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The California Homemade Food Act (also known as “AB 1616”) passed in California on September 21st, 2012 and went into effect on January 1st, 2013.

The law is setup as a two-tier system, meaning that there are different levels of homemade food producers, depending on who they sell to. “Class A” cottage food operations can only sell directly to consumers, but “Class B” operations can make direct and indirect sales. Indirect sales mean goods can be sold through third-parties, like stores or restaurants, but class B permits require a home inspection and cost more.

California’s law allows a number of food items to be sold, and unlike most other states, it also gives the health department the authority to add to it over time. Operators can also sell their food products in almost any kind of venue, but they are limited to $50,000 of sales. Interestingly, that limit has increased over time (it was $35,000 in 2013, and $45,000 in 2014), but it will not automatically increase again. Another unique thing about California’s law is that it allows cottage food operations to have only one non-family employee.

An amendment (AB 1252) passed in 2013, which made minor amendments to the cottage food law. Most notably, it allowed all Class A & B operations to do direct sales anywhere within the state, rather than just their own county. It also required Class A operations to list their county on product labels.

A new law (AB 626) passed in 2018, which allows for some “microenterprise home kitchen operations” to sell virtually any kind of food, albeit with plenty of other restrictions. However, home cooks cannot have both a cottage food operation (described on this page) and a microenterprise home kitchen operation — they need to decide on one or the other.


There are two classes of cottage food operations:

A “Class A” cottage food operation is only allowed to sell directly to the consumer, which includes sales from the operation, a farmers market, a food stand, special events, or other similar venues.  Direct sales may occur over the internet or phone with delivery or pickup options, but in most counties, a shipping service may not be used (USPS, FedEx, etc).  A few counties do allow shipping, like Placer County.

A “Class B” cottage food operation is allowed to sell both directly and indirectly to consumers.  In addition to the info about direct sales above, these operations can sell their goods to a third-party retailer, and that retailer can then sell the goods to the consumer.  A third-party retailer is one in which the food may be immediately consumed on the premises, such as a grocery store, bake shop, or restaurant.  In fact, a restaurant may buy cottage foods and use them in their dishes, as long as they inform the consumer on their menu that they are doing so.

Class B operations cannot do indirect intercounty sales, unless the health departments in their home county and the other county come to an agreement. Even though the sales are indirect, these operators also cannot use a shipping service to ship their products to retail stores (except for a few counties).

All CFOs must have a copy of their registration or permit on-site at the time of all sales (including indirect sales).

Allowed Foods

Jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters must be made in compliance with the Federal Food Code (this resource does a good job of explaining it). It’s a complicated set of rules, but basically questionable items are those without enough sugar or acidity to make them safe. Many labs can test products for a small fee to determine their safety.

Marshmallows cannot contain eggs.

Here is the official approved foods list. Some items have been added to the list over the years:

  • May 7, 2014: cotton candy, candied apples, confections, buttercream frostings, dried vegetables, dried vegetarian soup mixes, vegetable and potato chips, ground chocolate
  • August 1, 2014: seasoning salt
  • January 2, 2015: flat icing, marshmallows, popcorn balls
  • July 1, 2015: donuts, waffles, dried grain mixes
  • July 1, 2016: dried hot chocolate

If you want something added to the approved foods list, you can submit a request.

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


Sales are limited to $50,000 per year


Registration or permit from local health department

To apply, an operation needs to contact their county’s environmental health department.

Class A CFOs need to register by submitting an application and completing a self-certification checklist. The registration fee varies by health department ($100 – $150 in most counties) and it must be renewed annually.

Class B operations get a permit for direct and indirect sales. The permit fee varies by health department ($150 – $250 in most counties) and it must be renewed annually.

Food handler card

All cottage food operators and their employees must complete a food processor course within three months of the operation becoming registered. Getting a food handler card can be done online in a few hours, and it should cost $10 – $15. Here is a list of ANSI-accredited courses that the CDPH recommends. Also, be sure to check their CFO training document for the most up-to-date information. Training must be completed every three years.

