Florida Cottage Laws: Food Sales That Don’t Need a Permit
If you have found your niche in creating or baking something delicious, and people are telling you they would gladly pay for what you do, you may be considering creating your own small business.
With most food products, you must obtain proper licensing and permits to sell your goods. But Florida cottage laws offer a way to work around those requirements.
It is important to know the basics about food operators that do not need permits in Florida.
What Are Cottage Foods?
Cottage foods are a select group of homemade foods legally sellable directly to informed consumers. They do not require licensing or inspection from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). These foods are generally at a lower risk for causing foodborne illnesses.
How to Start a Cottage Foods Business in Florida
The first step to take when determining how to start a cottage food business in Florida is to understand what products you may actually sell without a license. There are a number of lists available to identify food operators that do not need permits in Florida. If your passion for producing a certain product falls within those available categories, you are on the right track.
Understanding Florida cottage laws will help you formulate a reasonable business plan and expectations for growth.
Food Operators That Do Not Need Permits in Florida
There are a handful of foods and food products that make the list to be produced and sold within the state of Florida. One of the biggest factors in deciding what can and can’t be sold is whether the items need to be temperature controlled.
Permissible products include items such as:
- Loaf of bread, rolls, and biscuits;
- Cakes, pastries, and cookies;
- Candies and confections;
- Personally produced honey;
- Jams, jellies, and preserves;
- Fruit pies and dried fruits;
- Dry herbs, seasonings, and mixtures;
- Homemade pasta;
- Cereals, trail mixes, and granola;
- Coated or uncoated nuts;
- Vinegar and flavored vinegars; and
- Popcorn and popcorn balls.
Many of these products are derived from home-grown produce, giving farmers an additional source of income and a creative outlet. However, using home-grown products is not a necessary requirement for Florida cottage food sellers.
Florida Cottage Laws
Florida cottage laws focus largely on how and where products can be sold. These laws are governed by Florida Statute 500.80. But keep in mind that other states or individual municipalities may have different regulations than the State of Florida has.
Selling in Florida
Cottage food operators can sell cottage foods only within the State of Florida. Once the products enter into interstate commerce, they must follow the cottage laws of other states, which may or may not allow similar sales.
Gross annual sales for cottage foods may not exceed $50,000 according to Florida cottage laws. Sales are taxable income.
Cottage Food Production
Food produced for sale has to be prepared in the kitchen of your primary residence. It cannot be made in a summer home, motor home, vacation home, or outdoor cooking environment.
Many people search for and purchase products online. Cottage food operators may sell their food products online, but they must hand-deliver them. This is also a deterrent for interstate or international commerce.
Cupcakes, wedding cakes, and birthday cookies are all great common examples of cottage foods that may be produced specifically for an event. Cottage food products must be delivered directly to the consumer or to the consumer’s private event.
According to Florida cottage food laws, cottage foods cannot be stocked on store shelves. There are additional requirements for wholesale products.
A cottage food operation must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the preparation, processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products. These may differ from statewide Florida cottage laws.
Florida Cottage Food Law Labeling Requirements
Cottage foods must be properly packaged and labeled for consumer safety and include the statement, “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”
A cottage food operation may only sell prepackaged cottage food products. The label must be printed in English and contain the following information:
- The name and address of the cottage food operation;
- The name of the cottage food product;
- The ingredients of the cottage food product in descending order of predominance by weight;
- The net weight or net volume of the cottage food product;
- Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements; and
- Appropriate nutritional information as specified by federal labeling requirements.
Cottage food operators can serve free samples for tasting, but the samples must be prepackaged. Lab testing for an official ingredient list is not required.
If you have a secret ingredient that you want to keep to yourself, that may be permissible. According to federal regulations (Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 21CFR 101.100g(1)(2)), exceptions to labeling can be made. If the Commissioner of Food and Drugs determines that the alleged secret ingredients are harmless, you may receive an exemption. It is safer to make sure that you and the commissioner are in agreement before choosing to omit the ingredient, and you should contact the FDA to discuss the potential exemption.
Selling Florida Cottage Foods at Farmers’ Markets
Cottage food sales are permitted at farmers’ markets, flea markets, and roadside stands. This is only true if you have no other food items in your space that require a food permit.
Depending on local regulations, some farmers’ markets and similar direct marketing venues may still require a food establishment license even if you meet the cottage food requirements. Local farmers’ markets and local municipalities often have their own policies.
Florida Cottage Foods Law Violations
Whether you have accidentally or knowingly violated Florida cottage law, you may face penalties and be required to pay fines pursuant to Florida Statute 500.121. If you are concerned about compliance for your existing cottage food business or would like to explore how to start a cottage food business in Florida, you may want to have a chat with an experienced agriculture attorney who knows the ins and outs of Florida cottage laws.
Kara Groves specializes in helping large and small businesses flourish throughout Florida. Whether you are a beekeeper producing your own honey, a hobby farmer growing your own herbs, or just someone with a passion for baking, she can help you determine the best ways to ensure success. She is also there to fight for you if you are facing a legal liability.
Contact Groves Law to schedule a consultation today.
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