With so many state lawmakers willing to throw out the rulebook when it comes to cottage foods, the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) has decided it’s time to draw the line.

The 116-year-old AFDO has published a 20-page “guidance document” with “consensus opinion of best practices and limitations on this somewhat controversial matter.”


AFDO says it developed the guidance document for state and local food safety regulators to help them with management of food safety issues associated with cottage food operations.  AFDO Food Committee, consisting of food protection officials from around the country, drafted the document.

AFDO defines cottage food as products made in a home kitchen for direct sale to consumers.    The FDA Food Code, adopted by most state and local jurisdictions, prohibits the sale of food prepared in a home kitchen from being sold in any food establishment, retail food store, or to any wholesale food manufacturer.

Cottage food is limited to non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams, jellies, and other non-potentially hazardous items.   Home kitchens cannot be located in outbuildings, sheds, barns or similar structures or contain more stoves and ovens than would be in a normal residence.

While many cottage food laws have exempted these types of homemade items from permitting and licensing, the AFDO guidance document prefers permitting and annual inspections.  It also points out that if the residence is not on public water, it should be tested at least annually.

AFDO wants cottage food operators to display their permits when selling products directly to the public, including while participating in farmers markets.

Also, the regulatory authority should conduct an inspection of any cottage food kitchen believed to be involved in a foodborne illnesses outbreak, operating in an unsanitary manner, consumer complaint, or other public health emergency.

AFDO’s guidance document also addresses keeping pets, children, and ill people out of the home kitchen.

Labels should include a warning that the product was “made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to routine government food safety inspection.”  Labels should also include the name of the product, name and address of the cottage food operation, along with ingredients and contents.

The AFDO guidance document also says cottage foods cannot be sold over the Internet.

AFDO is based in York, PA. The organization has six regional affiliates.