Follow us:

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle

©2019 by Locavore, LLC.

TEXAS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS

FAQ for Texas Cottage Food Law Food Entrepreneurs
What is a cottage food production?

A cottage food production operation is defined as an individual, operating out of the individual’s home, who: 

  • Produces a baked good, candy, coated and uncoated nuts, unroasted nut butters, fruit butters, a canned jam or jelly, a fruit pie, dehydrated fruit or vegetables, including dried beans, popcorn and popcorn snacks, cereal, including granola, dry mix, vinegar, pickles, mustard, roasted coffee or dry tea, or a dried herb or dried herb mix. 

  • Has an annual gross income of $50,000 or less from the sale of the described foods; and

  • Sells the foods produced directly to consumers at the individual’s home, a farmers’ market, a farm stand, or a municipal, county, or nonprofit fair, festival or event.

  • Delivers products to the consumer at the point of sale or another location designated by the consumer.

What is a cottage food production operation?

A cottage food production operation is defined as an individual, operating out of the individual's home, who:

  • Produces at the individual's home: 

    • a baked good that is not a time and temperature control for safety (TCS) food, 

    • candy,

    • coated and uncoated nuts, 

    • unroasted nut butters, 

    • fruit butters,

    • a canned jam or jelly, 

    • a fruit pie, 

    • dehydrated fruit or vegetables, including dried beans, 

    • popcorn and popcorn snacks, 

    • cereal, including granola, dry mix, 

    • vinegar, pickled fruit or vegetables, including beets and carrots, that are preserved in vinegar, brine, or similar solution at an equilibrium pH values of 4.6 or less, 

    • mustard, 

    • roasted coffee or dry tea, 

    • a dried herb or dried herb mix, 

    • plant-based acidified canned goods, fermented vegetable products, including products that are refrigerated to preserve quality, 

    • frozen raw and uncut fruit or vegetables, 

    • or any other food that is not a time and temperature control for safety food.

  • Has an annual gross income of $50,000 or less from the sale of described food.

  • Sells foods produced directly to consumers.

  • Delivers products to the consumer at the point of sale or another location designated by the consumer.

Is a cottage food production operation a food service establishment?

No. A cottage food production operation is not a food service establishment.

What are some examples of foods that can be prepared at a cottage food production operation?

The following are examples of non-TCS that may be prepared and sold at a cottage food production operation:

  • Breads, rolls, biscuits,

  • Sweet breads, muffins,

  • Cakes (birthday, wedding, anniversary, etc.)

  • Pastries,

  • Cookies,

  • Fruit pies,

  • Canned Jams and jellies,

  • Dry herbs and dried herb mixtures,

  • Candy,

  • Coated and uncoated nuts,

  • Unroasted nut butters,

  • Fruit butters,

  • Popcorn and popcorn snacks,

  • Dehydrated fruit or vegetables, including dried beans,

  • Cereal, including granola,

  • Dry mix,

  • Vinegar,

  • Pickled fruits and vegetables,

  • Mustard,

  • Roasted coffee or dry tea

  • Planted-based acidified canned goods, including salsa, BBQ sauce, ketchups.

  • Dried Pasta

  • Fermented vegetable products

  • Frozen raw and uncut fruits or vegetables.

What types of foods are not allowed to be sold at a cottage food production operation?  

The following foods are examples of food that cannot be produced by a cottage food production operation.

  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky

  • Kolaches with meat

  • Fish or shellfish products

  • Raw seed sprouts

  • Bakery goods which require any type of refrigeration such as cream, custard or meringue pies and cakes or pastries with cream cheese icings or fillings

  • Milk and dairy products including hard, soft and cottage cheeses and yogurt

  • Cut fresh fruits and/or vegetables

  • Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables, that require refrigeration

  • Ice or ice products

  • Foccaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses

  • Beverages including but not limited to Lemonade, juices, hot chocolate 

  • Meat or Poultry

  • Seafood

  • TCS Products 

What is a time and temperature controlled for safety food (TCS)?

A time and temperature control for safety (TCS) food requires time and temperature control for safety to limit pathogen growth or toxin production. In other words, a food must be held under proper temperature controls, such as refrigeration to prevent the growth of bacteria that may cause human illness. A TCS is a food that: contains protein, moisture (water activity greater than 0.85), and is neutral to slightly acidic (pH between 4.6 -7.5).

Where may a cottage food production operation (CFPO) sell products?

A CFPO may sell products directly to consumers.     

Can I use the Internet to sell my cottage food products?  

A cottage food production operation may sell through the Internet or by mail order only if: the consumer purchases the food through the Internet or by mail order from the operation and the operator personally delivers the food to the consumer. A cottage food production operation may not sell at wholesale.

