When did the Cottage Food Act (AB1616) go into effect?
The law became effective January 1, 2013. The law requires the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to carry out certain tasks associated with implementation; among the tasks assigned to this state agency are providing food processor's training, posting approved cottage foods on their website, and establishing a process for adding and removing food from the approved cottage food lists. The law also imposes certain responsibilities on local planning and environmental health jurisdiction.
The California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH) is working with other stakeholders to ensure that the law is implemented in an orderly, effective, and uniform manner.
What is a Cottage Food Operation (CFO)?
A CFO is an enterprise at a private home where low risk food products are prepared or packaged for sale to and consumption by consumers.
What is meant by a "private home"?
Private home means a dwelling including an apartment or other leased space, where individuals reside.
Can a CFO have employees?
A CFO can have one (1) full-time equivalent employee (not counting immediate family or household members).
Are there limitations on the size of a CFO's sales?
- $35,000 or less in gross sales in 2013
- $45,000 or less in gross sales in 2014
- $50,000 or less in gross sales in 2015 and beyond
What kinds of foods can be made at a CFO?
Only foods that are define as "non-potentially hazardous" are approved for preparation or packaging by CFO's. These are foods that do not require refrigeration to keep them safe from bacterial growth, which could potentially make people sick. The CDPH will establish and maintain a list of approved cottage food categories on their website and will establish a process by which new foods can be added to the list and other foods can be challenged and removed.
The following food categories are included in the current list.
- Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries and tortillas
- Candy, such as brittle and toffee
- Chocolate covered non-perishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruit
- Dried fruit
- Dried pasta
- Dry baking mixes
- Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
- Granola, cereals and trail mixes
- Herb blends, and dried mole paste
- Honey and sweet sorghum (molasses) syrup
- Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These should be fruit products only (no vegetables) to assure that they are not potentially hazardous foods.
- Nut mixes and nut butters
- Vinegar and mustard
- Roasted coffee and dried tea
- Waffle cones and pezzelles (Italian waffle cookies)
Processing any food not included in the above list requires approval from Environmental Health or a State Permit. Other food products must be produced in a Commercial Permitted Kitchen, or in a facility with Cannery License or manufactured in a facility with valid Processed Food Registration (PFR) issued by the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch. Foods other than those listed above shall not be made in a home kitchen.
What are the two classifications of CFO's?
CFO's fall into one of two classification:
- Class A CFO's - Only allowed to engage in "direct sale" of cottage food.
- Class B CFO's - May engage in both "direct sale" and "indirect sale" of cottage food.
What is meant by "direct sale" of cottage food?
"Direct sale" means the consumer purchases the cottage food product directly from the CFO. Direct sales include, but are not limited to, transactions at holiday bazaars, bake sales, food swaps, transactions at farm stands, certified farmers markets or at a community event.
What is meant by "indirect sale" of cottage food?
"Indirect sale" means an interaction between a CFO, a third party retailer, and a consumer, where the consumer purchases cottage food products made by the CFO from a third party retailer that holds a valid permit issued by the local Environmental Health agency in their jurisdiction. Indirect sales include, but are not limited to, sales made to retail shops or to retail food facilities where food may be immediately consumed on the premises.
What are the CFO's operational requirements?
All CFO's must comply with the following:
- No domestic activity in kitchen during cottage food preparation.
- No infants, small children, or pets in kitchen during cottage food preparation.
- No smoking in kitchen area during preparation or processing of cottage food.
- Kitchen equipment and utensils kept clean and in good repair.
- All food contact surfaces and utensils washed, rinsed, and sanitized before each use.
- All food preparation and storage areas free of rodents and insects.
- Person with contagious illness shall refrain from working.
- Proper hand-washing shall be completed prior to any food preparation or packaging.
- Waste water from the facility shall be connected to an approved on-site sewage disposal (septic) system or to public sewer. For Class B CFO's on private septic systems, there may be additional requirements such as having your septic tank pumped, adding laterals or upgrading your system to support additional flows. Please contact one of our land use specialists at 530-745-2300 if you have any questions about your septic system.
- Water used in the preparation of cottage food products shall meet the potable drinking water standards for transient non-community water system described in California Retail Food Code section 113869.
There will be no water testing requirements for treated, public water supply. If you are on a private water supply such as a drilled well, you will be required to perform some water quality testing to demonstrate if your water is potable.
Minimum tests required initially are:
Bacteria testing shall be done every three months thereafter, nitrate every year and nitrite every three years.
- bacteriological testing (potability test)
Do I need any special training or certification to become a CFO?
A CFO must acquire a valid California Food Handler Card within three months of being registered or permitted. Please submit a copy of your Food Handler's Card or other valid Food Safety Certificate with your application form.