Home inspection

Class B CFOs need to get their home kitchen inspected.

Private well testing

If the operation gets their water from a private well, they must get their water tested, which would incur additional fees.

Private sewage inspection

If the operation has a private sewage system, they must get it inspected, which would incur additional fees.

Sample labels

Some counties require operators to submit only one sample label, while others require a sample label for each product produced. In most counties, if a small change needs to made to the application within the year, the department should be notified with the new information, but it will not incur another application fee. However, if the operator, location, or class type changes, a new application and fee will be necessary. Unfortunately, some counties charge the entire application fee if any products are later added.

CalGOLD is a website that lists all of the licenses/permit that a business needs in California. To find the licenses you need, click here to open CalGOLD and enter your county (the Business Type should be pre-filled with “Cottage Food Operation”). You may have to contact your zoning office to determine if you are within city limits or in an unincorporated area of your county.


Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Made in a Home Kitchen" (12-point type)

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, CA 73531

Permit #: 12345

Issued in Cotton County

Ingredients: enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), butter (cream, salt), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavors), brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract (vanilla bean extract, alcohol, sugar), baking soda, salt (salt, calcium silicate)

Contains: milk, eggs, wheat, soy

NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)

Labels also need to include the operation’s registration/permit number, plus the name of the county that issued their permit.

The net weight must be listed in both English and metric units.  If the label makes any health claims, a nutrition facts panel is required.  Placing a phone number or email address on the label is optional.

If the operation is listed in a current telephone directory, then the street address does not need to be on the label (but the city, state, and zip code still do).

There is more information about labeling, including allergen and health claim instructions, in the Cottage Food Labeling Guide.


In addition to getting help from the members or your household, an operator can only have the equivalent of one full-time employee, regardless of whether they are paid or not.

More information about workplace requirements can be found in the health department’s sanitation guide.


Law Dates
January 2013
AB 1616
January 2014
AB 1252

This page was last updated on

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So after reading most of the comments, I’m still kinda confused. I would like to make homemade soups, teas breads, and etc. Would i need to sign up for a Class A permit? I want start my business from home and deliver them myself. I don’t know how to go about it. Please help. Thank you.. I’m in the Los Angeles, Ca area

I was interested in selling meals from my home. I was reading the page for California for class A so since the meals need refrigeration I wouldn’t be able to ? I have a hand full of people who want to buy my meal prep meals not sure what to do


    You would not be able to apply for multiple cottage food permits. You should be able to sell in other counties, but you may need to get a business license in each of them. Other counties are able to restrict you from selling in their county, if they choose to.

    No you may not. Right here in this article it tells you the allowed and not allowed foods. Meat and other “perishable” food items are not allowed.

    You must get a business license in each county you sell in. I believe that is a state law. If that county does not honor your CFO then unfortunately you can’t sell in that county. Do you have a CFO from a neighboring county and they wanting you to apply for a separate CFO in that county to sell in that county?

Are third party resellers of any goods sold by cottage foodmakers required to tell it’s consumers where the food was made if asked? I was at a restaurant and I asked where a baked good was from and the employee said she couldn’t say where because it was their policy?

    They are not required to tell you who sold it, but a restaurant is required to tell you if something was homemade by a cottage food operation. However, most restaurant employees probably don’t know that.

Couple Questions, I have always been confused as to where I am allowed to set up a stand like a bake sale for cookies and brownies etc, I could never get a real full answer to it. Am I allowed to sell on the street, in public places likes in front of target or Walmart like the Girl Scouts too, where am I allowed to set up a stand if I live in a city area or in more of an urban area. Thank you
-John Overturf

    I believe you prepare food and sell it to your friends and they will tell other friends. if you want to put a table out of a grocery store you must ask permission to the manager store. Try your best do not give up.

I live in Bishop, CA, Inyo County. There is a Buy, Sell or Trade on Facebook and there are always people selling tamales. Is this legal?

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