The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) announces a new report, Cottage Food Laws in the United States. Building on its 2013 report, FLPC’s new report examines trends in cottage food laws and provides recommendations to strengthen these laws that allow food entrepreneurs to sell their homemade foods. FLPC has found that since 2013, several new states now allow cottage foods, and many states have updated their cottage food rules to expand the types of products or scale of production that is allowed under their provisions.
Under the laws in every U.S. state, food generally must come from regulated and inspected food establishments. In recent years, however, almost every state has created exceptions to these requirements for certain “cottage foods” (homemade low-risk foods such as baked goods, jams, and granola). These laws balance food safety concerns with local business development by allowing home cooks to make and sell certain low-risk foods without undergoing the full inspection and other regulatory requirements of certified kitchens.
Currently, laws in forty-nine states and Washington, D.C. allow for cottage food sales, but these laws vary widely as to what types of foods, producers, and sales they allow. Cottage Food Laws in the United States offers a primer on cottage food laws and their function in our state and federal food safety systems. It also documents and explains trends in the differences between states’ cottage food laws regarding:
- The types of foods that may be sold;
- Where those foods may be sold;
- Registration, licensing, permitting, or inspection requirements;
- Labeling requirements; and
- Tiered systems for different types of foods, producers, or sales.
Cottage Food Laws in the United States also includes recommendations to strengthen cottage food laws. Key recommendations include making cottage food laws easier for producers to find and to understand, lowering barriers to entry, and broadening the types, venues, and scope of cottage food sales in ways that allow local food businesses to thrive while protecting food safety.
In response to the many requests we received after our 2013 report for more information on each state, the updated 2018 report also includes a detailed appendix that documents and explains the cottage food laws in every state and shares citations and links to state materials. This resource provides a starting point for producers and anyone curious about cottage foods to locate information that is often scattered across statutes, regulations, and guidance documents in each state.
Across the country, food entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and regulators are all part of a cottage food movement that is bringing homemade foods to market and supporting small-scale food producers. FLPC’s new report provides a starting place for cottage food producers to learn about what they are allowed to do in their states as they are planning their new businesses. The report also helps cottage food producers, lawmakers, and advocates compare and contrast the varying requirements and provisions among states to see how they can improve their state laws in the future.