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Welcome to Orange County Environmental Health’s page for Cottage Food Operations (CFO). We’ve dedicated a page to help you with the requirements and steps to take to become a Cottage Food Operator in Orange County.  

I'm new here/Cottage Food Program Details/What is this "Cottage Food" thing? 

 

This links to the State Cottage Food Site explains California’s state rules. You will find: 

  • List of approved Cottage Food products 
  • Required Food Safety Training 
  • FAQs 
  • Petition to add products to the Approved List 

 

If you know what you need, please use the quick links below. If you want more information, please scroll down the page for a complete explanation:   

 

 

COTTAGE FOOD DETAILS

What is Cottage Food? 

Cottage Food is a law that was enacted on January 1, 2013, that allows certain foods to be made at home. 

 

What foods can I make in my home? 

You’re allowed to make certain non-potentially hazardous foods. What this means is the end product that you make has to be (1) listed as approved by the State and (2) shelf stable and does not need refrigeration. Some examples of foods you can make include muffins, cookies, nuts, candies, roasted coffee, popcorn and certain cakes and pies. For an updated list of approved products, visit the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) page for Cottage Foods.  

 

Sounds good! Now what do I need to do? What is Class A and Class B? 

 

You need to apply with us and decide which classification of Cottage Food fits you. The law allows for two different options: 

  • Class A is for selling food directly from home to the end consumer whether in person, by mail, or by third-party delivery and can include sales at special events such as holiday bazaars, bake sales, food swaps, or certified farmers’ markets. The Class A Registration allows you to engage in DIRECT sales only in the state of California. Class A requires the operator to register with the local health department. There is no inspection with a Class A registration.
  • Class B allows you to sell to retailers who will then resell the food. For example, you sell food to a market or coffee shop that resells it to its customers. Class B requires the operator to obtain a permit from the local health department. There is a yearly inspection in order to obtain a Class B permit. You may also operate as a Class A Cottage Food Operation when you have a Class B permit.

Please note that if you conduct point-of-service sales outside your home at a community event (farmers’ market or a festival/fair), you will need an additional permit that is not covered under the Cottage Food Law. For that, please go to www.ocfoodinfo.com/tff

 

I’ve made my decision, I’m applying! 

Your next step is to fill out an application for a Class A or Class B operation. Once you have filled out all the forms, they will be reviewed to make sure they meet the requirements. You will be notified by email/phone of your status. You can obtain a packet at our office or by download. You will need to renew your registration or permit each year and sooner if you relocate to a different home. 

 

How long is the registration/permit for? 

The registration/permit is valid for one year, as long as you remain at the same residence. 

 

How much does Class A Registration or a Class B Permit cost?

An application review fee must be submitted along with the application. This fee is the same for Class A or Class B operations. Once your operation is approved, you will receive a new invoice each year. The first invoice will be sent within a few months of your approval. After that, the invoices are typically mailed one (1) month before your registration expires. Beginning with your second year, you will be issued a new approval after the annual fee has been paid. If you do not want to renew your operation, contact this office at least 2 months before your expiration date to avoid receiving an invoice. 

The fees for July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024 are:  

  • Application Fee ---------------- $54 

  • Annual Fee for Class A ------ $42 

  • Annual Fee for Class B ------ $158 

You may make your payment by: 

  • Making an in-person appointment here or emailing us at EHCottageFood@ochca.com to assist you further 

  • Mailing the completed application "Cottage Food Operation Packet" with the review fee (check or money order only, no cash) to PO Box 25400, Santa Ana, CA 92799. Don't forget to include your CFO business name on the check. 

  • If you already have a CFO Class A or Class B, refer to your annual invoice for instructions to complete online payment. 

 

Do I have to take any classes? 

Yes, you and all others that are a part of your operation must take an approved food safety class within 90 days of obtaining your permit or registration. You can find a list of State-approved classes at www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/CDPH Document Library/FDB/FoodSafetyProgram/CottageFood/CFOperatorTraining.pdf 

Your training will need to be renewed every 3 years. 

 

Are there any restrictions? 

You can only make and store food in your kitchen and an attached storage room that is only used for your home operation. You may only hire up to one full-time employee. A cottage food operation that advertises to the public, including through an internet website, social media platform, newspaper, newsletter, or other public announcement, shall indicate the following on the advertisement: (1) The county of approval (2) The permit or registration number (3) A statement that the food prepared is “Made in a Home Kitchen” or “Repackaged in a Home Kitchen”.  Direct and indirect sales may be fulfilled in person, via mail delivery, or using any other third-party delivery service only in the state of California. Annual gross sales may not exceed the following:  

  • Class A shall have no more than $75,000 in gross annual sales. 
  • Class B shall have no more than $150,000 in gross annual sales. 

