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North Carolina

North Carolina is unlike any other state, in that it has a food program for home processors, yet it does not have laws in place to allow them.  Other states have specific laws in place that override the federal laws that prohibit home-based food sales, but since North Carolina has no such laws, technically their food program could get shut down at any time.  However, they have been committed to helping educate home-based food businesses for some time, and in general, the NC Department of Agriculture is much more friendly towards such producers than most states that actually have cottage food laws.

North Carolina’s program has some restrictions and a relatively long application process, but once approved, home processors have a lot of flexibility on what, where, and how much they can sell.  One significant restriction is that the processor may never allow pets in their home, even if it’s only at night.  To apply, they need to create a business plan and may need to have their products tested or take an acidified foods course, depending on what they’re selling.  After applying, they must get a home inspection before starting their business.  Neither the application nor inspection cost anything, but some of the extra requirements do have fees that could run into the hundreds of dollars.

Once setup, the processor may sell as much as they want at any location.  Almost anything that is non-perishable is allowed, but some products require lab testing before being approved.

Selling

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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
There is no sales limit

Business

Application and home inspection

Even though the Department of Agriculture does not issue permits to home processors, they still require that each one fill out an application and get an inspection before selling any food products.  Before applying, the processor must develop a business plan.  This plan includes:

  • All of the ingredients used and their source
  • A plan for how food and equipment will be stored
  • A production flow that specifies how foods will be processed
  • A plan for transporting the products
  • A list of all locations where the goods will be sold
Acidified Foods Safety Course

If the processor produces acidified foods, like pickles, preserves, dressings, or sauces, they must take a course on safe production practices.  This is usually a multi-day course and can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.

Product testing

Certain food products (especially acidified ones) must be individually tested to ensure they are safe, which costs $100 per product.

Private well testing

If the processor is using a private well, it must be tested within a year of submitting the application, which would incur an additional fee.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, NC 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)


Some custom-made or on-demand products are exempt from labeling, but the label must be given to the buyer on request.

Workplace

A thermometer must be kept in the refrigerator to monitor the temperature, and light bulbs in the kitchen must have protective shields or be shatter-proof.

Resources

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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

If I do not have a separate hand washing sink but purchase a portable sink that only has regular temperature water, will I not pass inspection?

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