What is the labeling requirement for internet and mail order cottage food operators?

Before the operator accepts payment for the food, the operator provides all labeling information required by Health and Safety Code section 437.0193 and Texas Administrative Code §229.661(d) to the consumer by: 

  • posting a legible statement on the operation ’s Internet website; 

  • publishing the information in a catalog; or 

  • otherwise communicating the information to the consumer.

 

The operator of a cottage food production operation that sells a food in this state in the manner internet or wholesale:

  • is not required to include the address of the operation in the labeling information before the operator accepts payment for the food; and

  • shall provide the address of the operation on the label of the food in the manner required after the operator accepts payment for the food.

Can I make cottage food products in another building on my property?  

The law requires cottage food products to be produced in an individual’s home which is a primary residence that contains a kitchen and appliances designed for common residential use.

Is labeling required on food items produced by a cottage food production operation?  

Yes. Foods sold by a cottage food production operation must be packaged and labeled. The food must be packaged in a manner that prevents product contamination, except for foods that are too large or bulky for conventional packaging. The labeling information for foods that are not packaged must be provided to the consumer on an invoice or receipt.

The label must include the following information:

  • The name and physical address of the cottage food production operation;

  • The common or usual name of the product;

  • If a food is made with a major food allergen, such as eggs, nuts, soy, peanuts, milk or wheat that ingredient must be listed on the label; and

  • The following statement: "This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department."

  • Labels must be legible.

  • Also, cottage operator selling frozen raw or uncut fruits must label or provide on invoice or receipt the following statement in at least 12-point font: "SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria, keep this food frozen until preparing for consumption."

  • For each batch of pickled fruit or vegetables, fermented vegetable products, or plant-based acidified canned goods, a cottage food production operation must: label the batch with a unique number.  

Do I need a permit or license for my cottage food production operation?

Cottage food production operations are not retail food establishment; therefore, a retail food establishment license is not required.

Is there a limit as to how much I can earn from my cottage food production operation?

Yes. A cottage food production operation is limited to an annual gross income of $50,000 or less from the sale of food produced at the cottage food production operation.

Will the Department of State Health Services conduct inspections at cottage food production operations?  

No. The Texas Department of State Health Services does not have authority to conduct inspections at a cottage food production operation. However, the Department may investigate a complaint regarding preparation of time and temperature control for safety (TCS) food at a private residence. In the event of a foodborne illness outbreak, the department or local health authority may act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health. 

Can a cottage food production operation deliver food produced by the operation to the customer who purchased the food product?  

Yes. A Cottage Food Production Operation may deliver products to the consumer at the point of sale or another location designated by the consumer.

What are the requirements to pickle, ferment, or acidify can goods?

A cottage food production operation that sells to consumers pickled fruit or vegetables, fermented vegetable products, or plant-based acidified canned goods shall:

  • use a recipe that: is from a source approved by DSHS, 

  • has been tested by an appropriately certified laboratory that confirmed the finished fruit or vegetable, product, or good has an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or less; or 

  • is approved by a qualified process authority; or 

  • if the operation does not use a recipe described by DSHS, test each batch of the recipe with a calibrated pH meter to confirm the finished fruit or vegetable, product, or good has an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or less. 

  • For each batch of pickled fruit or vegetables, fermented vegetable products, or plant-based acidified canned goods, a cottage food production operation must: 

    • label the batch with a unique number; and 

    • for a period of at least 12 months, keep a record that includes:

      • the batch number; 

      • the recipe used by the producer; 

      • the source of the recipe or testing results, as applicable;

      • and the date the batch was prepared.

  • These testing requirements do not apply to pickled cucumbers.

Does a cottage food operator have to have a Food handler certification?

An individual who operates a cottage food production operation must have successfully completed an accredited basic food safety education or training program for food handlers. The department will recognize a food manager certification from an accredited program in lieu of a food handler certification. 

What are the licensing requirements?

A cottage food production operation is exempt from the requirements of a food service establishment and does not have to comply with the Texas Food Establishment Rules. Health departments do not have regulatory authority to conduct inspections of a cottage food production operation. However, the Department or local health authority has authority to act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health through emergency order, recall orders and delegation of powers or duties. Health departments are required to maintain records of all complaints against a cottage food production operation.

What are the restrictions?

An individual who operates a cottage food production operation must successfully complete a basic food safety education or training program for food handlers accredited under Health and Safety Code, Chapter 438(D) by January 1, 2014.

 

A cottage food production may not sell to customers potentially hazardous foods. A potentially hazardous food (PHF) is a food that requires time and temperature control for safety (TCS) to limit pathogen growth or toxin production. In other words, a food must be held under proper temperature controls, such as refrigeration to prevent the growth of bacteria that may cause human illness. A PHF/TCS is a food that: contains protein, moisture (water activity greater than 0.85), and is neutral to slightly acidic (pH between 4.6 -7.5).

Food produced by a cottage food production operation may not be sold via the Internet, by mail order or at wholesale.
 

The Department of State Health Services is in the process of amending the rule, Section 229.661, concerning cottage food production operations.

Where can I get my food tested?

You can get your food tested at one of these laboratories.

Can I sell my food to a coffee shop, retail bakery, grocery store, or any licensed food establishment or wholesaler for them to resell?

No. There are two reasons. 1) The law says you must sell your food only directly to the consumer, and that you may not sell wholesale. This means you may not sell it to a reseller. 2) Restaurants and wholesalers are bound by the Texas Food Establishment Rules and/or Food Manufacturers Rules, which do not allow them to sell homemade food, which is considered food from an “unapproved source”.

Can I leave my cottage food in a shop for the shop to sell on my behalf, like a consignment arrangement?

No. The cottage food law is for direct sales only – you selling directly to the customer. You must be present to sell your food.

Can I sell at a pop-up shop in a retail store?

Yes. Cottage food sales must be directly to the consumer, so you must be present selling the food.  You cannot leave the food there for the retailer to sell on your behalf. This would cross the line into wholesaling.  

Can I sell at a pop-up shop inside a restaurant with permission of the owner/manager?

Probably not.  Restaurants may not sell food from unapproved sources, which includes cottage foods. Check with your local health department.

Can I have employees?  Can those employees sell on my behalf at a pop-up shop or market?

Yes. Any employee not directly supervised by you, (not including your household members) must also obtain a food handler’s card.

Can I sell my food from a truck or trailer?

Yes, as long as the food is made, packaged, and labeled in your home kitchen.  Keep in mind that “mobile food units” (food trucks) are licensed through DSHS or local health departments in much the same way that restaurants are, and those regulations would likely not allow the sale of homemade food from a licensed unit.  Also be aware of local regulations; a city may have ordinances in place that prevent setting up an unpermitted mobile trailer and selling from it.  Cottage food sellers are not exempt from local ordinances.

Can a city tell me I need a city permit to sell in a certain location?

Yes. Although the law precludes local government authorities, including health departments, from regulating the production of food at a cottage food production operation, if a local government has a general ordinance — such as you have to get a permit to sell any product at some location, that is still valid and applicable.  A city cannot make a special ordinance or regulation that only applies to cottage food operations. 

Can a farmer’s market or other private event refuse to allow me to participate, or impose additional rules for participation?

Yes. These events are privately owned and managed, and they may set whatever rules or quality standards they wish.

Can a farmer’s market charge me a fee?

Yes, booth fees are a normal cost of doing business at a farmer’s market.

Does my food have to have special packaging?

Your food must be packaged in a way that prevents contamination. Large or bulky items like wedding cakes, or cupcake bouquets, are not required to be packaged.

Does the label have to be attached to the package?

Yes, except in the cases of unpackaged large or bulky items. In those cases, your invoice can contain the required labeling information.

Can I advertise the health benefits of my food, or make a health claim on the label?

No. The rules state “No health claims may be made on any of the advertising media of the finished products because they are conventional foods.” 

What happens if I don’t follow the rules?  What is the penalty?

Think of the rules like an umbrella.  As long as you’re following the rules, you are covered, and you can’t be regulated or inspected by a local Health Department.  If you’re not following the rules (for instance, selling cheesecakes or shipping your cookies all over the country), you lose your umbrella.  You would then be an illegal food establishment, subject to inspections and fines.  The rules bind you, but they also protect you.  

I just discovered another cottage food operator who is not following the rules. This makes me really mad. What should I do?

Consider three options: 1) Try to educate that person about the law. They may be unaware of the cottage food law, and eager to know how to comply. Or, there is at least an equal chance that the person doesn’t care and won’t appreciate your input.  2) Ignore them and focus on your own business. You are the only person you can control. Or, in extreme cases, 3) File a complaint with the health department if they pose a health or safety risk to the public.

Can I put a kitchen in a separate building on my property and use that for my cottage food business?

No, the law says your cottage food operation must be operated out of your primary residence. If you are in a position to build a separate kitchen, you are better served to contact your local Health Department and find out the requirements to get the kitchen commercially licensed, so that you would be able to operate free of the cottage food restrictions.

Can I put commercial appliances in my home?

No, the law applies only to people cooking in their own homes with appliances meant for common residential usage.