 

Am I subject to complaint investigations? Do I need to grant access into my home? 

Environmental Health may investigate any complaint received concerning cottage food operations. If your cottage food operation is the subject of a complaint, you must allow a representative of Environmental Health in your cottage food operation to conduct an inspection. 

 

Are there labeling requirements? 

Yes, all Cottage food operations must meet specified labeling requirements under Sherman Law and conform to specified federal labeling requirements regarding nutrition, nutrient content or health claims, and food allergens. Samples of labeling can be found in the Cottage Food Operation Packet. You may also scroll down to the labeling section in Common Mistakes to Avoid

 

Where can I get more information? 

Additional information can be found at the California Department of Health Services website or by calling/emailing Environmental Health at 714-433-6000 or EHCottageFood@ochca.com. Please don't hesitate to call or email with questions, we are here to help! 

 

How do I renew?

You will be sent the link to the renewal form prior to your anniversary month (the month in which you were initially approved). Fill in that form and return it within 2 weeks of receipt. If you are a Class B Operation, you will receive another inspection. As with the initial fee, you will be sent an invoice based on the time spent by Environmental Health Staff. Please see the section How much does Class A Registration or a Class B Permit cost? 

 

COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID

Here is a list of commonly made mistakes. Avoiding these will lead to your application being approved more quickly and potentially save you money. 

On the application itself: 

  • Do you use a private water source? A well is a type of private water source. Paying a Water District is not. 
  • If you are making cakes/cupcakes, list the cake ingredients separately from the frosting ingredients and separately from the filling ingredients. The reviewer must look at each part individually. However, be clear that these "parts" are not sold separately but are part of the "whole" cake. 
  • Even if you are not planning on packaging your product, include a sample label anyway. We can't approve the application without one, as you may one day need to deliver your product in a box. 

Problems with labels: 

  • Is your whole address required? Yes, but there is a possible workaround. Federal labeling law requires that the manufacturer's name and complete address be on the label. For the Cottage Food law, that is your home address. However, that same Federal law does allow for one alternative. If your business name and full address are listed in a phone directory, either physical or online, then just the city and state are required to be on the label. If you choose to list your business in an online phone directory, somewhere on the application provide the site on which it is listed. 
  • Everything on that sample label which we provide you in the application is required. Don't skip anything. 
  • Labeling something as Organic requires an approved 3rd party to analyze your product and officially stamp it. For more information about organic labeling and possible workarounds, click here 
  • If your product contains an ingredient that has natural sugar, it cannot be called "sugar-free." For example, there is no sugar-free fruit jam or apple pie. All fruits contain sugar. 
  • You are allowed to split the label in two. However, your primary label must state at a minimum, "Made (or Repackaged) in a Home Kitchen," the name of your Cottage Food Operation, and the net weight. Everything else may be placed on a secondary label. 

Common products NOT approved by the State: 

  • Pickles, sandwiches, BBQ sauce, jams with peppers 

Other: 

  • Do not add products without prior approval, even if you think it will be just fine. 
  • Your permit/registration is only valid at your current address. If you move, even just a month after approval, you will need to re-apply. 
  • If you sell your product from a food booth at an event, that location needs a separate permit. For information about food booths, see our website www.ocfoodinfo.com/tff

 

My product isn't on the approved list! Now what?! 

There are two other options for you. Both involve using a commercial kitchen to prepare your food item(s) there.  

(1) Rent a food facility that already has a permit. If you are like other previous Cottage-Food-Hopefuls, you might not quite be ready for your own facility. If you find a food facility that is willing to let you use their kitchen, contact this Department at 714-433-6000 for the appropriate forms and additional information. If you need to find a food facility, search online for "shared commercial kitchens in Orange County" to find locations with a Health Permit that are designed to be rented out. 

(2) Purchase your own food facility. If you want to purchase your own facility, you have the following options: 

  • Buy a food facility that does not need any changes to suit your operation (Call us at 714-433-6000) 
  • Buy a food facility that does not need any changes to suit your operation (See our Plan Check website, www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck.) 
  • Buy a non-food facility that you must convert. This is considered new construction to us. See our Plan Check website, www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck.) 
  • Build a food facility. (See our Plan Check website, www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck.)