Massachusetts Can you legally sell food from home in Massachusetts?
Cottage Food Law
Since this page was last updated, Boston created an ordinance to allow residential kitchens, so now Boston residents can use the cottage food law.
Massachusetts developed its law for “residential kitchens” in 2000, well before cottage food laws became common. Residential kitchens are considered “food establishments” (like their commercial counterparts), so it is harder to start a home food business in MA than it is in other states. However, there are fewer restrictions: there is no sales limit, and owners of residential kitchens can sell at any venue within the state.
Like most cottage food laws, the allowed foods are limited to non-perishable items, but most non-PHFs are allowed. Before getting started, a residential kitchen needs to get inspected and permitted by a local board of health, and some regions may require food safety training as well. Only members of the residential kitchen’s household can help with food preparation.
Selling Where can you sell homemade food products?
Allowed Foods What food products can you sell from home?
Limitations How will your home food business be restricted?
Only members of the household may help with preparation of the food.
Business What do you need to do to sell food from home?
You must apply for a permit from your local board of health. While the fees vary from one region to another, an annual permit is typically around $50 – $100.
Before your permit application is approved, your kitchen must get inspected by a health official. The kitchen requirements are specified on page 3587 of the law.
Some regions require food safety training, such as the $125 ServSafe Manager Course or something equivalent.
If you have to take a food safety course, you’ll also likely need to complete a $10 allergen training course.
If your water comes from a private source, it must get tested, which would incur extra fees.
If you use a private sewage system, it must get inspected, which would incur extra fees.
Labeling How do you label cottage food products?
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Forrager Cookie Company
123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, MA 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)
Workplace Are there any home kitchen requirements?
The kitchen must have a separate storage location for products related to the business.
There are actually a lot more rules pertaining to the kitchen environment, which are explained on page 3587 of the bill.
Resources Where can you find more information about this law?
- Department of Public Health
- 305 South Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Food Protection Program
- October 2000
- 105 CMR 590
Can dairy free smoothies ( with fruits and veggies) be prepared in a residential kitchen?
No — you need to use a commercial kitchen. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial
I have a small farm stand. Can I sell home made jams? Do have to all of this stuff? What about breads?
Yes, I believe you have to go through all of these steps for both jams and breads, or produce them in a commercial kitchen. You should contact your health board.
Does crepes qualify for the requirement of residential kitchen?
No — you need to produce those in a commercial kitchen. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial
Hi, have there been changes in laws or can you explain how new web platform/communities for home cooked meals are able to operate legally, eg eathomemade.com, viseat.com, menunextdoor.com. I see some clues in tech journal write-ups, but wonder if you’ve researched this new phenomenon at all. Thanks
There haven’t been changes in laws in most states, and generally speaking, those types of platforms that are operating in the United States are doing so illegally. It’s easy to fly under the radar at first, but eventually, the health dept has to do something about it; that was the case recently when Josephine was effectively shut down by the Alameda County health dept.
How does one get approved for mail order? I’m so confused. Must I just prepare the items I intend to sell mail order in a rented commercial space? I contacted the FDA but they were very unclear. Thanks!
Yes, you need to prepare the food in a commercial kitchen and get licensed with your Board of Health.
I’m hoping to sell fresh dried pasta from my home to friends and family this summer, not commercially as of yet. I’m a bit confused by all of these permits and inspections, is it possible for me make the pasta and to sell out of my home?
It probably is possible, but only if you get the proper permits and get your kitchen inspected. I’d recommend calling your board of health, and they should be able to guide you.
My wife and I have been trying to find a solid answer about dehydrated fruit and whether or not that can operate under a residential kitchen. Any insight to offer?
I would recommend contacting your local health dept, and if they don’t know, contact the state health dept.
i am a Chinese student in Worcester, MA. i want to cook some Chinese food to sell to my classmates, only few dishes per day, including fried rice and Chinese fried chicken. Is it legal to sell? I just want to make a little money to pay for my tuition.
That would not be legal — it requires a commercial kitchen. However, I did something similar when I was in college. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial
Hello Xiaozhe, Why not suggest a “Donation” for funding for your College Education? I believe that is not “technically” selling (I could be wrong, just a thought. ) IF you are doing this for friends and family the chance of getting busted seems pretty slim. Also, I seriously doubt that you are going to do “hard time” for an illegal fried Chicken Dinner. Be stringent with cleanliness and product quality AND tell only your close friends and family. If they want to order extra for “other customers/friends” make sure that they never divulge the direct source. Example Your best friend has a roommate who with some other friends tasted your fantastic fried Rice and Chicken. They would like to order some. Your best friend tells them the ‘suggested donation price.” they order through your best friend and pay the “suggested donation.” Your best friend rings you and you cook up the meals. Deliver only directly to your Buddy and collect the “Donations.” Worst case scenario if you get “busted” is that you are from China and a hard working foreign student and thought it was legal to raise funds for your education. Please look up the State laws for food preparation and fines in your area. If the fine is 100-500 USD if you get caught but you get away with it for a year or two then the gamble could be worth it. I also seriously doubt that if you got caught that it would mar your College record. We are talking Food not Drug Cartel. LOL
Actually, it’s not even legal to give food away to the public for free, since it still has the potential to introduce a health hazard. But it is true that the chance of getting caught is low, and the potential fines are probably minimal.
Thank you for the tips. I was wondering if these same rules apply when opening an herbal apothecary? We will be selling teas, bulk herbs, books, etc, not so much on the food side, do we still need to do all of the food safety? Is tea recognized as food?
Yes, teas and dried herbs are considered a prepared food, but I’m not familiar with the laws for medicinal herbs. The rules are probably different if your products make health claims, and you should contact the health dept about this.
Has the requirements under “Business” been updated? I was looking through the Commonwealth of Mass website and it said both initial business certification and annual report filings cost $500 each for LLCs, which is very expensive. (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/cor/corpweb/corllc/llcinf.htm)
Also, if I want to start a food business in Cambridge MA, would I need to register my business under BOTH the Cambridge government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
Lastly, if I were to work as a sole proprietor, do I still have to register my business with any of the two governments and does this have a fee involved? Thank you!
I haven’t re-researched the law in a few years (it shouldn’t have changed), but I don’t factor in LLC expenses in the business section. That business decision is highly optional, and in my opinion, unnecessary for most CFOs starting out: http://forrager.com/faq/#llc
I’m not familiar with all of the specific local regulations in MA, but usually you only need to register a business with one jurisdiction (likely your county). Sometimes you don’t need to register your business if you are operating under your name, but you’d likely need to register if you wanted to use a fictitious name as a sole proprietor.