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District of Columbia

Cottage Food Law

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.

Selling

Products may only be sold at public events.

Starting a cottage food business?

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Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

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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

Limitations

Limitations
Sales are limited to $25,000 per year

Business

Registration

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.

Labeling

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.

Resources

Contacts

Department of Health

Department
Food Safety
Email
foodsafety@dc.gov
Telephone
202-535-2180
Fax
202-535-1359
Address
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?

DOWNLOAD THIS FREE GUIDE

Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

(Some of them just might surprise you!)

Comments

What type of business license should I obtain if I am only selling one product (pies) and would like to take orders for private events (i.e. parties) as well as distribute to restaurants and commercial venues?

Will this allow for catering (i.e., parties, etc.) out of your home? I see that sales are restricted to “farmers markets” and “public events,” but I’m wondering what types of venues this actually includes.

    It sounds like the sort of catering you’re trying to do would not be allowed. The events you sell at should be advertised to the general public, like fairs, festivals, flea markets, farmers markets, and community events. I think the intent is that you’ll be one of multiple vendors selling at the events.

Nothing in the Law provides details on what I am allowed to make. How did you determine the list I see on this website? I want to prepare other food products is that allowed?

In DC, there isn’t reciprocity in terms of recognizing MD or VA Cottage laws; therefore you can’t sell cottage foods in DC despite following those state laws. Some in the policy-making world feel they need to protect DC from being flooded with other states’ cottage foods, allowing for DC cottage producers to flourish. I don’t know what the final results will be, we can only wait to see.

    Chris, are you sure this is the reasoning? In almost all states, there isn’t reciprocity because the Federal Food Code doesn’t allow homemade food sales, and therefore interstate sales are not allowed. Some states specifically override this but that is typically the default interpretation. As far as I’m concerned, it might be a good thing if DC were trying to help cottage food producers flourish — a good starting point would be creating information online about their law, which they have yet to do.

As a resident of Maryland looking to sell in both Maryland and DC, which state’s of guidelines would I need to follow?

    You would need to follow Maryland’s, but it’s quite possible that you wouldn’t be able to sell in DC, depending on the health department’s requirements.