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Virginia

Cottage Food Law

Virginia allows producers to make certain types of food from home without needing a license or inspection from the ag department. The information on this page only pertains to operations that do not get their home kitchen inspected. If you want to make more types of food or to sell in more venues, you can apply to be a home food processing operation, which is much more complicated than using the exemption described below.

To use the inspection exemption, producers have to adhere to some restrictions. For instance, a producer can only sell from farmers markets and their home, and they can only sell certain types of food. Fortunately, the law was amended in 2013 to allow many more kinds of products. A few types of products, like pickles and honey, have sales limits.

Virginia had another bill (HB 1290) that aimed to replace the current cottage food law with an exemption that would prevent any type of cottage food business from needing licensing or inspection. As happened last year (HB 135), it was too ambitious and it died in its session. These bills are part of a group’s food freedom initiative.

Selling

Advertising online is allowed, even though internet sales are not allowed.

Honey can be sold to any venue, without restriction.

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

Pickles and acidified vegetables must have a pH level no higher than 4.6, and only $3,000 of sales are allowed per year.

Low-acid or acidified low-acid food products (like some sugar-free jams) are not allowed.

Infused honey products are not allowed.

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
Most types of products have no sales limit
Sales are limited to $3,000 per year
This $3,000 limit only applies to sales of pickles and other acidified foods

Honey producers can’t sell more than 250 gallons of honey per year.

Business

You do not need a license from the ag department to start your business, though there may be other local requirements (like a business license or zoning approval) that you need to fulfill.

Most food businesses in Virginia are charged an annual $40 fee, but since you are exempt from inspection, this fee does not apply. If you get a $40 bill from the ag department, you should dispute it.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"NOT FOR RESALE - PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION."


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, VA 73531


Phone: (123) 456-7890


Produced on 10/24/2020


Instead of the statement above, honey producers must label their jars with this statement: “PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION. WARNING: Do Not Feed Honey to Infants Under One Year Old.”

Resources

Contacts

Food Safety and Security Program

Department
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Email
foodsafety@vdacs.virginia.gov
Telephone
804-786-3520
Law Dates
July 2008
SB 272
July 2011
SB 1108
July 2013
HB 1852

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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

Hi David,
Thanks for your site and the information. Just to clarify, I am looking to start a side business out of my home selling custom made cakes. I have a dog and small children that are in and out of the kitchen. Do I need to be inspected in any way? Do I need to register with anyone? I am looking to get an LLC, but other than that, do I need anything else? Thank you so much!

    You do not need registration or an inspection, but you should keep your pet out of the kitchen while you are preparing your products.

    You should call your planning division to see if there are any local requirements that you have to meet.

    Elizabeth, I have a home based business and currently bake cakes and many other desserts. You must get your kitchen inspected through the Department of Agriculture. Being that you are using dairy such as eggs (which require refrigeration), an inspector must come to your home. This is a huge must, it is not a lot of work, just call and get a package mailed to you and follow the steps and an inspector will come to your home. And the animals must be no where near the kitchen. Please do this if you ever are considering selling at local markets, craft shows, festivals or fairs, this is a requirement. I have been in business for 2 years now. Don’t risk getting fined if someone realizes you don’t have your kitchen inspected. It’s only $40.00 a year!

    Nicky, isn’t this only a requirement for home food processors? I’ve never seen anything requiring all CFOs in Virginia to get their kitchen inspected, but I’d definitely like to know if this is the case. Baked goods that predominantly have eggs in them, like custards, must be refrigerated and that’s where the home food processor license would be required. But if you just bake a couple eggs into a cake, that still falls under the definition of non-potentially hazardous and does not need refrigeration, and to the best of my knowledge, would not require a kitchen inspection. But I agree that getting an inspection might be wise anyway… it’s definitely helpful for reassuring customers.

    Elizabeth and David,
    Following up with the above comments I was wondering if you know anything about the double sink requirement for at home bakers. I tried to get licensed a while back and was told by the Health Inspector that I needed this in order to be approved. I would love to hear what you know about this.

