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Alabama

A new cottage food law (SB 159) went into effect on June 1st, 2014. Previously, Alabama only allowed homemade food sales at farmers markets, but this law allows direct sales at other venues as well, including sales from home. Cottage food operators must take a food safety training course and are limited to $20,000 of sales per year.

It’s possible that Alabama’s previous law is still in effect, which would allow for unlimited sales of most non-perishable foods at state-sanctioned farmers markets.

Selling

All sales must be direct to the final consumer. Products may be delivered, but only the cottage food operator may deliver the product.

Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods
Only "non-potentially hazardous" foods are allowed, but certain non-PHFs may not be allowed. Most foods that don't need to be refrigerated (foods without meat, cheese, etc.) are considered non-potentially hazardous. Learn more

Limitations

Sales are limited to $20,000 per year

Sampling of homemade food is not allowed at certified farmers markets, so it is unlikely that it would be allowed at other venues.

Business

Food handler course

You must take a basic food handler course before starting your business. One option is to take the online ServSafe food handler course for $15, but there are other nationally-accredited courses that meet this requirement. The ACES also provides in-person cottage food courses for $25.

Review form

Contact your county health department to request a review form. The form will be used to check a sample label, approve your products, and ensure that you took a food handler course.

Sales tax

Sales tax must be charged when selling at a certified farmers market. It’s possible that sales tax is required for all sales at any venue. Check with state, county, and city tax authorities to determine how much tax to charge.

Business license

Check with your county or city to determine if you need to get a business license.

No license from the health department is required, but you should check with your planning division to see if there are any local requirements.

To sell at a state sanctioned farmers market, you must get a business license and all necessary city, county, and state privilege licenses. The costs and zoning requirements vary depending on location.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This food is not inspected by the Department of Public Health


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, AL 73531

Resources

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Comments

Is there a check list anywhere to make sure I have completed all necessary means to be a legal Cottage Food vendor? I keep hearing so many conflicting tasks to complete. i.e. LLC, tax ID, MAT, register business name, food safety class
If you are in Mountain Brook or Homewood do you go to them or city of Birmingham or Jefferson county?

I was very excited to learn of the Cottage Food law because we were interested in preparing food at our home and selling at conventions which are held in multiple states. Upon further reading, it sounds like the only place we can sell our food is at state sanctioned farmers market and our home. Also it must be within a certain “zone” from our home. If that is the case, it does not meet our needs. Am I interpreting this correctly? I hope I’m wrong. Is there a way we can sell in multiple states if we travel there physically?

    You can also sell at roadside stands and at events, and you shouldn’t be restricted to selling in a certain zone, but zoning laws may restrict what you can do with your business. Some states may allow you to sell there, but most probably won’t (I know that Texas won’t). To have the flexibility you’re looking for, you probably need to start a commercial food business. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial

Can someone explain to me why beverages, like lemonade, coffee, and tea, aren’t permitted for sale? I cannot wrap my head around this. Children have been selling lemonade in their front yards for decades (just like I did) and do not even need permission or anything, but we can’t sell something like that at a farmer’s market? What’s the catch?

    The “catch” — if you want to call it that — is that it is also illegal for kids to sell lemonade. Whenever an eight-year-old gets shut down by a letter-of-the-law policeman or health inspector, it usually makes the news. Most of the time, govt officials turn a blind eye to lemonade stands. The reason the laws exist is that theoretically, a beverage like that could pose a risk to the public health (just as tap water could), however unlikely it may be. So they regulate it to keep everyone “safe”. Also, getting a permit to sell coffee and tea at a market might be significantly easier than getting one for other foods — check with the ag dept about that.

    That’s pretty darn outrageous that they would even stop children from selling lemonade in their front yard. I did just run across an article on that in a case in Texas when I was looking for something. I mean, as long as it’s served cold on ice, what’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s got dairy in it. I honestly feel great annoyance towards the health department and its ludicrous rules and laws. A state/city will do anything to make money off of residents and the health department is so OCD about every little thing, even if it seems stupid. That’s interesting. Do you know what type of permit that might be? Thanks for all your help!

    hard to keep them at correct temp to prevent salmonella – etc. I believe is the problem – sugar in tea and lemonade. I work at a local restaurant and we make fresh coffee every hour (markers are placed on the coffee urns for reminders) and tea every 6 hours.

Could you tell me what exactly the health department inspects and how it all happens when they inspect your home kitchen for a Cottage Food establishment? According to the Cottage Food law, I don’t need a food permit. To be sure I get everything covered, are there still some permits/licenses I need? West Homewood Farmers Market does not require a business license unless you make more than $1500 per season. Thanks!

    I just reviewed this page again, and saw where most of my questions were answered. Sorry about that. Clearly, this is all new to me. Ha!

    If you adhere to this cottage food law, then your kitchen doesn’t need to be inspected. There may be other requirements beyond a business license… check with the dept that enforces zoning laws in your area, and also check with your area’s tax authority.

    So they don’t inspect your kitchen only one time before you are issued a Cottage Food permit? I’m so confused. I was under the impression that before you could establish your kitchen as a Cottage Food establishment, they had to make an inspection to be sure it was sufficient. Also, could you tell me where I can apply for a Cottage Food permit? I cannot find anything online. I am not completely sure how this all works, because I can’t seem to get my information straight between the variable sources. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in order to be a Cottage Food establishment, all I need to do is a food handler’s certification (either ServSafe or Cottage Food class), and a Cottage Food permit? I do understand that sales tax is required, but someone told me that I just need my Social Security number for that.

    There is no required inspection for cottage food establishments. The only time you’d get inspected is if someone contacted the health dept with a complaint about one of your products.

    When you complete the “review form”, I don’t believe you will actually get a permit or anything like that. It’s unlikely that the review form is available online.

    I found my answers regarding the permit and see that I don’t need a permit, but only a review form.

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