Washington is one of the most difficult states for starting a cottage food operation.
It is very complicated to get a cottage food permit… almost as complex as setting up a commercial food business. And yet, Washington’s cottage food law is fairly limited, only allowing $25,000 of sales per year, prohibiting indirect sales (to restaurants, stores, etc.), and only allowing specific types of non-perishable foods.
In order to get a cottage food permit, an operator must take a training course, get a business license, submit an application with a very detailed business plan, have their recipes approved, and get their home inspected. The whole process costs at least $240, with an annual $230 renewal fee.
Washington’s cottage food law went into effect in the summer of 2011, but it took almost a year for the government to finalize the application process and allow their first cottage food operator in the summer of 2012. After failed attempts to improve the law in 2013 and 2014, two amendments (SB 5603 & HB 1622) passed in 2015. In 2020, an amendment (HB 2217) changed the labeling requirements to include a permit number instead of a home address. Also in 2020, a temporary policy (FS-20-0001) was enacted to allow shipping during the coronavirus pandemic.
You must display your permit when you are selling items.
Online sales must be picked up or delivered in person within the state. Shipping is not allowed.*
* In 2020, a temporary policy (FS-20-0001) was enacted to allow in-state shipping during the coronavirus pandemic. Once the governor removes the state of emergency (Proclamation 20-05), in-state shipping will no longer be allowed.
If you want to make jams, jellies, fruit butters, or other preserves, see this guide to determine if they will be allowed.
You can only make dried coffee, tea, herbs, seasonings, and other dry mixtures by recombining commercially-produced dry ingredients.
To sell vinegars or flavored vinegars, you must use commercially-produced vinegar, and you can add flavors to it.
You products can contain a small amount of liquor (1% or less, by weight).
Here is more info about allowable and prohibited products.
You must apply for a cottage food permit, which costs $230 and must be renewed annually.
- Floor plan of the kitchen
- Processing plan
- Packaging plan
- Equipment list and cleaning plan
- Sales plan
- Child and pet management plan
In your application, you must list every single product (including variations) that you intend to sell.
You must also attach a copy of the label for every single product (including variations) that you intend to sell.
You can submit up to 50 master products, but there could be many variations of one master product. For instance, chocolate chip cookies and M&M cookies could be two variations of the same “master” cookie recipe.
If you want to add more products later, it is best to wait until your annual renewal (which costs $230). Otherwise, you have to pay $105 for the ag department to review them.
Your application will go on the public record. If you submit recipes with your labels (not recommended), anyone will be able to access them.
Once your application has been reviewed, an inspector will come to your home to do a kitchen inspection.
If your kitchen doesn’t pass, you will need to pay $125 for another inspection.
Your kitchen will get inspected annually.
If your home uses a private water supply (such as a private well), the water must be tested and approved within 60 days before you apply for your cottage food permit.
You will have to pay an additional fee for the test, and your water must be retested annually.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
"Made in a home kitchen that has not been subject to standard inspection criteria" (11-point type)
Forrager Cookie Company
Permit #: 12345
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)
NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)
If your product contains liquor, the label must state “This product contains liquor and the alcohol content is one percent or less of the weight of the product.”
Large cakes or bulk items may be labeled with a separate product sheet containing the required information.
You must store your cottage food products and business items separately from those for personal use.
- WA State Department of Agriculture
- PO Box 42591
Olympia, WA 98504-2591