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Iowa Home Food Establishment

Cottage Food Law

Unlike most states, Iowa allows home bakers to sell perishable baked goods, like cheesecakes, cream pies, and cakes with cream fillings. “Home Food Establishments” can sell their baked goods at any venue, but they are limited to $20,000 of sales per year. An annual license and inspection are required.

In addition to this law, Iowa has a cottage food law that allows home cooks to sell almost any kind of non-perishable food without special licensing, but products can only be sold from home or at farmers markets.

A new bill (HF 344 & SF 265) has been introduced in 2015 to amend the home food establishment law. The bill changes some wording without changing much meaning in the bill (like rewording “home food establishment” to “home bakery”). The only significant change is that it would the annual license fee to $50.


To sell at a farmers market, you must get a Farmers Market Potentially Hazardous Food License, which costs $100.

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Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

Although this law only allows potentially hazardous baked goods (cannot contain meat), other baked goods can be sold using this law, which would allow you to sell non-potentially hazardous baked goods at all venues. To produce other non-PHFs, you can use Iowa’s cottage food law, which only allows sales from home and at farmers markets.


Sales are limited to $20,000 per year

Pets are never allowed in your kitchen or in any room where food for your business is stored.

Sales must be recorded, and the record must be made available if the Department of Inspections and Appeals requests it.


Home Food Establishment License

A Home Food Establishment License from the Department of Inspections and Appeals is required, and it costs $33.75 each year.


A home food establishment must get their kitchen inspected before starting their business. Inspections should happen at least once per year.

Private well testing

If you do not use a public water system, your private well must be tested annually. You must maintain a record of your water tests.

Sales Tax

Some products require the collection of sales tax, while others are exempt. Check out Iowa’s list of taxable and exempt products to learn more.

Farmers Market Potentially Hazardous Food License

If you want to sell at a farmers market, you must get a Farmers Market Potentially Hazardous Food License in each county where you will sell, which costs $100.


Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, IA 73531

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)

NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)


There are many workplace requirements in the law.


Department of Inspections and Appeals
Law Dates
July 1988
SF 356
June 1991
SF 412
January 1999
HF 2166
October 1999
HF 782
August 2000
ARC 9996A
July 2007
SF 601
January 2014
ARC 1190C

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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!)


I’m having trouble finding any information on what kind of equipment I can use from home. I have a portable convection oven that has wheels. It has a hose that attaches to the gas line on my stove so that I can have my kitchen back when I’m done baking. Any idea where I can find this information?

    You will need to contact the Dept of Inspections and Appeals for specific questions about disallowed equipment. I’m not sure whether your setup would be allowed.

I am looking into buying a commercial cotton candy maker. I would like to use it for craft fairs, kids parties etc. I live in Iowa, so possibly would be selling in Nebraska at craft fairs. Do i need a special license to do this?

    Yes, you need a license, and you should contact your ag dept about the permits you need. You won’t be using the cottage food law since you aren’t making the cotton candy at home.

We were told that we could not obtain a Home Food Establishment License for Cake Pops. But we can sell them unlicensed out of my home as long as the customer made the purchase from my home. I don’t understand why a cake pop is not considered a bakery item since the main ingredient is cake.

There is a bakery interested in buying our cake pops to sell in her bakery. Is this allowed if the owner of the bakery purchases them from my home as a customer/consumer and resells them in her bakery to the end-consumer?

    The other law they’re referring to is the cottage food law, which doesn’t allow indirect sales, so the bakery couldn’t resell the cake pops.

    Did they specify why you cannot be a Home Food Establishment? I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t be able to. Do they just not allow Home Food Establishments in general?

    Yes, a license can be issued for a Home Food Establishment in Iowa, but apparently not for cake pops and cake balls (per attached email I received). Our business is strictly cake pops/balls, therefore we are limited to purchasing from my home. I don’t get it!
    A Home Food Establishment License (or as some call it- a home bakery license) is required to sell “prepared food” bakery items such as cream or custard pies and cheesecakes.

