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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

I would like to know. If I wanted to start selling Mac and Cheese at a farmers market, am I covered under the food cottage laws? It would be made and packaged in the home and sold at the farmers market.

Hello! I am interested in canning and selling my pickled beets. Any information anyone can provide would be helpful. I have read the cottage food laws. I need to know the location where I can enroll in the acidifying food course near 22406 zip code.

Hi There. I was interested in starting a cookie business in VA and selling on-line and at events. Can you guide me in the right direction? Do I need to get a license/permit/kitchen inspection?

    I am a lawyer turned baker and help bakers, home bakers and small business bakers with laws, regulations and business consulting. You can make your cookies under Cottage Food laws but you can not sell on line and can sell only at farmers markets and direct to customers. If you want to sell online and in other places you may need to get the Home food Processing license in which your kitchen will be inspected. You can follow my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lawofficeofdawnbelisle.

The information on this page is very helpful; although I am familiar with most of the process since I operate a home bakery business in Virginia, I didn’t know about specific state laws to sell online; also, this page provides the information in one location which will make it easier for someone who is just starting a home bakery business.
Thank you so much!

I’d like to sell homemade ice cream infused with alcohol. Do you know any regulations involving this that could help me get started? Thank you!

If I wanted to make brewed tea and sell it could I do that with this law or even cottage food law?
Also, do you know the likely hood of your kitchen inspection being passed if you simply live in an apartment?

Thank you

A locally owned restaurant wants me to make baked goods at home and bring them in for resale,
It seems I would need to apply to become a home food processing operation is this correct?
I live in Virginia-also what would my liability be for this?
Thank you
Jen

Hello, I currently own a gym and would like to sell homemade food at my facility. Who should I call/What limitations would I have?