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Do You Live In A Place Where It's Legal To Make And Sell Food From Your Home?

As a person who wishes I did, I am curious about the zoning and regulatory issues that stifle or prevent food-related cottage industry.

This isn't intended to be a discussion on the merits of regulation, though such comments aren't unwelcome.

Do you live in a place where you can legally make and sell food from home and if yes, where do you live?

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  1. My state, Massachusetts, does not. You would need to rent some time at a commercial kitchen. But I have family in Vermont, and when I have visited, I have learned that you can operate a home based cooking business, however you need to do some things to satisfy the Board of Health before you start. (Which is a good thing, as it protects you and the consumer.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: mvi

      Thanks, mvi. I was half expecting to find that there weren't any states in the US left that allow for it. And I agree that some reasonable oversight is good for all involved.

    2. It's legal to make food for sale from home (assuming the kitchen is compliant to local authority public health standards). Selling from home by mail order is no problem but I think having customers coming to the house to buy probably contravenes domestic/commercial premises by-laws. Many sellers at our nearby farmers markets are certainly home producers of, say, baked good and preserves. I'm in the UK.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Yes. I can understand the zoning issues of actually vending from your home, but I think it's neat that people in the UK can, with reasonable regulation, produce at home edible goods to sell. But I get the sense, and have been told by friends who live there, that it's not as litigious an environment as ours. Would you say that's the case, Harters?

        1. re: inaplasticcup

          Absolutely. I read posts on Chowhound where Americans are suggesting, say, sueing a restaurant over something that probably wouldnt have even been a complaint to the manager here in Europe.

      2. Here in Alberta, Canada you must go through a licensing process whereby you must comply with Board of Health rules. The rules are so strict that I believe you basically have to have a completely separate kitchen for preparing food for sale. That being said, it might not be quite as strict as I think it is as there is a large cottage industry of producers who sell their homemade baking/cooking/preserving etc. at the various farmers markets throughout the year. I can't quite imagine they all have these big industrial kitchens in their homes (and then their own basic kitchen for preparing meals). I know there are commercial kitchens that rent space in Edmonton, not very expensive if you team up with a group, but individually it wouldn't make sense.

        On a side note (this may have changed in the last year or two) - you used to be able to sell food for not-for-profit organizations or fundraising for a charity at a farmers market without having to have a commercially approved kitchen - as long as the items were donated to the group having the sale.

        7 Replies
        1. re: nsstampqueen

          Looks like there's a common thread as far as the products that are allowed where in-home production is legal.

          One could set up a non-profit for oneself... :P

          1. re: inaplasticcup

            You have to first set up as a Federal Tax Exempt organization, then the State will use the Federal approval plus have some of its own requirements to allow you to become a Non-Profit organization. (Sorry, I'm an Enrolled Agent/tax geek).

            I do think the purpose of the inspections/licensing is income generation for the local government via fees/fines in addition to safety for the general public.

            1. re: Cathy

              Strangely enough, I only needed to get a federal tax id recently, when I applied for an 'event' business license. I didn't need one for anything else. All I needed was a state tax id, for my sales tax and estimated income, and I had filed the federal return last year (first year) as a sole proprietor under my regular ss#. My tax guy said he'll figure out what's the best way to file it for this year.

              BTW - the event that forced me to get the event license from the county, and provided me with a special form for filing my sales tax was badly run, and I only sold $24. Totally ridiculous. Took me a half dozen calls to even get them to issure the business license, the county disagreed that I needed one.

              1. re: jeanmarieok

                Sole Proprietorship is way different than acting as a Non-Profit; it is part of your personal return and you do pay tax on profits. Tax Exempt (and therefore a State Non-Profit) organizations do not pay a tax on their income and basically redistribute income(donations) they bring in to their stated purpose of becoming tax exempt. Then taxpayers can write off what they give as a 'charitable contribution' on their Schedule A (if they can itemize). If they purchase a product or service from you, they can only write it off if it is for a part of their business.

                Sales tax collection is another subject, run by the Employment Development Department in California. Business licenses are local and a cost of doing business as a sole proprietor. In California, if I sell product within the City I live in, I get a business license here. If I go to a nearby City, within the same county, to sell product at one of their Street Fairs or Farmers Markets, I need to get a business license for that City. Neither applies to a Non-Profit.

                More importantly, were you selling a food product and did you have to prepare it in an inspected kitchen?

                1. re: Cathy

                  Ha, yes, I answered that below - I work from an inspected kitchen because the stuff I make (cheese and mustards) is outside of the inspection free goods in my state (Virginia).

                  My state sales tax id is a multi-jurisdictional one, and I specify what I sell in each county each month on my little form, and I pay the tax rates according to the county. I don't need a business license for any of the farmer's markets I work in, because I am covered under the umbrella of the individual market's license. But, I have to have a sales tax id!!!

                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                    So VA actually has inspection free goods? What kinds of things are on that list, jeanmarie?

                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                      It's pretty much the same list as was posted for NC - baked goods, candies, jams. Nothing with cheese, eggs, dairy, etc.

                      Baked goods
                      Jams and jellies
                      Candies
                      Dried mixes
                      Spices

        2. Florida recently passed a new "cottage" law allowing people to sell some types of food made at home. Sales up to $15,000 on things like baked goods, jams, and candies are allowed. Foods like salsas and barbecue sauces are not allowed.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LJBTampa

            Thanks, LJB! That's heartening news. :)

          2. NC allows somethings to be home produced, copied from the website linked below:

            Low-risk packaged foods are the only products allowed to be produced at home. These can include:

            Baked goods
            Jams and jellies
            Candies
            Dried mixes
            Spices
            Some sauces and liquids
            Pickles and acidified foods

            It is subject to inspection and municipal codes/licensing.

            More info is here:

            http://www.ncagr.gov/fooddrug/food/ho...