Do I Need a License to Sell Homemade Food in Alberta?

Updated: May 14, 2024

Published: May 14, 2024

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Starting a homemade food venture in Alberta is an exciting journey, allowing you to sell and share your homemade creations. However, running a home-based food business comes with a responsibility to ensure the safety and quality of your food. In this article, we will guide you through everything you need to know about food handling regulations, licenses and more, to help you kickstart your home-based food business in Alberta safely.

What is a Home-Based Food Business in Alberta?

A home-based food business, sometimes referred to as a "cottage food" business, operates out of a residential property and includes the preparation and sale of low-risk food items such as baked goods, jams, and candies. These products can be sold online through ecommerce tools like FormPay, at food fairs, and farmers' markets. You cannot offer onsite dining at your home-based food business and only members of your household can assist you in preparing your foods.

Is it legal to sell homemade food in Alberta?

The Alberta government is one of the only Canadian provinces that make it easy for you to sell food made from home legally as you don’t even need a permit to start selling. They have a fact sheet for operators that details all the requirements. 

Here’s what you need to get ready to sell you homemade food:

  1. Figure out what low-risk food you plan to sell: You’re allowed to sell low-risk foods in Alberta, which in essence means most foods that don’t need refrigeration and are low-risk for foodborne illnesses. These include baked goods, sweets and snacks, dry foods, condiments, fresh produce like whole fresh fruits and vegetables and microgreens that are sold with stems attached and first true leaf stage, and foods at specific pH levels. For baked goods, you cannot sell anything that contains dairy, cheese or meringue fillings or meat. You also cannot sell any meat, poultry, raw milk, seafood or home-bottled water. The fact sheetfrom the Province of Alberta details all the foods you can sell.
  2. Label your foods properly: Even though you don’t need a permit to sell your food, you need to label any food you sell with specific information. Specifically, you must add a statement on the label that says “prepared in a home kitchen that is not subject to inspection”, “not for resale”, your name, business name, email or phone number, name of the food and date it was made or prepared. Whole fruits or vegetables do not need to be labeled.
  3. Take a food safety course:Although not mandated, the Province of Alberta encourages all food operators to take an accredited food safety course. They’ve provided a list of recognized food safety courses here and Alberta Health Services also provides online courses.
  4. Check to see if there are any municipal business licensing requirements: You don’t need a license from the Province of Alberta to sell home-based foods, but your municipality may have business license requirements that you should check.
  5. Sell your food online: Once you determine what you’re selling, the easiest way to start selling is to sell online directly to your customers with ecommerce tools like FormPay that’s designed for home-based food businesses. Your customers can come pickup the food directly from your home or you can deliver it to them. The best thing is that all of the order processing and payment will be handled for you automatically so you can focus on building your business. Independent food businesses like G Sweets and Uncle Tim’s have used FormPay successfully.
  6. Sell your food at markets and fairs: There are over 130 approved farmers’ markets in Alberta making it a great way to test your home-based foods. Unlike selling online, you may need to comply with additional licensing and regulations in order to sell in person at these markets and fairs.

Summary

Launching a home-based food business in Alberta is easy and costs almost nothing to get started. We recommend that you consult the Province of Alberta’s website for Low-risk home-prepared foods and their fact sheet for Alberta home-based food operators. One you’re confident that your food and production environment complies with all the health and safety regulations, you can start selling to your customers with the home-based foods ecommerce  FormPay.

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