Cottage Food Law – Selling Food Made at Home

Written By: Karen Giovannini
Published: February 1, 2013


Are you ready to sell your home made foods?  This new law may make that possible!

On September 21, 2012, Governor Brown signed the California Homemade Food Act into law. This law was implemented on January 1 and creates a new category of retail food facilities known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), which will allow persons using home kitchens to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods.

Cottage food products are non-potentially hazardous foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.

The California Department of Public Health has established a list of currently approved food products that meet the definition as non-potentially hazardous foods.  Additional foods may be added or removed through a 30 day review process. The current list of approved cottage food products includes:

  • Baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings (bread, churros, cookies, pastries, tortillas, etc.)
  • Candy, including chocolate covered nuts and dried fruit
  • Dried fruit and pasta
  • Dry baking mixes, granolas, cereals, and trail mixes
  • Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
  • Honey, jams, jellies and fruit butters
  • Nut mixes, nut butters and popcorn
  • Vinegar and mustards
  • Roasted coffee and dried tea
  • Waffle cones and pizelles

While CFOs may operate out of a private residence, they may be required to meet zoning and planning criteria, which can include issues concerning parking, noise, traffic control, density and well as other standards. Check with your City planning department or the Agriculture Ombudsman for assistance with this (contact information at end).

There are two classifications of Cottage Food Operations; they are Class A and
Class B:

  • Class A “Registration” CFOs may sell cottage foods directly from their homes, certified farmers’ markets, bake sales, and community events. Class A operations will be required to complete a self-certification process and obtain an annual registration from Sonoma County Department of Health Services.  The self-certification check list will demonstrate that the cottage food operation conforms to safe food handling and preparation requirements.  The annual fee for Class A CFO is $139.
  • Class B “Permit” CFOs will be required to obtain an annual permit from Sonoma County Department of Health Services and will be inspected annually. In addition to direct sales from home, they are also permitted to sell cottage foods indirectly through local shops, restaurants and other third party sales.  The annual fee for Class B CFO is $347.50.

Persons involved with preparing or packaging cottage food products must complete a Food Processor Course administered by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) within three months of obtaining a registration or permit.  CDPH has not yet established these courses (as of deadline) but expect to by late January 2013.  For the latest information, check the CDPH Cottage Food Operations website (link at end).
Once registered/permitted, a CFO may sell directly from their home, a certified farmers’ market, wholesale from a local restaurant (class B), as well as other similar type locations.  Class A registrants may only sell their product within the county.  Class B permitted CFO’s may sell CFO foods outside of the county if they obtain a permit from the outside county(s). CFO products may not be shipped to the customer; they must be delivered directly by the operator. There is a limit to the amount of revenue a Cottage Food Operations may generate annually. For these next three years, the limits are: $35,000 in 2013, $45,000 in 2014, and up to $50,000 per year in 2015.

In order to sell CFO foods at a farmers market or other community event, the operator must obtain a Temporary Food Facility permit from the County of Sonoma Department of Health Services (link at end). If the CFO product(s) will be sold at farmers market and is made primarily with produce grown by the seller, the CFO product(s) may qualify to be sold in the certified section of the farmers market. A Certified Producer Certificate is required to sell produce and CFO foods in the certified section of the farmers market, and in that case, a Temporary Food Facility permit is not required.  The Certified Producer Certificate is issued by the Agriculture Commissioners office (link at end).
Food made in a CFO must be labeled properly and a sample of the label for each cottage food product must be submitted with your application. The label must include the statement “Made in a Home Kitchen” in 12 point type, descriptive name of the product, contact information and location of the CFO, the permit/registration number, ingredient list in descending order of weight, the net quantity in English units and metric units, and declaration of food allergens.

In order to obtain a CFO registration or permit, the cottage food operator must complete an application and submit payment to the County of Sonoma Department of Health Services. The applications are available at their site (link at end).


Karen Giovannini is the Agriculture Ombudsman at the University of California Cooperative Extension.  She is available to help agricultural businesses navigate regulatory requirements, and can be reached at or (707) 565-2328.

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