The passage of the Cottage Food Law in Minnesota in 2015 changed sections of the legislation under Minnesota Statute 28A.15, specifically, subdivisions 9 and 10. This new law, Minnesota Statute 28A.152 - Licensing Food Handlers: Cottage Food Exemption (EXT), also called the Cottage Food Law, affects all persons selling food formally under 28A.15 subdivisions 9 and 10, and persons starting business on or after July 1, 2015.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Cottage Food Law.
Q: What changed in 2015?
A: All individuals shall register before selling food described in the Cottage Food Law regardless of the amount of food sold. This includes individuals who sold food prior to the enactment of the new law and individuals who start selling food after the enactment of the new law.
Q: Is there a cost to registration or a limit on the amount of food I can sell?
A: The cost of registration is determined by annual sales based on the calendar year, which begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. You must pay a fee of $50 if you sell more than $5,000 up to $18,000 in a calendar year. If you sell less than $5,000 in a year there is no fee. You are limited to $18,000 dollars in food sales in any calendar year. If you sell more than $18,000, you need a food license and meet applicable laws for making and selling food.
Q: How do I calculate my food sales?
A: When you register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for the first time, your food sales are $0. The next time you register, you calculate your sales based on what you sold the previous registration year. You do not need to submit any sales records prior to registration, however MDA may review records to determine compliance with the law. Be aware that you are required to pay tax on your income. When you register you will need to provide a social security number or Minnesota Tax ID number.
Q: How long is my registration good for?
A: Your registration expires on December 31 of the year it was issued.
Q: Are there requirements I need to meet before registration?
A: Yes, you must take training based on your anticipated food sales or have taken the correct level of training in the past three (3) years. You must also certify that you comply with local laws and will adhere to the requirements in the Cottage Food Law.
Not every local jurisdiction (city or county) allows you to make and sell food from your home. Check with your local jurisdiction to ensure that there is no local ordinance that prohibits buy selling and producing food from your home. Many ordinances are available on-line or by contacting the city or county clerk.
If the food sales are less than $5,000, you must complete a free online course and exam. Refer to the Cottage Food Producer Registration Training (PDF: 603 KB / 34 Pages). If the food sales are between $5,000 and $18,000, you must complete a safe food handling training course that is approved by the commissioner. Refer to the University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety Program (EXT) for more information.
You must understand and adhere to all of the requirements of the Cottage Food Law, including the types of food that can be sold, where the food can be sold, and how the food must be labeled. These are explained in the training and can also be found on the Cottage Food Producer web page.
Q: I am a certified food manager. Is this training acceptable?
A: No, you must take training that is specific to the Cottage Food Law. While the food safety information received in certified food manager training includes good food safety information, it does not cover the Cottage Food Law requirements.
Q: How do I register?
A: Go to MDA's Cottage Food Producer Registration page and click on the link for the registration form. Or you can access the form directly here: Cottage Food Producer Registration Form (PDF: 70 KB / 2 Pages).
Complete the form by entering the required information. You must sign and date the form. Submit the signed form by mail or electronically to the address given on the form. If a registration fee is required, you must mail payment with the completed registration form.
MDA will send you your registration certificate by mail or e-mail. Please allow up to 2 weeks to receive your registration if you are using a Social Security Number (SSN) to register. Please allow up to 6 weeks if you are registering with a Minnesota Tax ID number.
Q: What information will I need to provide to obtain registration?
A: You will need to provide your name, address, and contact information. You will also need to provide your social security number or a Minnesota Tax ID number. Finally, you will need to sign and date the registration form attesting that you have taken the training and understand and will follow the Cottage Food Law.
Q: What happens if the city or county objects to me making or selling food in my home?
A: MDA will reject or revoke your registration. MDA is prohibited from issuing a registration unless you comply with local laws.
Q: What food can I sell as a registered cottage food producer?
A: You can only sell non-potentially hazardous foods and pickles, vegetables, or fruit with a pH of 4.6 or lower. Non-potentially hazardous foods are foods that do not need to be refrigerated for food safety, have a pH of 4.6 or below (are acidic), and/or have a water activity of 0.85 or less (meaning they are relatively dry or have a high sugar or salt content that binds up the water making hard for bacteria to grow). More information on the types of food that can be sold under the Cottage Food Law can be found at the University of Minnesota Extension Cottage Food Resource Hub (EXT) and the Minnesota Farmers' Market Association Minnesota Cottage Foods Law (EXT).
