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Minnesota

Cottage Food Law

Minnesota passed a new law in 2015 (SF 5) which greatly improves their former cottage food law, which used to be one of the most restrictive in the nation. Cottage food operations can now sell most types of non-potentially hazardous foods from home and at some local markets, and they can sell up to $18,000 of products per year. Before starting their business, an operation needs to register with the ag department and take a food safety training course.

In 2013, a couple Minnesota bakers aligned with the Institute of Justice to bring a lawsuit to the State Department of Agriculture, which hoped to prove that the ag department doesn’t have the right to limit homemade food sales. It was the first time a lawsuit had been created to improve a cottage food law. Despite their compelling video to gain support, the case was dismissed by a state court. Although the case was eventually reinstated, it doesn’t appear that the Institute of Justice intends to press the case further, now that the cottage food law is in place.

Selling

“Events” only refers to community events: you cannot sell your products at other types of events.

You can sell online, but you cannot ship products to customers. All deliveries must be delivered by you personally (for instance, a family member could not deliver a product for you).

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Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

All canned goods must have a pH of 4.6 or below, and all products need to be classified as non-potentially hazardous. If you are not sure if one of your products is potentially hazardous, you should contact the ag department for more information.

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

Sales are limited to $18,000 per year
To sell up to $18,000 per year, you must pay $50 for your registration
Sales are limited to $5,000 per year
If you do not make more than $5,000 per year, you can register for free

You cannot set up your cottage food operation as an LLC. In addition, you cannot start a cottage food operation if you run another type of business out of your home.

Business

Food Handlers Training

All cottage food operations need to take a food handlers training course before registering, which is very easy, as it only consists of reading the information in the document. It’s possible that the ag department will eventually develop a more robust training course for operations who sell over $5,000 of products per year. Training must be renewed every three years.

The University of Minnesota Extension has also created a series of Farmers Market Academies around the state, which fulfills the training requirement and also provides additional info and good networking opportunities. The academy costs $35.

Registration

All cottage food operations must register with the ag department, regardless of how much they sell per year. However, operations with $5,000 or less of annual sales can register for free, while operations with more than $5,000 of annual sales need to pay a $50 registration fee. Registrations need to be renewed every year and always expire on December 31st.

Sales amounts are calculated based on the prior year’s sales — therefore, your first registration is free and you only need to pay for renewals if you sold more than $5,000 of products in the past year.

Zoning Approval

Before registering, you need to prove that your local ordinances will allow your business. Cities or counties can prevent cottage food operations from starting in their area. Contact the department that enforces zoning regulations in your area to get approval for your cottage food operation.

Business License

You may need to get a business license before starting your business. Contact the department in your city or county that issues business licenses to find out if you need one.

Only individuals — not businesses — can use the cottage food law, so you cannot establish an LLC. In addition, if you run any other form of business out of your home, you are not eligible to start a cottage food operation.

Sales Tax

You may be required to collect sales tax on the products you sell. You should call the Minnesota Department of Revenue at 651-556-3000 to learn more.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, MN 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


Produced on 12/4/2020


You must also place a placard at the point of sale with this statement: “”These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection.” If you sell your products online, you must include this statement on the website. For those producing canned goods, the statement must start with “These canned goods…” instead of “These products…”

Resources

Contacts
Department
Department of Agriculture
Email
mda.cottagefood@state.mn.us
Telephone
651-201-6027
Law Dates
May 2002
SF 3256
August 2004
SF 2428
July 2015
SF 5

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Comments

i want to start a home based dumpling delivery business so that people can enjoy an actually well nutritioned dumpling. do i need any sort of license to do that? what do i actually need to do if i have to go through any sort of legal procedures. thank yu

Hey David,

I want to outsource my dough production then rent commercial kitchen space just to cook the product and package it. My question is, if I receive the dough in bulk, could I store it at my home then transport it to a kitchen? What if I bought a dedicated freezer for it? Or just made space in an older second freezer we have in the basement already?

Thanks!

Bob

    Usually you can’t commingle commercial and home food production. You can sell baked goods with the cottage food law, but it sounds like you want to do indirect sales since you’re mass-producing your product, so that wouldn’t work with the cottage food law. You should talk with the health dept about the best way to setup your business, and see if they will allow the storage at home.

What kind of permit and equipment (other than my large gas grill and small refrigerator) would I need to grill food for sale at local music events parking lots?

I make hot sauce. Can I prepare it at home? It does say not to use plant based like beans, but peppers are from plants so I was confused. But preserves are ok… My oh is below the 4.6 mark. Any help would be great. Thank you!

    I’m not entirely sure if hot sauce is allowed, but I don’t think it is. I think their canned good allowance for vegetables only applies to preserving the vegetables by themselves (like pickled peppers), not for a prepared item like hot sauce. You should call the ag dept to double check.

I believe your reading of the statute is incorrect. In addition to specifically listing “community events” and “farmers markets” the statute allows for other non-specific direct-to-consumer sales:

Subd. 2. Direct sales to consumers. (a) An individual qualifying for an exemption under subdivision 1 may sell the exempt food:
(1) directly to the ultimate consumer;
(2) at a community event or farmers’ market; or
(3) directly from the individual’s home to the consumer, to the extent allowed by local ordinance.

This means farm stands and other direct sales venues/methods are acceptable. If 1) was a qualification for 2) and 3), “directly to the ultimate consumer” would come before the colon and then there would only be two enumerated sales options.

    That was how I also initially read it, but the ag dept interpreted it differently, and their interpretation is what counts. I agree that it’s a poor choice of wording, but if you read more on the ag dept’s website, you can see that they only allow sales “from the home, at farmer’s markets, community events, or on the Internet”. On the flip side, one could argue that if all direct sales were allowed, then points 2 and 3 wouldn’t even be necessary.

Sorry I am not sure if this has been asked. I was wondering about MN laws regarding pets under the cottage food law. I cannot seem to find a definitive answer. Thank you for any info or links!

Hey David,

Question for you. The rules on cake making seem a bit unclear to me. It states you cannot sell anything in which the frosting or filling requires refrigeration. I’m assuming it means anything that requires refrigeration is not allowed. What if the cake itself requires refrigeration but the frosting and filling do not? Is there anyway around this? Also it says you must deliver the items yourself. Does this mean a delivery service such as Bitesquad is out of the picture?

Thanks

    Nothing can require refrigeration, including the cake itself, though you can refrigerate your items if you want to. I don’t think you can use any delivery services to deliver your product. If you want more flexibility in your business, including selling items requiring refrigeration, you need to use a commercial kitchen. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial