - described on this page, scroll down
- The new (2013) expansion that allows for to be made and sold, but DOES require
an application ($40 fee, too), a training class be taken, and a home inspection. See this page.
Basically, the Home Food Processor option allows you to see in more places (not just from home and directly to consumers) and make a few more
Which foods are subject to the Virginia Cottage Food law?
These are the only allowed foods, basically, they are considered to be low risk foods and pickles:
- dried fruits,
- dry herbs,
- dry seasonings,
- dry mixtures,
- coated and uncoated nuts,
- vinegars and flavored vinegars,
- popcorn, popcorn balls,
- cotton candy,
- dried pasta,
- dry baking mixes,
- roasted coffee,
- dried tea,
- cereals, trail mixes and granola.
- Pickles and other acidified vegetables processed in a
private home so that an equilibrium pH of 4.6 or lower is achieved.
- Acidified vegetable products include pickled products, salsa,
chow-chow, relishes and similar vegetables that are processed in a
private home to achieve an equilibrium pH of 4.6 or lower.
types of home-canned products are not allowed under this exemption?
- Dried vegetables
- Fermented foods
- Meat jerkies
- Canned fermented foods
- Canned foods that require refrigeration
- Canned Acid foods
- Canned fruits
- Low-acid canned
vegetables that are processed with an equilibrium pH of greater than
- Any acidified food that is not a vegetable
- Any product not
canned in a private home
- Any anything else not specifically included in the allowed foods list is, by default, prohibited. The original allowed foods list
included candies, jams and jellies not considered to be low-acid or acidified low acid products and baked goods that do not require time or
temperature control for safety and are produced in a private home. The state expanded the list to include a few other items, but if it isn't on
the list approved list, you cannot make it at home and sell it .
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 the Home Food Processor approach (which requires an application to the state and
an inspection of your kitchen
Or 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 definitionCatering is not permitted
from a home-based kitchen. If you are interested in starting a
catering company, please contact the Virginia Department of Health.
Products containing meat are regulated by the Office of Meat and
You are NOT required to pay the annual $40.00 fee to the agency.
Although you are still required to comply with all applicable
laws and regulations, since you are exempt from the agency's
periodic inspections, you will no longer be required to pay the
annual fee. If you receive a bill from VDACS requesting that you pay
the annual fee, please contact the state agency at 804-786-3520 or firstname.lastname@example.org so that the matter can be resolved.
Submit applications to the VDACS Food Safety Program. An incomplete
application will cause delay in it being processed. By email
(preferred): email@example.com By mail: PO Box 1163
Richmond, VA 23218 By fax: 804-371-7792 12. Once your application is
submitted, it will be reviewed, and you will be contacted by the
reviewer if there are any questions. When the application review is
complete, a Food Safety Specialist will contact you to schedule your
initial home kitchen inspection.
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.
- Product containers should have a a label displaying
the name, physical address, and telephone number of the person
preparing the food product and the date the food product was
- The statement "NOT FOR RESALE - PROCESSED AND PREPARED
WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION" must be placed on the principal display
- In addition, this exemption does not preclude the need for
standard labeling information on the product label (name of product,
name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, or packer, net
weight statement, an ingredient statement and nutritional
information if applicable)
In general all processed packaged foods should also have the
following on the label
- 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, and
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"; and
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.
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 and at Farmer's Markets
- Farmers markets
- From the private home where the product is manufactured to
an individual for his/her own consumption
You may NOT sell
- To other businesses (including retail establishments such as
grocery stores or supermarkets)
- For resale
- On the internet
- Across state lines (interstate commerce)
Catering is not permitted from a home-based kitchen. If you are interested in starting a catering company, please contact the Virginia Department
of Health. See
Regional Contact Map (pdf) Catering Catering operations are regulated through the local
health departments. VDACS does not inspect or have jurisdiction over
any businesses that cater. As a home-based kitchen business, you are
considered a manufacturer. Your VDACS inspection allows you to make
food products at your home kitchen and sell them either directly to
the end consumer (over the internet, farmer's market, festival,
etc.) or sell your products to other businesses. Catering is not
allowed out of the private home kitchen.
How much home-canned pickled and acidified
vegetable product can I sell?
