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Cottage Food Business
A cottage food business (or a home-based business) is defined in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 10.15.03 as a business that a) produces or packages cottage food products in a residential kitchen; and b) has annual revenues from the sale of cottage food products in an amount not exceeding $25,000.
What is a cottage food product?
A cottage food product is a non-potentially hazardous food that is sold in Maryland directly to a consumer from a residence, at a farmers market, at a public event, by personal delivery, or by mail delivery; or directly to a retail food store. Cottage foods cannot be offered for sale through interstate commerce.
Do I need a license to sell cottage foods?
No. By law, the owner of a cottage food business may sell only cottage food products made in their home kitchen and stored on the premises of the business without needing a food license. If other non-cottage food items or potentially-hazardous items are offered or made, a food license is required, and all food production and storage would need to occur in a commercial kitchen.
Where can cottage foods be sold?
Cottage food products can be sold in the State directly to a consumer from the cottage food business residence, at a farmer's market, at a public event, by personal delivery, by mail delivery, or to a retail food store*. Interstate cottage food product sales, or sales outside of Maryland, are prohibited. All sales, including online sales, are restricted to Maryland.
*Cottage foods sold to a retail food store must meet certain criteria, including additional labeling requirements, and review by the Maryland Department of Health. For more information contact the Maryland Department of Health at 410-767-8400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I offer samples of my product?
Yes. Cottage foods may be sampled as long as your product is a non-potentially hazardous food. Samples must be pre-packaged in the home kitchen.
What are the labeling and packaging requirements for cottage foods?
All cottage food must be prepackaged at the cottage food business and labeled with the following:
- The name and address* of the business where the food is made. Listing a P.O. BOX address is not permissible.
- The name of the cottage food product, the ingredients (and sub-ingredients) in descending order of the amount of each ingredient by weight, and the net weight/volume of the cottage food product.
- Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements; “Major food allergen” includes: milk; egg; fish such as bass, flounder, or cod; crustacea such as crab, lobster, or shrimp; tree nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts; wheat; peanuts; soybeans; and any food ingredient that contains proteins derived from milk, egg, fish, crustacea, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, or soybeans.
- Nutritional information as specified by federal labeling requirements, if any nutritional information claim is made about product.
- A printed statement in 10 point type or larger, in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background of the label: “Made by a cottage food business that is not subject to Maryland's food safety regulations.”
- *Note: A cottage food business may request a Department-issued unique identification number from MDH for use in place of the home address. To request a unique identification number and/or to sell your cottage food products to a retail food store, complete the Cottage Food Business Request form on the MDH website.
↪ To view example labels, see the MDH Cottage Food Business Labeling Guide.
Foods allowed to be produced for sale by a Cottage Food Business:
- Non-potentially hazardous/non-perishable baked goods, such as bagels, pastries, brownies, cookies, breads, cakes, pies, sourdough breads, etc. made without potentially hazardous toppings or fillings;
- Hot filled high-acid fruit jams, jellies, preserves, and butters made only with fruits with a natural pH of 4.6 pH or less;
- Hard candy;
- Chocolate confections made from commercially manufactured chocolate (e.g., chocolate covered pretzels);
- Repackaged commercial ingredients (such as tea blends, spice/seasoning blends);
- Snack mixes from commercial sources (such as cereal, granola, and trail mixes);
- Non-potentially hazardous snacks (such as popcorn balls, kettle corn, popcorn, and nuts);
- Whole roasted coffee beans
Foods NOT allowed to be produced for sale by a Cottage Food Business:
- Potentially hazardous foods that require any type of refrigeration (e.g., raw or cooked fish/animal products, cooked vegetables, baked goods containing fruit with a natural pH above 4.6, garlic in oil mixtures, cheesecakes, pumpkin pies, custard pies, cream pies, etc.);
- Beverages of any kind;
- Chocolate covered fresh fruits or chocolates made from raw cocoa beans or potentially hazardous ingredients;
- Dehydrating (or drying) fruits, herbs and vegetables;
- Fermented foods, acidified foods, or low acid canned foods;
- Flavored or ground coffee;
- Nut butters and seed butters;
- Pasta - dehydrating or fresh;
- Raw dough and energy balls;
- Raw seed sprouts;
- Soft candies (such as home-made caramel and fudge);
- Sugar free products (such as jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, and marmalades);
↪ For more information on icings and frostings, click here for MDH's FAQs.
For additional information see:
- MDH Guidelines for Cottage Food Businesses
- MDH Cottage Food Businesses FAQs
- FCHD Guidance on Special Processes
To place a complaint about a cottage food product (a home prepared or packaged food product - e.g., non-potentially hazardous baked goods or candy), please complete the MDH Cottage Food Product Complaint form that you can access by clicking here.