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Tennessee

Cottage Food Law

In 2012, Tennessee updated their home-based food laws to make it much easier for cooks to sell their homemade food. Although a license or inspection from the ag department is no longer required, producers can only sell in-person at certain venues. However, sellers may still utilize the older domestic kitchen law if they want to sell indirectly to restaurants or stores.

Producers can sell an unlimited amount of non-PHF baked goods, candies, jams, jellies, or other similar items. While no training is required under this amended law, the Department of Agriculture strongly encourages sellers to take a food safety course.

Selling

At the place of sale, you must display a regular (8.5″ x 11″) sheet of paper that says “These food products were made in a private home not licensed or inspected” (0.75-inch font).

You can give out free samples of your products.

The law isn’t clear about whether online sales are allowed, but it is clear that all products need to be handed to the customer in-person. You can definitely sell online if you become licensed under the domestic kitchen law.

Made-to-order goods (like birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and custom cookies) may fall under catering and be regulated by the health department, in which case, they would not be allowed under this law. Contact your local health department to learn if you can produce them from home.

Starting a cottage food business?

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Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

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Allowed Foods

Prohibited 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

Honey sales are limited to 150 gallons per year (TCA 53-1-102-29). If you produce more than that, you need to use a licensed and inspected facility.

Business

Even though there is no license or training required, you are still encouraged to take a training course in food handling and have an authority check your recipes.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"This product was made in a private home not license or inspected"


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, TN 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)


Produced on 10/24/2020


NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)


Resources

Contacts
Job Title
Principal Secretary
Organization
Food Science & Technology, University of Tennessee
Email
naustin@utk.edu
Telephone
865-974-7011
Fax
865-974-7332
Address
201A Food Science & Technology Building
2510 River Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4539
About
Contact Nancy about food safety training
Law Dates
May 2012
SB 3547

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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

I am wanting to make and sell chocolate covered cherry cordials. I know this falls under the candy part of the law, but I am confused, your article states that interstate sales are not allowed, however, internet sales and mail order sales are allowed. Can you clarify?

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I intended it to mean that you can use those methods for in-state sales, but now that I look at the law again (with a bit more know-how about bill author’s intentions), I can see that they never intended to allow internet sales. The law is written to allow direct sales only, even if they don’t make that explicitly clear. Therefore, I will remove those venue options from the list. You should still be able to advertise online, but I’m almost certain that they want you to meet all of your customers in-person.

    Thank you for the clarification. I tried reading the law myself but could not make heads nor tails of it.

I am currently getting my home designer cake business off the ground… I am getting so much business in fact that I want to get licensed. I can get a license under this law but not have to have an inspection? I currently do not have any type of business or food service license thru tn. I just want to be able to pay taxes so that I do not ru. I to trouble in the future for selling too much.

    You really don’t have to do much more to be compliant with the law. You could call your planning division and see if they require you to get anything. You’ll probably only need a business license to start paying taxes, but I think even if you didn’t apply for one, you’d still be fine and be considered a sole proprietorship by default.

I am thinking of selling some cheesecakes just to people I know and maybe eventually farmers markets or bake sales. Do cheesecakes fall under the cake category

I want to sell fondant cake toppers. Can I make and ship them to other states without a license? Also, can I make copyrighted designs such as Disney characters?

    These items may or may not be allowed, depending on the recipe and the health department’s ruling. If the items need to be refrigerated after you make them, then they are definitely not allowed. Otherwise, you should check with your health department about this. You may eventually be required to get them lab tested to ensure that they are shelf-stable. It is quite possible that even if your items were shelf-stable, the department would still not allow them because the law technically disallows “home-canned foods other than jams and jellies” — but the health department has the final say on this one.

    Beth, your BBQ sauce recipe should be allowed if it is a non-potentially hazardous food. Sauces like this are borderline products, so you might need to get your sauce lab-tested to ensure that it’s safe without refrigeration. If you already know that the sauce needs to be refrigerated, then it would not be allowed. You should call your health department to learn more.

    You need to become a regular food business, and you would not be able to make these items from home (you need access to a commercial kitchen). You can call your health department to learn how to get licensed as this type of business.

I’ve recently started a home bakery business adhering to these guidelines. My question…if all goods are baked in my TN kitchen, can I sell and ship them to other states or only within TN? Thanks for the guidance! :)

    Most states don’t allow interstate sales, but TN’s law doesn’t specify one way or another. It’s quite possible that you could ship interstate… you could find out for sure if you called up the Health Department (if you do, please let us know what you find out). You should be aware, though, that some states won’t allow you to sell to them, regardless of TN’s stance on the matter.