Maryland Cottage Food Businesses

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What is a 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 types of foods are allowed to be produced for sale by a cottage food business?

  • ​Non-potentially hazardous baked goods, such as bagels, pastries, brownies, cookies, breads, cakes, pies without potentially hazardous topping or fillings
  • High-acid fruit jams, preserves and jellies made only from ​oranges, nectarines, tangerines, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, cranberries, strawberries, red currants, or another fruit mixture that produces an acid-canned product at 4.6 pH or less
  • Fruit butters made only from apples, apricots, grapes, peaches, plums, prunes, quince, or another fruit that produces an acid-canned product at 4.6 pH or less​
  • Hard candy made in a home kitchen that does not require further refrigeration. Chocolates, caramel, fudge, and other soft candies are prohibited.​​
  • Whole roasted coffee beans

For a full list of example allowable foods see the Guidelines for Cottage Food Businesses.

What types of food are not allowed to be produced for sale by a cottage food business? 

  • Fish or shellfish products;
  • Fresh, dried, or dehydrated meat or meat products, including jerkies;
  • Fresh, dried, or dehydrated poultry or poultry products;
  • Baked goods that require any type of refrigeration (e.g., meringue pies, pecan pies, pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, cream and custard pies, and pies and cakes or pastries with cream cheese/butter cream icings or filings);
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables and/or cheeses;
  • Raw-seed sprouts, including but not limited to alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts;
  • Raw cookie dough and pizza dough;
  • Acidified foods/pickled products such as corn relish, pickles, or salsa, pepper jelly, sauerkraut;
  • Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and cottage cheeses, and yogurt;
  • Cut fresh fruits and/or vegetables;
  • Food products made from cut fresh fruits or vegetables;
  • Food products made with cooked vegetable products;
  • Garlic and/or vegetable in oil mixtures;
  • Sugar-free products, such as jams, jellies, syrups, marmalades and other preserves;
  • Pumpkin and nut butters;
  • Ice or ice products;
  • Barbeque sauces, ketchups and/or mustards; 
  • Bottled water;
  • Candy and chocolate covered fresh fruits;
  • Fresh pasta; or
  • Dehydrated herbs and vegetables​

What are the labeling and packaging requirements for cottage foods? 

​All cottage food mst 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, ingredients, and net weight/volume of the product.
  • Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements; “Major food allergen” includes: milk, egg, fish (bass, flounder, or cod), crustacean (crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts, 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 food safety regulations.”
For an example label see the Guidelines for Cottage Food Businesses.

Where can cottage foods be sold?

Cottage food products can be sold in the State directly to a consumer from a residence, at a farmer's market, at a public event, by personal delivery, or by mail delivery.
Interstate cottage food product sales, or sales outside of Maryland, are prohibitted. 

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 stored on the premises of the business without needing a food license. If other non-cottage items or potentially-hazardous items are sold in conjunction, a food license is then required for retail and/or storage. 

Can I offer samples of my product?

​Yes. Cottage foods may be sampled as long as your product meets the requirements of the Cottage Food guidance document and 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 businesss 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.
NOTE:   For more information or for items that do not meet the criteria above, need refrigeration, or do not meet the high-acid canning regulations, contact either your local health department​ or the Maryland Department of Health at 410-767-8400.