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.
We hope you find this page to be helpful and informative. You may use the links below to take you exactly where you need to go, or simply scroll down the page.
This link to the State Cottage Food Site provides the following information which falls under the State's jurisdiction. At their site, you will find:
- List of approved Cottage Food products
- Required Food Safety Training
- Petition to add products to the Approved List
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.
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 your home or to individuals such as customers at a community event. 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 who resells it to their 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 (farmer’s 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 also if you relocate to a different home.
How long is the registration/permit for?
The registration/permit is valid as long as you are at the same residence and is for 1 year.
Initially, there is an application review fee that shall be submitted along with the application. This fee is the same regardless of whether you are applying to be a Class A or a Class B operation. Once your operation is approved, you will receive an invoice annually. The first annual invoice will be sent within a few months of your approval. After that, the invoices are typically mailed one (1) month before your expiration month. Beginning with your second year, you will be issued a new approval once 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, 2016 to June 30, 2018 are:
- Application Fee ---------------- $53
- Annual Fee for Class A ------ $42
- Annual Fee for Class B ------ $154
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. Annual gross sales may not exceed the following:
- Cottage Foods may not be shipped
- $50,000 per calendar year
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 requirements relating to labeling 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!
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 Environmebntal 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:
- Are you on 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.
- 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 work-around. 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.
- If you are going to make a claim, such as "gluten-free," you will need to provide nutritional labeling. This is required by State law. You may use anything from a laboratory to free online tools in order to do so.
- 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 work-arounds, click here.
- If you product containes an ingredient that has natural sugar, it cannot be called "sugar-free." An example would be that there is no sugar-free fruit jam or apple pie. All fruit 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 on a secondary label.
Common products NOT approved by the State:
- Pickles, sandwiches, BBQ sauce, jams with peppers
- Do not add products without prior approval, even if you think it will be just fine.
- Your permit/registration is only good fo you at your currrent 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. (1) Operate your own fully permitted food facility or (2) 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 don't already know of a place, you may want to search the internet for "shared commercial kitchens in orange county" to find places that have a Health Permit but were actually designed to be rented out.
If, however, you really want to own 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, as it was never a food facility. See our Plan Check website, www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck.)
- Build a food facility. (See our Plan Check website, www.ocfoodinfo.com/plancheck.)