- Producers of acidified foods must
not exceed $3,000 in total annual gross sales for all acidified
products produced. Producers should carefully document the amount of
product sales incurred on an ongoing basis so that the information
will be available for examination by VDACS. What special precautions
do I need to take in making home-canned pickles and acidified
vegetables under this exemption?
- To reduce the likelihood of
foodborne illness, home-canned acidified food must have an
equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or lower to inhibit the growth and
formation of toxins from the bacteria that cause botulism. In order
to ensure that your product achieves the proper pH, an electronic pH
meter should be purchased so that you can test the product to make
certain that it is at a pH of 4.6 or lower.
- The home food
processor is responsible for determining whether the product is an
acidified food. We strongly advise that you have your manufacturing
process reviewed and validated by a competent process authority.
Home processors are strongly encouraged to complete a recognized
Better Process Control School course. Information regarding times
and locations for these courses can be obtained from Virginia Tech's
Food Science Department(see helpful links below).
Zoning Approval may be required. Contact your county or city's
zoning office and inquire about whether you can have a food business
in your home. If they will allow it, ask for written documentation
confirming this. It can be in the form of letter, email, license or
other. You will need that for the application.
For example, see this page about
Arlington's cottage food zoning requirements.
- The food processing area, including any areas where ingredients
and finished products are stored, must be completely enclosed/separated from the rest of the
home in order to be approved for home based food production.
- Pets must be excluded from food preparation and storage
areas at all times. For example, food processing and storage
areas must be fitted with a solid hinged door(s) that can be
latched/closed shut. Placing pets in closed rooms in other areas
of the home or installing "baby gates" will NOT satisfy this
requirement. The presence of caged pets (such as hamsters,
guinea pigs, reptiles, fish, and birds) will not require the
kitchen to be enclosed/separated from the rest of the home.
- You may need the following:
- typically from your local city hall
Business Registration -
from VA state corporation
commission office. (registers your home bakery name)
Handler's License - may require more training and inspection but
may help sales.
See this guide to successfully completing the application.
Catering License - may be required by local rules and
Kitchen Inspection - depending upon your sales
volume, and types of products, types of sales methods, you could
fall under the
Virginia Health Department or Department of Agriculture
Laws & Regulations
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
Contact the VDACS Food Safety and Security Program by
- Phone at 804-786-3520 or
- Email at
Regional Contact Map (pdf)
Click here to submit a complaint concerning foodborne illness, or conditions at a food manufacturer or retail store.
- Northern VA (NOVA) Region Office
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Emma Lofton, Email:
PO Box 1163, Suite 345
Richmond, VA 23218
North of Richmond includes Charlottesville
- Southwest Region Office
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Lisa Ramsey, Email:
2943-E Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, VA 24019
Includes Harrisonburg and East
to Prince Edward County
- Tidewater Region Office
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Annie McCullough, Email:
5700 Thurston Ave,
Virginia Beach, VA 23455
Includes Richmond city and Three Rivers
Other information regarding pH
What is pH?
pH is a measurement of acidity or alkalinity using a numerical
scale between 1 and 14. A pH value of 1 is most acidic, a pH value
of 7 is neutral and values above 7 are referred to as basic or
- Electronic pH meters are very accurate and pocket
sized units are available for around $100.
- Paper strips are NOT accurate enough to measure
acidity of home-canned and home-processed foods. What is
The pH of a food product after the food acid
(e.g. vinegar) ishould distributed equally throughout the product.
For example, the initial pH of the pickled cucumber that has
been recently canned, will not be the same a few weeks later. It
takes time for the vinegar (which is acid) to penetrate and
distribute into the cucumbers. Therefore, testing the pH of only
the brine (liquid) portion of a recently canned and processed
product is not accurate.
How do you determine a product's
- For foods canned and processed less than 2
months: Food sample need to be finely ground in a blender prior
to pH testing.
- For foods with a process date greater than 2
months: pH may be taken of the brine only since all contents of
the canned product should be in equilibrium.
Who can test for
- The person that processed the food as long as they are
capable of performing an accurate pH test.
- When testing,
follow the same recipe and procedures for each batch of food to
- A separate pH test is required for each different
product offered for sale under this exemption
Examples of pH for different foods
- Dill pickles (pH 2.6-3.8)
- Tomatoes (pH 3.7-4.9)
water (pH 7)
- Garlic (pH 5.3-6.3)