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cottage food community

Alabama

A new cottage food law (SB 159) recently went into effect on June 1st, 2014. Being so new, there are still some things undetermined about the bill, so check out the Facebook page for updates.

The new bill aimed to make the law less restrictive for home producers, but oddly, it may actually be more restrictive overall. It’s possible that the health dept is interpreting the law in such a way as to only allow for sales from home and at farmers markets. The previous law only allowed for sales at farmers markets, so this is an improvement.

Other than that, everything else is more restricted. Producers are limited to $20,000 of sales per year (used to be unlimited) and are allowed to make substantially fewer kinds of foods. They now must take a food training class before starting their business.

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

Only direct sales are allowed.

“Farmers markets” means state-sanctioned farmers markets only.

Allowed Foods

Other non-potentially hazardous products may be allowed at farmers markets (except for home-canned goods).

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

Limitations
Sales are limited to $20,000 per year

Business

ServSafe food handler course

All cottage food operations must take a ServSafe food handler course before starting their business, which should cost about $15.

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 was made in a kitchen that is not inspected by the State Department of Public Health or a local health department


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, AL 73531

Resources

Law Dates
April 2009
Home Processed Rule Change
June 2014
SB 159
This page was last updated on

Comments

This is some awesome news about the Cottage Law. I have been waiting for something like this to place in Alabama. I bake and decorate wedding cakes, and now I don’t have to worry about looking over my shoulders. Thanks David for all of the information, I have learned a lot reading your posts.

Wow, just found this info and wanted to thank you for posting/explaining it so clearly. I do have a question.
I understand that Internet sales are not allowed, but would advertising be allowable (with prices) as long as the sale is actually taking place from the home? I’m in Houston county.

I attended one of the ACES state approved courses and took the test. The first half of the course was concerned with the law and legalities, and the second half with food safety practices. We were instructed to take our course certificate, a filled out form and a copy of our product labels to register with ADPH *and* for them to approve our labels. Certificates and registration are good for five years. We were told we could sell from our homes and at Farmers Markets. Our instructor did NOT specify that the markets had to be state sanctioned.

    Thanks so much for sharing. The “state-sanctioned” specification comes directly from the law. Labeling approval, however, is nowhere in the law. It sounds like the dept’s interpretation is slightly different than the law.

Why is it that you can only sell at a state sanctioned farmer’s market when there are other farmer’s markets around ? What about local fairs and craft shows ?

    I assume it’s because the ag dept checks and regulates state-sanctioned farmers markets, which allows them to keep tabs on the home vendors. You can only sell at your house and state-sanctioned farmers markets — not other events.

I took the food safety course last Friday. It costs $25. It is good for five yrs. You get a receipt. The certificate is mailed to the health dept. You bring a label sample to the health dept. They have a very short form asking your name, address, phone, and products you plan to make and sell. They give you a copy and file the original. You do have to be approved by zoning for your residence. You can sell ANYWHERE! You have to maintain control of the product and sell only to the end buyer. You cannot sell to stores, etc. You cannot sell anything perishable/frozen. You can not sell anything made with meat/raw egg. You can use eggs when baking. You can use lard. You can only use raw eggs if PASTEURIZED (Publix has them stamped with a “P”). (You can also use powdered eggs, milk, buttermilk, I think). You can POSSIBLY SELL ACROSS STATE LINE (info pending). You can only make $20k yr.

Your label must include your name(or business name), address, and this statement in ALL caps:
THIS FOOD IS NOT INSPECTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH.

There is a huge Chilton County (Clanton, between B’ham & M’gomery) commercial canning kitchen available for lease for bigger family operations. You need five very good fast workers to make this worth your while. They require a health permit from Chilton Co. ($50 yr.), workman’s comp insurance, and liability insurance. It rents for $40 hr. You are only allowed one batch the first time (takes about 5hrs.). They have 3, 40 gal. steam kettles and a conveyor belt! You can partner with another cottage family under one name and split cost.

The person to contact is at UAB. Her name is Christy Mendoza. She’s very nice. Her office number is: (205) 217-6495.
She can also arrange a tour of the canning facility and is also open to night/Sat.? classes for the food safety course if enough are interested.

A note on canning:
You can use two-piece lids (If you go commercial you can only use one-piece lids). You cannot reuse the lids (or jars, I believe). There are companies who sell jars/lids? by the pallets.

There are a lot of no-nos you’ll learn in the food safety class…kids/pets/storage/utensils/food-born pathogens etc. There’s aslide show, then a review, then an (easy) written test. Pay attention and you’ll pass, no problem!

I hope this answers some questions and sets people at ease. Now go for it, and do well, so we can all keep this going!

I contacted Decatur City’s business dept and this is the response I got about a business permit for cottage foods. Which is really a run around if you think about it, having to get a zoning variance and all. Geeze. I am awaiting to hear if the zoning variance costs anything. But you already have 25 for the class and then 87 for the business permit, just on the city level of things. “The Alabama Cottage Food Law does allow you to sell baked goods from your home after certain requirements are met. You must first contact your local Health Department to obtain a food safety certificate and have them review your labels. They will then provide you with a written confirmation that you will need to present to obtain a business license. The City of Decatur requires all home based businesses to obtain a variance for a home occupation before we can issue a license. You will need to start the process in our Building Department on the 4th floor of City Hall. We can issue the license at a cost of $87.00 after you receive approval from the Board of Zoning. If you have any questions please call us.”

