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Maine

Maine has had their “home food manufacturing” law in place since 1980, and it is still being used today. Although this law was created long before modern cottage food laws became popular, it is quite flexible and allows producers to sell many types of homemade food.

To sell homemade food, producers need to get a license and get their home kitchen inspected. Most types of shelf-stable products are allowed, but some items (like pickles and chocolate sauces) need to be tested and approved before they can be sold. Once a producer has their license, they have a lot of flexibility: they can sell at any venue and there is no sales limit.

Maine’s state law is one of the better cottage food laws in the country, but at least sixteen towns in in the state (the first being Sedgwick) have taken it a step farther — they have removed regulations from all local foods that are directly sold. Read more about it here and here.

In 2015, a couple “food freedom” bills were considered, but they did not pass. One of them (LD 925) was a more typical food freedom bill, in that it would have allowed the sale of any type of food, as long as it was sold directly at the producer’s home or at a social event. The other (LD 783) proposed to add the “Right To Food” as a constitutional amendment, which would have laid the groundwork for preventing regulation of homemade food. LD 783 was also considered in 2016, and it once again did not pass.

Selling

Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

Some types of products, like acidified foods (salsas, pickles, etc.), need to be approved before they can be sold.

You cannot sell low-acid canned goods that are pressure canned at home.

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
There is no sales limit

The law specifies that “uncontrolled children” cannot be in your kitchen while you are making products.

Business

Home Food Processor License

Contact the Division of Quality Assurance & Regulations to get an application for a Home Food Processor License.

Home Inspection

Before you can get your license, you need to get your home kitchen inspected by the Division of Quality Assurance & Regulations.

Process and Product Review Testing

Most types of non-PHF products do not require testing, but some types of shelf stable products, like low-sugar jams, acidified foods (salsas, pickles, dressings, etc.) and chocolate sauces, need approval from the University of Maine’s School of Food and Agriculture. Product testing usually costs $26 or $39 per product, depending on the type of product. Learn more and find contact info here.

Water Testing

If you get your water from a private water source (like a private well), your water must be tested by a certified laboratory each year. To learn more about testing your well water, watch this video.

Sewer Testing

If you are not using a public sewer system, you need to get your septic tank tested before you can get a license.

Mobile Food Vendor License

If you want to sell at a farmers market, you need to get a Mobile Food Vendor license from the Division of Quality Assurance & Regulations.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, ME 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)


Contains: milk, eggs, wheat, soy


NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)


If you sell directly to a consumer from your home, you do not need to put a label on those products.

Workplace

There are a number of workplace requirements listed in the law.

Resources

Contacts
Department
Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
About
Contact this division to ask general questions and to get a license or home inspection
Job Title
Extension Food Science Specialist
Organization
University of Maine - School of Food and Agriculture
Email
[email protected]
Telephone
207-581-2791
Fax
207-581-1636
Address
5735 Hitchner Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5735
About
Contact Beth about product testing or general questions
Job Title
Extension Food Safety Specialist
Organization
University of Maine - Cooperative Extension
Email
[email protected]
Telephone
207-581-1366
Address
5735 Hitchner Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5735
About
Contact Jason about product testing
Law Dates
December 1980
Home Food Manufacturing

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Comments

Hi! I’m currently stocking my Etsy store with some Halloween Goodies (chocolate covered pretzels, etc…) and came across this site. I have a question about shipping/labeling.

When I hover over “Online” selling, it states that the food has to be picked up in state or delivered in state. Does this mean that I cannot ship out of state at all? Can you please clarify or attach a website that verifies this?

Let’s say I CAN ship these things out of state. If/When I ship my products, do I have to include a printed label or will it suffice to list the allergen info/ingredients on the Etsy post?

Thank you in advance

    That hover text is generic for all states, and that’s why it’s very ambiguous using words like “may” and “usually”. Maine actually might be a state that allows interstate sales, but I haven’t confirmed one way or another. You should contact the ag dept to learn more about this. If you can ship things, then you would need to place a label on the products before you ship them.

