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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

If i want to sell Tamales made from scratch, salsa made from scratch, and custard made from scratch,with the intent of people picking up at my home, do I need to get a food processing permit? thanks

Hello I’m planning on making cakes in a jar and granola bars. I will prepare them from my kitchen. Will I be able to sell them at flea markets?

The children and I randomly do bake sales from our house approx 3 times a year…..Bread rolls cookies and pies.
the community enjoys the times i have done it.If i continue to do this do I need anything to make this legal to do?

I’ve read the laws for VA and I’m still not certain about dairy…I’d like to make & sell very simple cheesecake and bread pudding. Is that permissible?

I am wanting to use the cottage food law to make homemade candy do I need to get a business license saying it is a cottage law and where do I get them

Can I brew bubble tea at home with this permit? I would be cooking tapioca and brewing tea. Then transporting them both in sealed container to serve at events.

I am interested in bakin and selling dog treats. I don’t see any information relating to this at all. How would I go about it?

I am interested in producing and selling potato salad with egg, mayo, and mustard. Will I have any issues selling a food product with egg?