    Ana, I don’t see anything in the law about this, but it is possible for a local health dept to require a double sink. It would be good to know if all CFOs in the state need to have a double sink.

    The double sink is required for sanitation. If you are producing a product that requires an approved kitchen you must have either a double or triple sink, one for washing and sanitizing and the other for rinsing. If the changes are made to the Cottage Food laws then the number of items you will need to have your kitchen inspected for will be very small.

David, thank you so much for this site!! It’s much more comprehensive than the government sites. I do have two questions.
1) I understand about selling either at a farmers’ market or from your home. Does the producer actually have to be present at the farmers’ market? For example, if I wanted to sell at two markets on the same day, can I be at one, and my son at the other? Or, if I’m committed to a market, but can’t make it one day, can I have someone take my place?

2) I believe the non-honey products are supposed to include this statement on the label “”NOT FOR RESALE – PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION.” Is this no longer true?

    1) Some states specify this, but I haven’t learned about Virginia’s stance. I would say that having your son sell your goods would be fine. The person you have selling should be considered part of the business and should be knowledgeable about the product so they can answer questions (for instance, allergen info). At the point at which someone outside your business is selling for you, that would be considered an indirect sale and would not be allowed.

    2) Thank you so much. I had that info in there, but forgot to check the “Statement” box, so it was hidden. I’m glad you noticed!

I started my business as an entrepreneur chef and I have an upcoming event which I will sell about 5 or 6 kinds of holiday baking (biscotti, baklava, butter cookies filled with honey and buts, spiced date cake, butter cookies filled with jam), I have the Safe Serve Food Management license and I’m insured as well. Do I have to use commercial kitchen in order to sell through marketplace which I will have a table with my products, and do I have to call certain office at the county to notify them! or just go ahead and do it! please I need an answer ASAP b/c the event (marketplace) is in next week. Thanks

    First of all, if the event is not a farmers market, then you need to use a commercial kitchen and you can’t utilize the law info listed here. You can contact the health department for more info about getting a license for running a food business using a commercial kitchen, but it should take much longer than a week to get that sorted out.

    If you’re trying to operate as a cottage food operation and sell at a farmers market, then you don’t need an inspection or license from the ag dept, but you may still need to fulfill some requirements locally — call your planning division to find out. Again, the govt doesn’t have a good history of working quickly, so be open to the possibility of not having everything ready by next week.

I live in Norfolk but bake and deliver from a commercial kitchen in Chesapeake with a serve safe food manager. Now all of the sudden the Dept of Ag is wanting to inspect me and all of my recipes…is this required?

    By law, they are not required to inspect you, but I don’t see anything that would prohibit them from inspecting you if they want to. Bear in mind that cottage food laws are developed for those using their home kitchen only. If you are using a commercial kitchen, then you will fall under the requirements of a standard food business. If you are not licensed to be operating, because you consider yourself a cottage food operation, and they find out that you are using a commercial kitchen, they will probably tell you that you need to go through the steps to create a standard food business. But to answer your question, an inspection isn’t required for a CFO, but the dept has the authority to inspect your home.

You might want to edit this to show that foods requiring temperature control will require an inspection; baked goods like pies and cobblers containing egg or milk is definitely going to need to be refrigerated after baking, therefore an inspection would be in order.

    Thanks Meg — I hadn’t realized that I didn’t mention that on the page. Virginia is one of the only states that actually allows refrigerated goods to be made and home and sold… there is a note about becoming a home food processor at the top, and now there is a note in the allowed foods section.

    Meg, every baked good that has eggs does not require temperature control. Cakes are baked goods that can be left at room temperature for days.

    I was curious as to the full list of “Allowed Foods” myself. Where does this list come from? So you’re saying you included all allowed whether they qualify for the exemption from inspection or not. We just use the refrigeration standard to qualify whether or not the recipes we want to make are exempt.

OMG!!!!!! I just found out about this law. Thank you for giving me the information. +i am a chef wanting to sell my product. here i thought i was going to spend all this money to produce my cookies and sauces. Thank you Virginia state.