Hello David,

I want to make an olive and dry herb product. The olive oil and dried herb are sold in stores seperatley and I would just be mixing the 2 togheter. I called the Maine department of food and agriculture and they told me I have to have my product tested by a food scientist first and than they would determine if I can produce this food out of my home. I have scoured online and cant find any laws against using dried herbs and oils. I did however see laws for oil and garlic. Are you aware of a law that would restrict me from using dried herb and oils or are they just giving me a hard time and can I legally produce this product? Or perhaps I should ask for a written document that states I cant make this product without a food scientist. Thanks.

T Tallarico

    They’re not giving you a hard time. It is known that garlic and oil combinations are perishable, and that most oils without flavoring are not. With your mixture, they wouldn’t be able to know if it’s perishable without an analysis of the food. However, my expectation is that the results should be favorable and that you will be able to produce the item from home.

“Maine introduced a new bill (LD 783) in 2015 that would (if passed) change the state constitution to list the “Right to Food” as an unalienable right for its citizens. This would be very similar to the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, since it would allow residents to purchase food from any source, without the government being able to regulate it.”
This is NOT true at all. This amendment would simply make the statement that the people of Maine have a right to food of their choice. It would NOT change any laws, rules, or regulations regarding food in anyway. It is certainly not even close to a “Food Freedom Act” like Wyoming’s or the pending one in Utah. Please get the facts and post only clear, correct information. The internet is rife with misinformation, let’s not make it worse.
Comment 0

    Richard, thanks for suggesting an improvement for this page. I hope you know that it is not my intent to misinform people and make the internet “worse”. I don’t really have the time to keep track of every state in detail, so I appreciate when people like yourself take the time to help.

    Although the statement above is concise, it stemmed from three sources: 1) the bill itself, 2) Joel Salatin’s testimony in favor of the bill, and 3) communication I had with someone directly involved with the bill. I just reread the bill, and I’m not sure what would be the purpose of including a “right to food” in Maine’s constitution if it were not to expand the freedom of food in the state. It seemed to me that the intent of the bill was to allow individuals to freely choose their food sources without infringement (such as the government getting in the way), including buying food from neighbors without regulation. In some ways, this “right to food” could be much more general, expansive, and freeing than Wyoming’s Food Freedom law, and that may have been the intent.

    Could you please back up your information with some sources, or at least your own experiences, to help explain why you know that the statement I wrote is definitely not true? I may have misinterpreted the bill and that statement may very well be untrue, but right now I don’t feel I have enough evidence to alter the interpretation.

    Since last summer, I have heard little about this bill and that’s why the information hasn’t been updated. I just did a little more research and can see that this bill was tabled and never passed, so I’ll update this page with that info. I also found a series of testimonies concerning this bill, which you may be interested in reading.

    I am glad that you replied to my post. I didn’t intend to be obnoxious (I would have written in all caps in that case). I am very close to the “food bills” here in Maine. My wife and I testified on most of the ones presented in the first session of the 127th Legislature. One in particular, LD925 “An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers,” would have been equivalent to Wyoming’s food freedom act.

    It was unanimously voted “OTP” (Ought to Pass) out of committee, and passed “under the hammer” in both the House and the Senate, which means it passed by unanimous consent of all members. Remembering that the bill would have allowed the unlicensed sale of certain regulated foods in face-to-face transactions by people who, for the most part, are not and would never be, licensed, the bill’s opponents (mostly the grocers and dairy associations) lobbied for a fiscal note to be attached. That note said that the bill would cost the State about $28,000 a year in lost license fees. Further lobbying, resulted in the appropriations committee voting not to “fund” the bill and it died its political death on the Appropriations Table.

    LD783, which was carried over from the first session, has the following text:

    “Section 25. Right to food freedom; food self-sufficiency; bodily health and well-being. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume the food of their own choosing, for their own nourishment and sustenance, by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, gardening or saving and exchanging seeds, provided that no individual commits trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the acquisition of food; furthermore, all individuals have a right to barter, trade or purchase food from the sources of their own choosing, for their own bodily health and well-being; and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of these rights, which may not be infringed.”

    It was voted out of committee OTP last week with a split report (7-5). It will now have to pass with a 2/3 vote in both chambers. However, because it also has a fiscal note attached (regarding the cost of a referendum), I do not hold out much hope for its passage this year.

    I sat in on the committee work session recently and listened to the bill’s author, Rep. Craig Hickman, respond to the committee’s concerns by saying that this constitutional amendment would change no existing laws regarding the regulation of foods but would basically provide the legal footing for challenging those regulations.