I’m not sure I follow this. Your saying I cant have a small local store that sells produce as its primary product. How can the supermarket do this but not an individual. I’m so confused. How do I set up my produce market. I see them in flea markets all over the state. Is that going to end?

    Cottage food products are “value-added products”… uncut produce falls under separate (and usually few) regulations. You can contact your ag dept to see how to setup a market or stand for produce.

Hi,
I am so excited to see this new law go into effect, however I do have a question about labeling. It said we need to take the label to the CO health dept. , I want to sell cakes from my home but I have various flavors and types. Do I have to take a label for each cake? Sorry, I am very confused on this issue.
Thanks! :)

    I have been hearing conflicting info about this. The law is pretty clear that health depts shouldn’t be approving people that operate under it. I think you should call your health dept and see what they say, and if they say you need to submit labels, please let me know. I’m trying to get confirmation from someone in contact with state representatives for the final word. It’s quite possible that health depts are asking for labels without the legal right to do so.

Hello. Here is an update as of today’s date, just got off the phone with AL public health.
Qualifications are : serv-safe or food handlers training certificate and then go to Co health dept after June 1st to get registration form and take food handlers certificate along with your label and they will sign off or give paperwork can’t really remember that part was trying to take in all info lol
The shocking thing is food can only be sold from home (direct sales) or at a state sanctioned farmers market no flea markets or small places that call themselves a farmers market. If you look to sale at fairs and festivals you have to get a temp food permit that doesn’t fall under cottage foods either :( oh and as far as business license she said check with your county but cottage food law doesn’t mention that.
If you have questions contact AL public health environmental food division.

Hope this helps

Yolie

    Thank you so much for the update! It’s unfortunate to hear that, once again, a health dept is limiting a law as much as possible. Only sales at home and state-sanctioned farmers markets is pretty limited.

    A license (or any kind of approval) from the health dept should not be required, as it’s written in the law. CFOs are still required to follow local laws, such as getting a business license, if necessary. CFOs should have to report taxes at the end of the year, but should not have to collect sales tax.

    Sorry… I talked with someone who’s more knowledgeable than me about the current law and new bill, and she said that you actually DO have to collect sales tax for all levels (city, county, & state).

Hi David. My friend and I decided to start baking wedding cakes and birthday cakes to sell to the public. Recently I received a letter from the health dept concerning a food permit, and ordering me to cease operations immediately. This letter was sent to an office site that we rent to consult with clients for events, and we sometimes allow others to pick up their cakes from there too. Can you offer any advice on what we should do going forward?

    Sorry, I almost forgot about the new law coming up in Alabama. On June 1st you will be able to do this legally, though you probably still won’t be able to use the office. You can cook the cakes at home and talk with clients there or on the phone. If you want to run the business in an office (even if you’re not baking there), you will probably need a commercial license. http://forrager.com/law/alabama/sb-159/

    Thank you David! I did speak with the health dept. they told me if I baked at home, my clients Gould still pick up at the office. As long as I’m not producing product there. Of course all of this would take place after June 1st.

    That’s great! Though I don’t know if the county health depts are all on the same page. The comment above suggests that the state health dept isn’t allowing sales that take place outside of the home (including deliveries, I assume), unless they’re at state-sanctioned farmers markets. I think what the health dept told you is the way it should be, but they may bear down over time. Fortunately, if you already got their approval, I don’t think you need to talk to them again.

Hi
I run Chef’s Workshop which is a culinary incubator/ commercial kitchen rental facility located in Hoover. I think this is great for the baking hobbiest and I understand their excitement. The cost of regulation did seem disproportionate to the risk. I will caution individuals however to check your zoning and make sure your commercial enterprise does not void your home owners insurance. Many companies will not honor a claim where residential equipment was being used for commercial purposes.

Bob Lepley
Chef’s Workshop

Hi! I want to make sure I am understanding all this about the new cottage law, cause I sure am excited if I do! Is it correct that home bakers will not have to limit sales to state sanctioned farmers markets, but can sell from home as well (providing zoning laws permit that), without a health dept permit? Would a food safety class still be required? I’m so excited I can barely type! I know that in some other states, it is okay to bake and sell from home, but so far, AL hasn’t allowed that yet. Is it really happening now?!

    Thank you for mentioning it! This totally escaped my attention. It just passed the senate, which means that it will almost certainly become a law. If the governor signs it this month, the law will go into effect on June 1st. I’ll create a page for this bill on here within the next day or so.

    They were not on the list because the department specifically listed a number of allowed foods, but did not list those. However, they should be allowed since they are non-potentially hazardous. In fact, in re-reading the info, you’ve convinced me to expand the list on here!

    so is granola allowed or not? i read on 2 sites that it is ok and 2 others that it is not… just wanting to know before i go for it

    The new law (now listed above) does not allow granola. It’s possible that farmers markets may still allow it under the previous law — check with your ag dept.

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