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About Cottage Food Operations

On September 21, 2012, Governor Brown signed the California Homemade Food Act into law. This law amends the California Health and Safety Code to create a new category of food facility operation, which unlike other food facilities, can be operated out of a home kitchen, and will be implemented on January 1, 2013.

This new category, known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), will allow home kitchens to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods. Non-potentially hazardous foods are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.

Approved Cottage Foods

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has established a list of current approved foods that meet the definition as non-potentially hazardous. Additional foods may be added and removed through a 30-day process. Requests to add a food product to the approved foods list may be submitted to the California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch by using this form (pdf).

The list of current approved foods includes the following:

  • 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 nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruits.
  • 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 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
  • Nut mixes and nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Vinegar and mustard
  • Roasted coffee and dried tea
  • Waffle cones and pizelles
  • Cotton candy
  • Candied apples
  • Confections such as salted caramel, fudge, marshmallow bars, chocolate covered marshmallow, nuts, and hard candy, or any combination thereof
  • Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese
  • Dried or dehydrated vegetables
  • Dried vegetarian-based soup mixes
  • Vegetable and potato chips
  • Ground chocolate

Registration/Permitting

CFOs are required to obtain an annual registration or annual permit to operate through Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety.

CFOs may sell directly and indirectly to the public, depending on their class of operation.

  • Class A CFOs may sell cottage foods directly from their homes, certified farmers' markets, bake sales, and community events. Class A operations will be required to complete a self-certification process and obtain an annual registration from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety.
  • Class B CFOs will be required to obtain an annual permit from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety and will be inspected annually. In addition to direct sales from home, they are also permitted to sell cottage foods indirectly from local shops, restaurants and other third party sales.

Additionally, a cottage food operator must complete a Food Processor Course administered by the CDPH within three months of obtaining a registration or permit.

Selling

Sonoma County is currently allowing only CFOs who are registered and/or permitted by Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety to sell their cottage foods in Sonoma County.

CFOs may generate revenue of up to $35,000 in 2013, $45,000 in 2014, and increase up to $50,000 per year in 2015.

Planning/Zoning

While CFOs may operate out of a private dwelling, they may be required to meet zoning and planning criteria, which can include issues concerning parking, noise, traffic control, density as well as other standards. Contact your local city planning department or Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management at (707) 565-1900 for more information.

Unapproved Foods

The following foods are not approvable as cottage foods:

  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky
  • Fresh or dried poultry or poultry products
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, vegetable butters, salsas, etc.
  • Fish or shellfish products
  • Canned pickled products such as corn relish, pickles, sauerkraut
  • Raw seed sprouts
  • Bakery goods with fillings such as cream, custard or meringue pies and cakes or pastries with cream or cream cheese fillings, fresh fruit fillings or garnishes, glazes or frostings with eggs
  • Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and cottage cheeses and yogurt
  • Cut fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Food products made from cut fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Food products made with cooked vegetable products
  • Garlic in oil mixtures
  • Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Ice or ice products
  • Barbeque sauces and ketchups
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses
  • Wine preserves
  • Ganache
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Chutney
  • Vegetable butter
  • Food products that require refrigeration

For additional information, please read Cottage Food Operations: Frequently Asked Questions (pdf) (English | Spanish).

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