Cottage Food Operations

Community Development Agency

In September 2012, the California Homemade Food Act (AB1616), also known as the Cottage Food Act, was signed into law. This law allows retail sales of limited food items prepared in a home effective January 1, 2013. The types of foods prepared by a Cottage Food Operations (CFO) are limited to Non-Potentially Hazardous Foods (see the list below).

Should you decide you are interested in operating a cottage food operation (CFO) please review the entire application AND the frequently asked questions on this page. There are two types of authorizing documents issued to operate a CFO:

  • CLASS A “Direct Sales’ which means the consumer a purchases your products directly from you;
  • CLASS B “Indirect Sales’ which means the consumer purchases your products directly from you, OR from a third-party retailer that holds a valid permit issued by the local EHS office in their jurisdiction.

Internet sales are restricted to direct delivery and pick-up; shipping is prohibited in both classes.

You must obtain approval from EHS before you start selling your product.

To learn more about operating a cottage food operation, please review the information below. If you have further questions, please call us at (415) 473-6907.

 

Starting a Cottage Food Operation in Marin County

If you are proposing to operate a CFO within Marin County, you will need to submit an application for permit or registration to EHS with the appropriate fee. Permits and registrations are non-transferrable and must be renewed annually.

Please note:

  • CFOs are limited to Non-Potentially Hazardous Foods as listed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
  • No bottling of juices is allowed from a cottage food facility.
  • Mobile Food Facilities are not allowed to operate from a Cottage Food Operation.
  • CFOs are limited to household members and one non-household member employee.
  • Internet sales are restricted to direct delivery and pick-up; shipping is prohibited.

If you are proposing Direct sales only, a Class A registration will be required. “Direct Sale” means a transaction between a CFO operator and a consumer, where the consumer purchases the cottage food product directly from the CFO. Direct sales are not subject to routine inspections although they will be inspected by EHS on a complaint basis.

If you are proposing Indirect sales or a combination of direct/indirect, a Class B permit will be required. "Indirect Sale" means an interaction between a CFO, a third-party retailer, and a consumer, where the consumer purchases cottage food products made by the CFO from a third-party retailer that holds a valid permit issued by the local environmental health agency in their jurisdiction. Class B CFOs are inspected annually by EHS staff.

CFOs at residences utilizing private water sources and/or septic systems are subject to further requirements as noted in the Cottage Food Facility Application Packet. CFOs are subject to local planning permits and business licenses. It is the responsibility of the CFO to obtain all necessary permits prior to issuance of a registration or a permit and before beginning operations.

As a Cottage Food Operator, you are responsible to know the requirements set forth in the Cottage Food Law. This document is available online for review. Another useful document is the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health California Homemade Food Act Frequently Asked Questions available at www.marincounty.org/ehs or www.ccdeh.com .

For more specific requirements and to apply for a CFO registration or permit, please refer to the Marin County Cottage Food Facility Application Packet. You may also call our office at (415) 473-6907.

Approved Foods

Cottage food operations are allowed to produce certain non-potentially hazardous foods. These are foods that do not support the rapid growth of bacteria that would make people sick when held outside of refrigeration or hot-holding temperatures. The list of approved cottage food categories and their ethnic variations which cottage food operations are allowed to produce, are listed below. The list will be maintained and updated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on its Internet website.

CDPH may add to or delete food products from the approved products list. Notice of any change, reason for the change, the authority for the change, and the nature of the change to the approved food products list will be posted on the department website and shall be become effective thirty (30) days after the notice is posted.

Approved Food Products List (January 1, 2013)

  1. Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas.
  2. Candy, such as brittle and toffee.
  3. Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits.
  4. Dried fruit.
  5. Dried pasta.
  6. Dry baking mixes.
  7. Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales.
  8. Granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
  9. Herb blends and dried mole paste.
  10. Honey and sweet sorghum syrup.
  11. Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. *see below
  12. Nut mixes and nut butters.
  13. Popcorn.
  14. Vinegar and mustard.
  15. Roasted coffee and dried tea.
  16. Waffle cones and pizelles.

*Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter: Cottage food operations which produce jams, jellies, preserves, and other related products must be sure that their products meet the legal established standards of identity requirements for those products as set forth in 21 CFR Part 150. The purpose of the regulation is to maintain the integrity of the food product to ensure consumers consistently get what they expect. The product name and ingredients listed on the label must be factual and comply with the legal definitions and standards of identity or the product may be considered misbranded. Products made with other ingredients that are not defined in 21 CFR 150 cannot be produced by cottage food operations. Addition of other ingredients or alteration of ingredient profiles changes the chemistry of the food, which can allow the growth of various bacteria and toxins under the right conditions. For example, addition of peppers (i.e. jalapeno pepper) to make pepper jelly is not supported by 21 CFR 150 and the addition of this low acid ingredient could cause the formation of botulism toxin in the product if the proper controls are not used.

Application Packet

Please submit the following with your application:

  • Documentation of use permit approval or clearance from the CFO local planning department is required. EHS cannot refund the permit or registration fee if a use permit is denied.
  • Completed Cottage Food Operation Application and current fee.
  • Cottage Food Renewal Application
  • Signed copy of enclosed self-certification checklist. (Attachment B)
  • List of ingredients for each of your Cottage Food Products. (Attachment C)
  • Submit a description of the type of packaging you will use: Packaging must be food grade. (Attachment C)
  • List of equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces for your products. (Attachment C)
  • Sample labels for each Cottage Food product. (Attachment D)
  • Sketch of floor plan of the Cottage Food Operation. (Attachment E)
  • Obtain California Food Handler Card (within 90 days from issuance of permit or registration)
  • If your Cottage Food Operation utilizes a private water supply, submit water test results for approval of potablity.
  • If your Cottage Food Operation utilizes a septic system, you may need to submit a septic system evaluation conducted by a qualified professional. EHS staff will make a determination of any required testing based on existing septic system records.

Labeling Requirement

Attachment D: Labeling

Provide a sample label for each cottage food product or use the back of this page. Include the following:

  1. The words "Made in a Home Kitchen" in 12-point type on the cottage food product's primary display panel.
  2. The name commonly used for the food product or an adequately descriptive name.
  3. The name of the cottage food operation which produced the cottage food product.
  4. The registration or permit number of the "Class A" or "Class B" cottage food operation, respectively, which produced the cottage food product and, in the case of a "Class B" cottage food operation, the name of the county or the local enforcement agency that issued the permit number.
  5. The ingredients of the cottage food product, in descending order of predominance by weight, if the product contains two or more ingredients.
  6. The name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor per the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec 343).
  7. An accurate statement of the quantity of the contents in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count.
  8. Allergen labeling as specified in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec 343)
  9. Compliance with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec. 343 et seq.)

If your label lists calories or nutrients or makes health claims, the label shall include nutritional information as required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec 343 et seq.). Verification of third-party testing will be required.

Here is an example of a label.

Sample Cottage Food Product label

Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this FAQ handout is intended to provide a uniform statewide response to questions posed and will be updated as needed. The questions & answers were evaluated by the CCDEH Ad Hoc AB 1616 Implementation Workgroup. For legal interpretation visit AB1616 Chaptered Law website.

For frequently asked questions in English, please visit our Cottage Food FAQs.