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District of Columbia

Washington D.C. passed the “Cottage Food Amendment Act of 2013” (B20-0168) at the end of 2013. The law allows cottage food operations to make a wide variety of food, but unfortunately they are only allowed to sell at farmers markets and other public events. Furthermore, CFOs are limited to $25,000 per year of sales.


Products may only be sold at public events.

Starting a cottage food business?


Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

(Some of them just might surprise you!)

Allowed 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


Sales are limited to $25,000 per year



Before selling any products, a cottage food operation must register with the “Cottage Food Business Registry”. The application to register is not yet online, so you should call the health department for both the registration and the inspection (Food Safety Dept: 202-535-2180).

Home inspection

CFOs also need to get a Home Occupation Permit for a one-time fee of $72.60.


Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Made by a cottage food business that is not subject to the District of Columbia's food safety regulations." (10-point type)

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)

The cottage food business identification number must also be on the label.

If a nutritional claim is made (such as “low fat”), a nutrition facts panel must be added to the label.



Department of Health

Food Safety
[email protected]
899 North Capitol Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Law Dates
November 2013
Cottage Food Act of 2013

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Starting a cottage food business?


Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

(Some of them just might surprise you!)


Hello – thanks for this great information.

What else qualifies as a public event? Does that mean I can’t sell my food at a store or other venue?


    A fair, flea market, farmers market, etc. would all be public events. A wedding would be a private event. I don’t believe you can sell at any other venue, like stores or restaurants. The health dept should know more about what is specifically allowed.

Hi I am interested in selling items cooked in my home kitchen as an amateur personal chef business. I would cook in my home and deliver to peoples homes. I would make it clear that I am an amateur chef on my website. Do I hold any liability?

    I believe you would hold all of the liability since that is illegal, as far as I know. There are laws in place to allow you to cook in your client’s home as a personal chef, and you should talk to the health dept about that.

Hi. I was looking to sell homemade peanut butter but I don’t see it on this list. I’ve given samples to friends and family, am I permitted to sell it at farmer’s markets?

Hello! Could raw vegan food/juices not be sold from a cottage food industry at events? What about hot vegan plates?

Hello! This website is proving very useful!

I am looking to move to this area this year and I will be starting a bakery. As I’m coming from an area where it would take me hours to cross state lines, the idea of living in one state and potentially working or selling in another is totally new to me.

So my question is this: let’s say I were to live in Maryland and bake cakes at my home. Would I be able to sell them at a farmer’s market in DC? Which area’s laws would I need to abide by, or would it be both?

Also, I see that things can only be sold in a public setting. Could I, perhaps, take a custom order for a birthday cake, but bring it with me to a farmer’s market and sell it to the person who ordered it there?

    I’m not aware of DC having any agreements with surrounding states. If you live in MD, you’ll need to use their laws and only sell in MD. As you can tell, this law isn’t really intended for a custom cake business. I’d suggest you look into becoming a commercial processor so you don’t have to worry about restrictions.

Do you know if people who can legally sell through this law should be collecting sales tax? I read through the law, but I don’t see that issue addressed. Thank you!


I am a resident of DC looking to sell at farmer’s markets in the DMV area. I am thinking about selling pan roasted and ground barley which can be mixed with water and served as a drink (no refrigeration required) at farmers’ markets. Would I be required to have a commercial kitchen to pass the home inspection? What is required to register with the “Cottage Food Business Registry”?

Also, I found this link for DC Home Occupation Permit Application checklist – I currently do not operate any business and thus I think only numbers 1, 2 and 6 of the checklist apply to me. Is that all that is needed?

    First, I should just clarify that you’d only be able to sell dried barley. You could sell it as a packaged drink mix, but your customers would be creating the drink on their own. As far as I know, you wouldn’t be able to setup a water station for them to create their drink onsite. Ready-made drinks would require a commercial license and commercial kitchen:

    If you are going to operate within the cottage food law and make your products from home, you wouldn’t need to alter your home kitchen for it to pass the home inspection.

    I’d also like to know what the “Cottage Food Business Registry” actually is. That is a term that’s used in the law, but the health dept hasn’t yet published any information about it. My guess is that when someone calls the health dept to setup their business, they add each business to a list somewhere, and that’s effectively the registry.

    I’d recommend you contact the zoning administrator and make sure you actually need a home occupation permit. If you do, then I’m not really informed enough about it to answer questions about the application process.

    Thank you so much for your response.

    Do you know if I need to register the operation if I am just trying to test out the market? In other words, can I sell at a farmer’s market without any business registration/license,etc…? Or is that something that I would check with the zoning administrator?


    You need to go through the same process whether you are selling $1 of goods or $1,000. This law was setup specifically to make it easier for home cooks to test out markets without needing to become a commercial processor first.

I just stumbled across this post and was wondering. what license(s) do I need to start a home bakery In DC. I would be delivering the cakes ,cupcakes etc.. to peoples events/parties. or is that not allowed in DC at all ?

    You may not sell products outside of a public event, so the only way for your products to show up at someone’s party would be if they purchased them at a public event (like a farmers market) and then chose to take them to their party.

    You need the registration, inspection, and home occupation permit described in the business section above. It’s also likely that you will need a business license. In going through the process, you’ll probably talk to a few different local govt depts that will tell you everything you need.

I am looking to start producing a powder mix of two ingredients (dried goats milk powder & peanut butter powder) to which water can be added and then frozen to create a dog treat. I would like to distribute in DC as well as online. Will I need a Commerical Liscense to do so?

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