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Maryland Cottage Food Businesses

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A cottage food business (or a home-based business) is defined in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 10.15.0​3​ 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.​ 
 
  • ​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
​ 
  • 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);
  • S​yrups

For more information on icings and frostings, click here or see the MDH Cottage Food Businesses FAQs

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. ​
 
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.  *Note: A cottage food business may request a Department-issued unique identification number for use in place of the home address. 
  • 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.”
  • FOR COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCTS SOLD AT RETAIL STORES, labels must include: 
    • The phone number and e–mail address of the cottage food business; and

    • The date the product was made.

To view example labels, see the MDH Cottage Food Business Labeling Guide. ​

How can I request a unique identification number?

A cottage food business may request from the Maryland Department of Health a unique identification number that may be used on the label of a cottage food product. If a business chooses to request and use a unique identification number on the cottage food product label as an alternative to a business address, the label must include the identification number and the name and phone number of the cottage food business.
 
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.
 
Please allow up to eight (8) weeks for the Department to review your request and issue your identification number.
 
If your cottage food business has received a compliance letter for retail sales, please contact our office at mdh.foodplanreview@maryland.gov to request a unique identification number.
 

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. If you are a cottage food business​ and want to sell your product(s) to a retail store, please complete the Cottage Food Business Request form​. Proof of the completion of an approved food safety course is required. 
 
We recommend reviewing the Cottage Food Business Checklist prior to submitting a request to sell your product to a retail food store. This will ensure that you have all the information needed to complete the process and will minimize delays in your review.
 
Please allow up to eight (8) weeks for the Department to review your request. 
 ​
A 'retail food store' means a licensed food service facility that sells prepackaged food items either fresh, refrigerated, frozen, or shelf-stable.
 
A retail food store includes a grocery store, convenience store, retail market, retail bakery, or food cooperative where, in general, food is sold in its original packaging. 

A retail food store does NOT include a restaurant, mobile food service facility, coffee shop, cafeteria, short order café, luncheonette, tavern sandwich shop, produce stand that only offers whole, uncut fresh fruits and vegetables, or establishment that offers only pre-packaged non-potentially hazardous food.  
​ 

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.
 

Are there additional local laws and requirements that I must follow?

By law, cottage food businesses must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation, processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products. ​You should contact your local permits and licensing department to inquire about specific requirements.
 

I want to sell items not included on the allowable foods list. What can I do?

Foods not allowed to be made under the cottage food laws must be made in a commercial kitchen with a local health department retail food license or a State food processing license. 

 
NOTE:   For more information contact either your local health department​ or the Maryland Department of Health at 410-767-8400 or email us at
mdh.foodplanreview@maryland.gov.

 
​Updated 7/16/2021