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Virginia Home Food Processing Operation Can you legally sell food from home in Virginia?

Cottage Food Law

Unlike almost every other state, Virginia allows people to operate very unrestricted food businesses out of their homes. Their food laws are very different than most states, written in such a way that there is not any distinction between a food business that uses a commercial kitchen versus a home kitchen. Instead, the distinction is provided by the ag department.

However, because these home food businesses have so few restrictions, the setup process is relatively complicated, compared to most states’ cottage food laws. Fortunately, Virginia also has a cottage food law which exempts some types of producers from needing to go through this process or get their kitchen inspected.

Producers under these rules can sell at any venue, either directly or indirectly, and they can make any product that does not contain meat. The somewhat complicated setup process includes a lengthy application, a kitchen inspection, and required training for acidified food products. Home food processing operations are charged a $40 annual fee.

Considering the low startup cost and the fact that this type of home food business is impossible in almost all states, Virginia’s food laws and rules are very friendly to home cooks.

Selling Where can you sell homemade food products?

Although not specified, it is unlikely that you will be able to serve food at your home, due to zoning restrictions.

To start a catering business, you need to use a commercial kitchen.

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Allowed Foods What food products can you sell from home?

Prohibited Foods

Any food item that does not contain meat is allowed. To sell meat-containing products, you need to contact the VDACS Office of Meat and Poultry Services at 804-786-4569.

Limitations How will your home food business be restricted?

Limitations
There is no sales limit

If you have an uncaged pet, your kitchen and storage areas must have doors that will prevent the animal from accessing those areas at all times.

Business What do you need to do to sell food from home?

Application

The application for a home food processing operation includes a number of requirements:

  • Business information
  • Kitchen and storage area diagram
  • Information sheets for each product (including full recipes and process plans)
  • Labels for each product
  • Product distribution plan
  • List of sources for all ingredients
Kitchen inspection

After submitting your application, an inspector will come to inspect your home kitchen. You cannot start your business until your kitchen has been approved.

Although not initially levied, your business will be charged a $40 annual inspection fee, regardless of whether an inspector comes to your home every year.

For more info about the inspection and annual fee, read the department’s inspection FAQs.

Zoning approval

Contact your zoning office to get approval to operate a home business.

Private well testing

If your water comes from a private well, you must get it tested, which would incur additional fees.

Acidified Foods Course

If you make acidified foods (pickled goods, salsas, sauces, etc), you need to complete a Better Control Process School training course for acidified foods, which costs about $250. Contact your ag department to learn about upcoming courses.

Acidified Foods Process Approval

If you make acidified foods (pickled goods, salsas, sauces, etc) or items containing garlic in oil, the production processes for those products need to be approved by a processing authority. More information about finding a processing authority can be found in the application.

Labeling How do you label cottage food products?

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, VA 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)


More detailed labeling information can be found in the application.

Resources Where can you find more information about this law?

Contacts

Northern VA (NOVA) Region Office

Department
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Employee
Emma Lofton
Email
emma.lofton@vdacs.virginia.gov
Telephone
804-786-3520
Fax
804-371-7792
Address
PO Box 1163, Suite 345
Richmond, VA 23218
About
North of Richmond includes Charlottesville

Southwest Region Office

Department
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Employee
Lisa Ramsey
Email
lisa.ramsey@vdacs.virginia.gov
Telephone
540-562-3641
Fax
540-562-3649
Address
2943-E Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, VA 24019
About
Includes Harrisonburg and East to Prince Edward County

Tidewater Region Office

Department
VDACS - Office of Food Safety
Employee
Annie McCullough
Email
annie.mccullough@vdacs.virginia.gov
Telephone
757-363-3840
Fax
757-363-3838
Address
5700 Thurston Ave, Suite 104
Virginia Beach, VA 23455
About
Includes Richmond city and Three Rivers

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Comments

I am going to start making cheese plates for people and delivering the locally. I will be making spreads and jams homemade but will be buying and then placing the cheese on the boards for customers. What kind of process would someone like me need to go through? I already have LLC, EIN, but lost on if I need licensing to get going or can I go for it?

If I want to start selling cookies. Do I need to have an LLC first or the cottage license first? Im ready to get both started but I wasn’t sure if one had come before the other.

Also I am a little unclear as to which cases need a kitchen inspection and which cases don’t.

Thanks so much!

Hi,
I am interested in selling baked goods basic items at like farmers markets and flea markets and even posting whats available for someone to come and pickup. Based on the information I read above, it doesn’t seem like I would have to get my residence inspected. Is that correct? Lastly, I will also sell basic lotion bars, decorated mason jars, sugar scrubs and bath bombs would I need a business license for all of this (including the baked goods)??

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