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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a bit different than other states in that it doesn’t have laws specific to cottage food operations, but the Department of Agriculture simply allows “limited food establishments” that meet specific guidelines. The application process is lengthy, but limited food establishments have a lot of flexibility once they’re setup.

Unlike other states, in Pennsylvania, there are many similarities between the registration process for limited food establishments and other food processors. The fee to register is only $35, but the startup costs could be greater since certain types of products require lab testing. The establishment must also create a business plan and get their home inspected before getting approved. One notable restriction is that pets are not ever allowed in the parts of the home where the establishment operates.

Once they’re registered, establishments have a lot of freedom in running their business. Pennsylvania allows more types of food than most states, and it is the only state to allow meat jerky to be produced from the home. Establishments can sell anywhere they want (including interstate), and there is no limit on the amount they can sell.

Selling

Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

Certain items require lab testing (mostly canned foods and drinks) — check the application for more details.

Chocolate-covered fruits may only be sold if the fruit has a pH of 4.6 or below (like strawberries or apples).

There are special rules and guidelines for producing honey.

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

Interstate sales are allowed.

Pets are ONLY allowed in your home if you can completely prevent them from accessing the parts of it where you operate your business. You cannot carry any ingredients or products through an area that pets can access, and your kitchen, storage, and prep areas must be completely shut off from them. If you can’t guarantee that your pets will be precluded from those parts of your home, then you can’t run a limited food establishment. Caged pets (birds, snakes, etc.) that are kept away from the kitchen are allowed.

Business

Registration

To get registered, establishments must submit an application, which asks for all the types of food products that will be produced by the business. Before registering, certain products must be tested in a lab to determine their safety when left at room temperature, like jams, jellies, preserves, salsa, hot sauces, and other questionable items. In addition to testing, the establishment must also document formulas and procedures for these products, and in some cases, also include a process flow with the application.

In addition to that, all limited food establishments must complete a “plan review application”. This is a written plan that includes many details about the business:

  • Who supplies each ingredient
  • How equipment and food will be stored
  • What equipment will be used while producing the products
  • What methods will be used when producing the foods, including packaging
  • How the products will be transported
  • What venues will be used for selling the products
  • Where the goods will be sold (a list of specific locations)

Beyond the plan review, the application requires a number of other pieces of information about the business, like number of employees, working hours, tax documentation, and product labels.

Home inspection

After the application is submitted, an official will schedule a home inspection. Once approved, a registration fee of $35 (renewed annually) is due and the establishment can start their business.

Private well testing

If the kitchen’s water supply comes from a private well, it must be tested annually, which would incur an extra fee.

The approval process could take up to 60 days to complete.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, PA 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)


Nutritional info is necessary when shipping interstate, or when making health claims on the label (e.g. low fat, sugar free, etc).

Some bakery items do not require labeling, but it must be available to the consumer if requested.  Some items like this would be unpackaged items, like wedding cakes, or products sold to a restaurant and consumed on their premises.

If your acidified food or drink product has a final pH level at or above 4.0, then every batch must be checked with a pH meter. Also, a log must be kept of production date, batch number, pH level, and corrective actions taken to adjust the pH level. If your acidified product has a pH level below 4.0, then you must check the pH level at least four times throughout the year. If your acidified product has a pH level above 4.4, then you need to get special approval from a Process Authority. Check the application for more details.

Workplace

Ingredients for the business must be kept separate from those for personal use.

Resources

Contacts

Abdellah Elhajjam

Job Title
Program Manager
Organization
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Email
[email protected]
Telephone
717-772-5208

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Comments

Can I make a chimchuri sauce with garlic and oil, but also vinegar? Is there a ratio of garlic to vinegar that would be acceptable?
Thanks

Where is the line drawn between commercial and non commercial equipment for a home bakery? Many homes have small mixers and/or portable convection ovens.
Also am I right in understanding that you ARE allowed to use fruits and vegetables in baked products as long finished products donot require refrigeration?(carrot cake muffins, onion bagels etc)

I was wondering if freeze dried fruits, vegetables, candies and ice creams have been added to the laws. I know it does say dried fruits and vegetables but that refers to dehydrated. Dehydrating still allows for some moisture in foods where freeze drying all moisture is completely removed then packaged in mylar with O2 absorbers or in vacuumed sealed jars with O2 obsorbers.

I would like to participate in a local farmers market. It will run one day a week for 14weeks. I do not plan to participate every week. I planned to make fudge and flavored pretzels (purchase bagged pretzels and season them.

I have a small dog. From what I am reading I cannot do this, correct? Because of the dog. Thank you in advance.

    You can as long as the pet does not have the ability to access the kitchen. If the dog goes into the kitchen, then no, you can’t do it.

    It’s not difficult to train a good dog to stay out of a kitchen, if done young enough. If not, install a door or gate. I am confused as to whether pets must stay out ALL the time, or just while making the products. A drop-down said while making products, but another spot on the website insinuated all the time, which could be hard for some people whose back door is in the kitchen.

Hello, what does the home inspection look for when evaluating a home kitchen? Other than cleanliness and where ingredients are stored are there other things I could address ahead of time? Thank you!

Just so you people know the Past law states you can have pets but the must not have access to your kitchen area they must be blocked off at all times.i have pets but the are blocked off to the kitchen. An can not enter it at all. An the ag Dept knows this an will pass you like they did me.

I am planning on operating a coffee roasting business out of a space in our basement. There is access to the basement from a separate entry way ( not through the house). We have a dog that does not come into the basement. Is this acceptable since no prodoct would be moving through the living space that the dog is in?

Hi i was wondering if a Food managers/handlers certificate is needed to start a baking business from home ? Or do i only need it for a commercial kitchen?

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