    Other foods that can be prepared under a Home Food Establishment License are limited to baked goods only. Baked goods are defined as: breads, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, rolls, cookies, biscuits and pies (except meat pies).

    This does not include unbaked goods, dry foods such as spices, candies, jams and jellies, or chocolate dipped snacks (cake pops) or other snack foods including pretzels and granola.

    A Home Food Establishment license allows a person to prepare in their home kitchen and sell up to $20,000 in annual sales of “prepared food” bakery items and baked goods.

    This license also allows a person to wholesale these same foods or sell via the internet with the same $20,000 limit. This license also allows a person to prepare these foods to package and sell outside of their home direct to the end consumer- such as at a craft fair or special event. All food must be properly labeled to include the name and address of the business, common name of the food, ingredients, and quantity. Unpackaged foods sold outside of the home may require additional licensing at the selling site.

    A person may make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods (foods that do not support bacterial growth and require no temperature control for safety) in their home kitchen and sell those food directly to the end consumer as long as the customer comes to the home to purchase the food. All food mentioned so far can be made sold from the home directly to the consumer, only if the sale takes place in the home- with the exception of “prepared foods” (cream or custard pies and cheesecakes). In a nutshell, if the customer comes inside the home to purchase a food item and the customer is able to self-inspect the kitchen- then a license is not needed (these foods can also be prepared in-home and sold at a farmer’s market)–the exception is prepared food bakery items (cream pies and cheesecakes) and other potentially hazardous foods (cooked foods- casseroles, meats, veggies, etc. or refrigerated foods- which may not be prepared in a home kitchen).

    I’ve attached a Home Food Establishment Q&A that may answer additional questions.

    There is additional information regarding Home Food Establishments on our website:

    To answer your question specifically about cake pops: You can make them in your home and sell them from your home directly to the consumer with no license. You can also prepare them in your home and sell them at a farmer’s market without a license. If you want to sell your cake pops anywhere other than from inside your home or at a farmer’s market then a commercial kitchen, other than your family’s home kitchen, must be obtained an licensed as a Food Establishment (if selling directly to the consumer) or a Food Processing Plant (if wholesale).

    Food Establishment and Food Processing license information can also be found on our website.

    Thanks for including the email — you’re lucky to get such a specific response! But I agree that it makes no sense whatsoever. At first I thought they we’re separating ready-to-eat items from more prepared items, but obviously cookies and pastries are ready-to-eat. Pretzels and granola are also both baked goods that should be allowed, but at least granola is a bit more distinct. I’m not sure how pretzels could not be considered a bakery item. In terms of the cake pops, it’s almost as if they saw that “chocolate dipped snacks” weren’t allowed and lumped it into that category. I would say that more pertains to something that is more predominantly a candy, like chocolate-covered mini pretzels, where the primary ingredient is chocolate.

    I think you should press more about where and why these lines have been drawn. They’re basically saying that a chocolate-filled cookie is allowed, a chocolate-dipped cookie is not, and a chocolate-frosted cookie is allowed. Why is there a distinction there? Why is a cupcake with a ton of frosting allowed, while a cake pop with a thin layer of icing is not? Ask if these rules are specified in an ordinance somewhere, and ask why they were created in such a way. I really cannot think of any purpose behind them, other than that maybe they are trying to separate traditional bakery items from something that a mobile vendor would serve individually (pretzels).

Last year, my wife obtained the license and was a home baker (she sold French pastries). Trying to go through the taxes now, and I am confused on where we should report the income from her activity.
Anybody has any advice on what is the easiest way to proceed?

I want to sell cupcakes and small cakes using my home kitchen – it looks as though this is legal as long as I get a home inspection?

I want to make and sell my peanut brittle. I am not sure what catagory it would fall under since there are no parishable items. I make it at home but still not sure what catagory I fall under. Is there someone who could tell me by the ingredients I have and about making in my home where I can sell?

If we wanted to sell frozen sweet corn from a ice chest or cooler along with our fresh sweet corn at markets and our roadside stands, could we do this? It would be processed – boiled(blanched), kernels cut from cob, and bagged.

Thank you