University of Maryland Extension

Cottage Food Business Law (MD)

See more:  Labeling and Packaging

Maryland’s Cottage Food Business Law

In 2012, Maryland passed a modified Cottage Law, allowing for citizens to operate a home based bakery or home food processing company. The law was updated in 2018.  The law is located here at MD COMAR Regulations 10.15.03.02, 10.15.03.27.  This law establishes requirements with regard to cottage food businesses (i.e., businesses that produce or package cottage food products in a residential kitchen for annual revenues of up to $25,000 from the sale of those products.

The law specifies that a cottage food business in compliance with these requirements is not required to be licensed by the Maryland Department of Health. A “cottage food product” is a nonhazardous food that is sold at a farmer’s market, public event, directly from the producer’s home, via online and by personal delivery or mail delivery. 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 permit is then required for retail and/or storage.

COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCTS THAT MAY BE PRODUCED INCLUDE:

  • Non-potentially hazardous baked goods [bagels, pastries, brownies, breads, cakes, pies. No cream cheese, custards, or other potentially-hazardous fillings, glazes, fruits or cream cheeses that require refrigeration.

  • 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.)

  • Natural Honey (Unflavored and without any processing or additives; flavored honey requires a processing permit from Maryland DHMH.)

  • Hard candy (Made in a home kitchen that does not require further refrigeration. Chocolates, caramel, fudge, and other soft candies require a permit.)

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 

ALL COTTAGE FOODS MUST BE PREPACKAGED WITH A LABEL THAT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

  • 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.”

  • In addition, the owner must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products.

Cottage laws can be helpful since they can reduce the amount of start-up cash a business owner may need since the owner might not have to pay business insurance or rent a building. On the other hand, the laws must be enforced to protect citizens from food that might get them sick or products that might be unsafe. Cottage food laws often limit the retail outlets for this type of food.  However, starting small and learning about operating your own business and feedback about your specialty food product is priceless. 

Additional Resources from Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center:

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