Q: Where can I sell the food that I make?
A: Food made by a registered cottage food producer can be sold from your home, over the Internet, and at a farmer’s market or community event. For all sales, including those over the Internet, the individual who prepared the food product must be the person who delivers the food product to the ultimate consumer. This means food cannot be delivered through the mail.
New! You can now donate food: food made by a registered cottage food producer can be provided through donation to a community event with the purpose of fund-raising for an individual or for an educational, charitable, or religious organization.
Q: Does the food need to be labeled?
A: Yes, you must label the food with your name, address, city, and zip code. The label must also include a list of ingredients contained in the product, including allergens. The allergens of concern are: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, fish, shellfish. More information on labeling is provided in the cottage food training course.
Q: I’m concerned about someone knowing where I live. Can I use a post office box as an address on my label?
A: No, you must use a physical address is required to be on the label in case someone needs to contact you concerning the food. In addition to the physical address, you may provide additional contact information, if you choose.
Q: What other information must I provide to the customer?
A: You must post a notice at the point of sale, including on your web site if you are conducting Internet sales, that states: These foods are homemade and not subject to state inspection.
Q: What do I need to prove that I am registered?
A: Like a driver license, you must show the registration when asked. Keep it with you when selling food. An inspector or market master may ask to see it. If the registration cannot be verified, you will be asked to stop selling food. MDA offices are not open on weekends or holidays, so the MDA’s data base may not be available to confirm your registration, however inspections are conducted on weekends in some locations.
Q: Can I use the post office to deliver products?
A: No. Food must be delivered directly from the producer to the end consumer, not through an intermediary.
Q: Can I register as a cottage food producer as an LLC?
A: No. The cottage food producer registration is limited to individuals only and excludes businesses such as firms, partnerships, cooperatives, societies, associations, companies and corporations.
Q: Can I register as a sole proprietorship?
A: Yes. Individuals can register using their legal name as either an individual or a sole proprietorship. If you are registered as a sole proprietorship with the Minnesota Secretary of State you can also register a ‘doing business as’ (DBA) name. Both the legal name of the sole proprietorship and the DBA name are required on the cottage food producer registration application.
Q: Can I have a Community Supported Agriculture model of distribution for products under the Cottage Food Producer Registration?
A: Yes. Customers must come to your place of residence to pick up products or you, as the producer, must deliver them directly to customers. You may not leave products for customer pick up at a location other than your residence.
Q: Do I need to register if I’m only selling food at a bake sale for an educational, charitable or religious organization?
A: If the food for the bake sale is prepared onsite at the educational, charitable or religious organizations then you don’t need to register. However, if the food is prepared in your home, you would need to register and the bake sale would be considered a community event by MDA.
Q: Will I be regularly inspected by the department if I register to sell cottage foods?
A: The MDA does not intend to conduct routine regulatory inspections of homes where cottage foods are produced. However, if food sold by someone who is registered is suspected or confirmed to be a source of illness or injury, the department may investigate the location where the food was produced. Under Minnesota law, the department has the authority to enter at reasonable times any establishment where food is manufactured, processed, packed or held. Inspection and investigation activities would be limited to areas of the location where food is manufactured, processed, packed or held.
Inspections may occur at farmers' markets or community events to verify registration and that food is being sold in a manner consistent with Minnesota laws.
Q: If I'm registered as a Sole Proprietorship, can I have employees that sell food on my behalf?
A: You may register as a sole proprietorship and you may have employees that sell food on your behalf. Registration limits of $5,000 (for no registration fee) and $18,000 (total sales cap) apply to the registered sole proprietorship and not to individual employees. The sole proprietorship is responsible for ensuring the sales by employees fall within the allowed limits. If registering as a sole proprietorship, the individual registering is responsible for completing the training and paying the registration fee associated with the registration. Additional information on tax reporting requirements for sole proprietorships is available from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (EXT). Sole proprietorships that have employees must register using a Minnesota Tax Identification Number.