WHAT IS “COTTAGE FOOD,” AND IS IT ALLOWED IN CONNECTICUT
You may have never heard of the term “cottage food,” but I am sure you have heard of a home-based business. Cottage food is the term now applied to the idea of using your home kitchen to make food products for sale to the public. Many people have culinary skills, and want to start their own food-based business at home, such as baking or making food products to sell at a farmer’s market or fair. A major obstacle has been the food safety and licensing laws in Connecticut, which essentially prohibited such home-based businesses by requiring that all such food be prepared in commercial kitchens.
Connecticut has recently joined a large number of states which have passed cottage food operator laws, by allowing (and licensing) home-based food businesses. One of the major concerns with selling products made at home has been the danger of allowing unsafe or unsanitary food to be sold to the public. The new cottage food law addresses that issue by creating a licensing and inspection process for home-based food products, and by limiting the types of food products that can be produced in a home kitchen.
The new Connecticut law, effective October 1, 2018, allows certain foods produced in a home kitchen to be sold to the public. The types of foods allowed under this law are considered lower risk, such as certain baked good, jams, jellies and other foods less likely to spoil. The law requires that the home kitchen be inspected, and that a basic food safety course be completed by the owner. Additional requirements include water testing (if a private well), and verification of wastewater treatment if not on a public sewer. The annual sales are limited to $25,000 per year, and products must be sold direct to consumer, such as by internet, local delivery, or at a farmer’s market, fair or bake sale. In addition, if a product is sold pre-packaged, certain labeling requirements must be followed. A home business also must follow whatever local zoning rules would be applicable in a particular municipality to home-based businesses.
The required cottage food operator license is provided through the State of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). The DCP has the licensing forms, additional information, and an informative brochure with a summary of the requirements on its webpage dedicated to cottage food (CLICK HERE).
Further information regarding the local zoning laws applicable to opening a home-based business is available from your local town’s zoning or land use office.