Can I expand my home kitchen area square footage to accommodate my cottage food operation?
Any expansion or remodeling must be consistent with a residential home kitchen. Contact the county or city building, planning, and fire departments for approval and applicable permitting requirements. All cottage food operations including storage, preparation, mixing, assembling, packaging, and or labeling shall occur inside the living space of the home.
Garages, sheds, backyards, vehicles, and out buildings or any other structure or locations outside the living space are not permissible for use in your CFO.
Does a CFO need a permit to operate?
- All CFO will need to obtain approval from their local city or county planning department. The Homemade Food Act gives planning departments several options to consider so requirements may vary between jurisdictions.
- Environmental Health
- Class A CFO: Annual registration accompanied by self certification checklist approved by the local Health Department.
- Class B CFO: Annual permit accompanied by self certification checklist approved by the Health Department.
- Other Requirements
- Check on other state or local requirements that may be applicable (i.e. business license, solicitor's license, temporary event permit, etc.)
Registrations and permits are non-transferable between persons, locations, types of foods, types of food sales (direct vs. indirect).
How much will the registration or permit cost the CFO?
For current fees please review our fee schedule.
Additional fees may be charged for inspections and/or enforcement activities if the CFO is found to be in violation of California Food Safety Laws.
Will my CFO registration/permit allow me to sell at other retail venues?
Yes. Class A CFO's may only sell within Placer County. Class B CFO's may sell in another county ONLY if you have permission from that county's Health Department to sell in their jurisdiction with a Placer County CFO permit.
Additional health permits may be required to sell at other locations such as certified farmer's markets, community/temporary events, or swap meets. Please contact us for additional permit requirements.
Can I sell my cottage food products online?
Yes. CFO can accept orders and payments via the internet, mail or phone.
If orders come from within Placer County, products must be delivered directly (in person) by the CFO to the customer.
Orders from outside Placer County may be delivered in person, or via US Mail, UPS, Fed Ex or other indirect delivery method. These types of sales involving indirect delivery methods are regulated by and subject to CDPH registration and State and Federal requirements.
You may contact the California Food and Drug Branch at 916-650-6500 to secure the necessary requirements or permit.
If I have CFO registration or permit from another county other than Placer County, can I sell my products in Placer County?
Only Class B CFO's from other counties may sell in Placer County. We will require a copy of your permit from your county of origin when submitting your permit application to sell in Placer County.
How often will a CFO be inspected?
- Class A CFO kitchens and food storage areas are not subject to initial or routine inspections.
- Class B CFO kitchens and food storage areas are inspected initially, prior to permit issuance, and then annually after that.
Both Class A & B are open for inspection by Environmental Health on the basis of consumer complaint, or if there is any reason to suspect that adulterated or otherwise unsafe food has been produced, or operations are found to be in violation of Food Safety Laws. Inspection activities may include viewing and copying of records, seizure of products, and taking photos.
Both Class A & B are open for inspection of packaging, product handling, and labeling during community events, farmers markets, bake sales, swap meets, or any third party retailer
What are my food labeling requirements?
All cottage food products must be properly labeled in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec.343 et. seq... The label shall include:
- The words "Made in a Home Kitchen" in 12-point font type.
- The name commonly used for the food product.
- The registration or permit number of the CFO (we will supply you these numbers after we process your application and all requirements have been completed) and the name of the local health department that issued the number.
- Product ingredients in descending order by weight.
- Net quantity (count, weight, or volume) of the product in both English units (lbs, oz, etc.) and Metric units (kg, g, etc.)
- A declaration of any of the eight major food allergens present in the product. (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat)
Cottage foods sold in a permitted food facility without packaging or labeling shall be identified to the customer as homemade on the menu, menu boards, or other easily accessible location. Please see our list of sample labels.
I want to become a CFO, what should I do now?
Submit the following to Environmental Health:
- Permit Application
- Self Certification Form
- Food Handlers Card or Food Safety Certificate
- Sample Labels
- Kitchen floor plan with storage area for your products and supplies
- Water test results for bacteria, nitrate and nitrite (if on private well water).
Your assigned Environmental Health Specialist will review your application for completeness and give you the permit or registration number. You will need to resubmit a final sample label containing the assigned number followed by "Placer County".
Once everything is complete (Class B CFO's will receive an initial inspection of their kitchen and storage areas) the specialist will sign off the self certification form and mail you back your approved copy. Your permit or registration will be mailed to you shortly after.
Please keep your permit/registration and self certification form in a safe place. You should be able to show these upon request during any the above listed inspections.
Is there a printable version of the FAQ's?
Please see our FAQ's pdf for printing.