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Virginia Home Food Processing Operation

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

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.

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!)

Allowed Foods

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

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

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

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

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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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

Hello, I am starting the process of getting my home food processing permits in VA. Do you think if I have a vegan menu I will get approved? I called the dept of meat and they didn’t have any information for me. Everyone seems to be pushing my questions off to someone else and no one really seems to know. I appreciate any information you can provide. Thank you!

    Yes, I think anything without meat should be approved. The ag dept is the one you need to talk to, but it’s not uncommon for many people in govt depts to be unaware of these laws. Have you tried the contacts listed in the Resources section on this page?

Hello, I have some technical questions.. I am interested in manufacturing cookies filled with a buttercream frosting containing eggs, cream and cream cheese, which I understand is not approved. Is it possible to prepare this recipe in a commercial kitchen, but assemble it at home, as well as storing it in my home (ie: in the refrigerator/freezer)? What are the specific regulations to storing foods unapproved by the Cottage Food Law?

Hello, I am interested in Kombucha regulation and wanted to know how did you determined that it is allowed as a home food processing business and if this kombucha would only have to be below the 0.5% alcohol level. Thanks

    As long as you’re approved and inspected as a home food processing operation, you should be able to sell any non-meat food item. You may have to get a special liquor permit if the alcohol content is over a certain level. You can ask the ag dept for more info.

    I could see all of them being allowed, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the meat broths are not allowed. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer, so you’ll need to ask the ag dept about it.

If I wanted to be able to make products such as buttercream frosting’s or cheesecakes or other butter, eggs and or cream what would I have to do to be qualified?

Hello; I would appreciate a clarification on selling baked goods in the state of VA. Based on the demand for Greek Pastries , I would like to bake and sell the most popular pasties. Born and raised in Greece I am very knowledgeable of all popular baked goods. Can I just bake and package the desserts in my own kitchen and sell at Church fairs, festivals etc without any required license other that State of Va. retail tax permit? Thank you

Hi David, thanks for all that information!

People having Itin number could apply to that kind of business ?

Also, the link TO the application form is not working.

    I’m not sure if someone without a SS number could start one of these businesses, but you could try contacting the ag dept about that.

    Thanks for letting me know about the link — now it’s fixed.

If I rented a commercial kitchen would I need to still pay the $40 annual fee? I’ve read that churches have kitchens for rent sometimes, are they covered,here or do I just need to make sure the kitchen is subject to inspection?

Hello! I love this website and ease and organization of all the information. Thank you for such a wonderful resource. I have one question though – if I am a renter, not a home owner, am I still eligible to operate a home baking business in VA?