    I am elated to hear that bills such as these are even being considered and coming relatively close to passing. I plan to farm someday relatively soon (I’m only seventeen now) and I sincerely hope some food handling regulations will have loosened up by then. In particular, the work I have done with pasture-based farming has led me to realize just how much of the cost of raising meat goes to slaughterhouse fees, and, in turn, how much of that goes to the inspections and certifications of the slaughterhouse. Having the ability to butcher animals at home could potentially make grass farming a much more promising venture in terms of profit, especially for beginning and small-scale producers.
    Having read the text of LD925, it sounds like it would have been just about everything one could ask for. I have a question about LD783, to which the answer may not yet be obvious. The wording makes it quite clear that one has the right to purchase any food one chooses, but would this translate to mean that the person on the other end of the transaction had the right to sell that same food? Would the law not still be free to incriminate the seller? I hear you, Richard, saying on behalf of Craig Hickman that this amendment would not change regulations but might provide legal footing to challenge them. Do you (or anyone else) understand how that would work, and if so, would you explain it to me?
    And finally, what could I do to get involved with these issues? I have a lot of free time this year and I’m in search of something truly meaningful to spend it on. I would appreciate any ideas or guidance on how an everyday person with time on their hands could make a difference by taking on the role of an activist. I know I would need to better understand the workings of our legislative system, and I would be glad if anyone could post links to pertinent reading in that regard. Also, if there are any groups or organizations that are particularly I volved in this kind of work, I would love to know about them.

    The way I read LD 783, it is trying to re-establish the basic human right of allowing us to purchase any kind of food we want, which is a right that has been infringed. The real question is whether that is a right that we should have. I think it’s saying that if I go out and purchase some uninspected meat and get ill from it, that’s my fault… I take responsibility for my own actions and potential mistakes, just like it was in the days before all of the govt laws and restrictions. Ultimately the purpose of the inspections and safety standards should be to protect the consumer. To penalize a seller for breaking a law that was created to protect the consumer, when the govt’s protection for the consumer is no longer constitutionally sound — that just wouldn’t make any sense to me. A “right to food” should also free the seller, because otherwise the laws would be contradicting themselves. Does that make sense? It makes sense in my head but it’s a little hard to explain. Overall, I think the bill is so generic that it probably wouldn’t be defined until the state court made a judgment on a case.

    Eliot, it’s good to hear you’re interested in helping out. I’m going to put you in touch with Richard Gould, the founder of the CFOAA: http://www.cfoaa.org/

I am considering home licensing to sell baked goods from my kitchen in Maine. Are there restrictions for pets? I have a Shih Tzu.

    Just reading the Chapter 345 regulations (link above in the Resources section), and came across this: “No animals or birds or uncontrolled children shall be allowed in the food preparation area.” Hope this helps!

    Thanks for pointing that out! I hadn’t realized that my info was out-of-date, so I just re-researched Maine’s law and updated this page with some new information.

I would like to make homemade Thai spring rolls. Ingradients contain cooked vegetables, vermicelli noodles and wraps which require refrigerated. What type of license I will need? Is this consider NPH. I also would like to make other pre cooked dumpings which contains cooked pork and seafoods. And also require refrigerated. Can I cook from home and what type of listen I will need. Please advise. Thank you so much.

Thank you. This is a great article. We are currently in the process of determining whether starting an activity based on local produce and homemade foods can make sense for us. I noticed that dried pasta seems to be exempt based on its non hazardous nature. Do you know how fresh egg pasta is treated, if it requires licensing, and which kind? Our idea would be to use Farmers Markets as primary venues .
Thank you so much

We presently operate a small B&B in Maine. We are considering offering baked goods through the mail and/or as a take-away package for our guests. What do we need to do to be compliant with all applicable laws.

    I’m not really sure. B&B’s have different requirements, and I’m not sure if they can also be used for a home food manufacturing business. You should contact the ag dept to learn more.

Hi I work for a non profit agency and we will be doing a few one day events in different communities We would like to sell cotton candy. What do we need to do legal for any license requirements or anything else that we need to be informed.

    This law’s requirements pertain to items produced at home. Would you be preparing the cotton candy on-site? There are special requirements for those types of businesses, and I recommend you contact the ag dept for specific info.

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