Legalese — Cottage Food Business

I know, I know.  Your grandmother made the absolute best brownies.  She cracked the code in brownie making, and everyone says that you should sell them using her recipe. You make a mean muffin, too, and your blueberry jam?  MWAH!

Can you do that?  Can you bake a whole bunch and get a booth at the farmer’s market on Saturdays?  Can you sell them to the local artisan’s market on consignment?  How does that work, exactly?

You can have a “Cottage Food Business” in the State of Georgia with minimal fuss.  I’m sure every other state has something similar. That isn’t to say, however, that there is no fuss.  You can use your own kitchen to produce food items to directly sell to people or sell online (but not across state lines) and you can’t wholesale them.  These products are from an “unapproved food source” and so they can’t be distributed to retail stores or restaurants. 

Not all foods can be a part of a Cottage Food Business, only non-potentially hazardous ones.  There is an official list which includes:

  • Loaf breads, rolls, and biscuits;
  • Cakes that do not require refrigeration;
  • Pastries and cookies;
  • Candies and confections;
  • Fruit pies;
  • Jams, jellies, and preserves, but not fruit butters;
  • Dried fruits;
  • Dry herbs, seasonings, and mixtures;
  • Cereals, trail mixes, and granola;
  • Coated and uncoated nuts;
  • Vinegar and flavored-vinegars; and
  • Popcorn, popcorn balls, and cotton candy.

There are a few things you have to do on the front end.  First, you need to make sure that there is nothing in your zoning ordinances that prevent you from doing what you want to do.  You have to make sure you aren’t on a well, and if you are, you have to have special testing.  You also have to have your sewage disposal system checked out.

You also have to have food safety training.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredits food safety training courses, and they have to have approved the course you take and give you a certificate when you’ve completed it.

Then you have to get a license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  You can find the application on their website.  They will perform a one-time inspection of your kitchen.  That is, it’s one time assuming there aren’t any consumer complaints.

There are labeling requirements for the food you sell.  You have to have your business name and address on the label, so they can find you if someone gets sick.  There have to be ingredients listed in a particular order, allergen information, nutritional information, and a statement in at least 10 point Times New Roman or Arial font stating, “MADE IN A COTTAGE FOOD OPERATION THAT IS NOT SUBJECT TO STATE FOOD SAFETY INSPECTIONS.” 

You, as a consumer, may or may not read this as “This was made in some lady’s kitchen and there may or may not be cat hair in the muffins.  We don’t know.  We hope not, but we didn’t go and check.”

There are, of course, some other rules, which you will learn about as part of your food safety training, and which you will get as part of the application packet.  For more information, visit www.agr.georgia.gov/foodsafety

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only.

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