If you have recently been to a bake sale, or you are a small restaurant or bakery owner you have probably heard the term “Cottage Food Operation” and you may be wondering exactly what that means.
A Cottage Food Operation is defined as a business in which the individual prepares and distributes non-potentially hazardous foods from their home kitchens.
As of January 1, 2013, California enacted the Homemade Food Act. The Act will allow some homeowners to prepare and distribute certain foods from their home kitchens. You may recall that prior to this new law, even some bake sales were illegal due to California’s food and health regulations.
This new law allows for individuals to apply for a permit, which would grant them to use their home kitchens for the preparing of foods to be directly distributed to customers. The California legislature passed this law knowing that it would help create and expand small businesses.
So what does this mean for a small business owner? The new legislation makes it easy to obtain a permit and begin business. The statute, located in full here:
The Act lays out exactly the steps that need to be taken and followed to maintain business as a qualified Cottage Food Operation.
There are many specifics of the act, and if you plan on applying for a permit we recommend you go over the rules carefully, however, if you are just interested in starting out, here are some of the basics:
You must be certified – apply and receive a permit before you start dishing out your tasty treats. Permits can be applied for at your local environmental health departments. For your nearest local environmental health department look here:
In order to gain a permit you will have to fill out a self-certification checklist. There are many qualifications to make sure your home kitchen is being properly maintained. The rules focus on cleanliness with consumer safety being the main concern.
You may only distribute non-potentially hazardous foods. If you aren’t sure which foods make the list be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions page here:
After receiving your permit you will be required to take a class conducted by the Board of Health.
There are other qualifications to beginning business as a Cottage Food Operation, but this Act is a great way to help people start a simple and profitable business from within their own homes.