Do I need a license to sell homemade food in Nova Scotia?

Updated: May 14, 2024

Published: May 14, 2024

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Selling food from home is a great first-time business. Though it’s easy to get started right away from your home kitchen, you also need to be aware of the government’s business and safety regulations for home-based food sales. In this article, we’ll walk you through what you need to get started, including the specific rules and laws applying to selling food from home in the Province of Nova Scotia.

What counts as a home-based food business in Nova Scotia? 

In Nova Scotia, the government cares the most about what type of food you’re welling and how you’re selling it. Selling “low-risk” foods is permitted and you can sell it to your customers directly from your home or at special events like fairs, markets, events, and bake sales. 

However, there are restrictions on where you can sell food you prepared from home. You cannot sell it at facilities that make food like restaurants and bakeries, facilities that sell food like convenience stores, groceries and coffee shops, and health facilities like hospitals, care homes and childcare centres. 

Other than that, it’s perfectly fine to sell food directly from the home, and use an e-commerce tool for home-based foods like FormPay to make it easier for you to get orders and payments, and arrange for pickup and delivery to your customers.

What can you sell at a home-based food business in Nova Scotia? 

The types of food you can sell depends on whether they’re counted as “low-risk” or not. Low risk foods don’t need a permit, and you can directly sell them from your home with a food-focused e-commerce solution like FormPay

Nova Scotia considers the following foods as “low-risk” if it:

  • does not need to be kept refrigerated or frozen to stop the growth of bacteria and to prolong the life of the food product
  • does not contain ingredients that bacteria could grow on, such as meat or fish

And if the food contains dairy or eggs, it has to have:

  • a high salt or sugar content
  • low moisture content or
  • low pH

For more detailed information in the Preparing low-risk home-baked goods for sale fact sheet from the government of Nova Scotia.

You can also contact the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change to make sure whether your food is “low-risk” or not.

How to open a home-based food business in Nova Scotia

Even if it seems simple to just make food and start selling it from your home, most people will follow these steps below to make the process easier and make sure you have everything in order before you start selling. 

  1. Determine what foods you want to sell. Remember that in Nova Scotia, you can only prepare and sell low-risk food from home. Essentially it’s anything that doesn’t need refrigeration and won’t promote the growth of bacteria. We recommend reviewing the Preparing low-risk home-baked goods for sale fact sheet from the government of Nova Scotia for more information.
  2. Make sure your home is sanitary according to the health guidelines. Even though the you don’t need a permit from the province of Nova Scotia to sell homemade low-risk foods, it’s important to keep you and your customers safe by maintaining sanitary standards, and you’ll also be prepared for any health inspections. You’ll have to pay attention to the cleanliness of your kitchen and equipment, as well as preparing food at the right temperature and making sure there are no pests. Review the Preparing low-risk home-baked goods for sale fact sheet for recommendations.
  3. Set up an online store, or sell in-person at food fairs and farmers’ markets. After you’ve registered your business, you’re all set to start selling your food. You can either set up your store online using ecommerce tools for home-based food businesses like FormPay, or sell it in-person at farmers’ markets and food fairs. We’ll cover both options in a later section below.
  4. Promote your business. The last thing to do is to advertise your business. You might want to talk about it with your friends and family first, then reach a wider audience online. This article has more tips on how to best promote your business. 

Do you need a license to sell homemade food in Nova Scotia?

According to the Nova Scotia Food Safety Regulations, you do not need a permit to prepare low-risk home-baked goods. However, you may still need to follow any business requirements for your municipality.

How to sell homemade food at farmers’ markets and food fairs in Nova Scotia

You can sell home-baked low-risk foods at special events like markets and fairs. However, there are more specific requirements for selling food at public markets in Nova Scotia that you should be aware of and you can find them here. Depending on the venue, you may need a Public Market Application or a food handling course

How to sell homemade food online in Nova Scotia

Most people choose to sell their food online, since it’s faster and easier to get it to your customers. That way, your food is ready to go as soon as it’s out of the kitchen. 

Many businesses will use an e-commerce tool like FormPay to help streamline the buying process for both you and your customers. FormPay is designed for home-based food businesses and simple to set up. It collects order information payments for you, automatically sends confirmation emails, and includes a dashboard where you can manage your orders. Many independent Canadian food businesses, such as G Sweets and Uncle Tim’s Delicacies, have used FormPay to increase their sales and save time and energy for both themselves and their customers. 

How to sell homemade baked goods in Nova Scotia

Home-baked goods are fine to sell in Nova Scotia if they count as “low risk” foods according to this government of Nova Scotia fact sheet: Preparing low-risk home-baked goods for sale fact sheet.

G Sweets, one of the businesses using FormPay as mentioned above, is an example of a independent food business that primarily sells baked goods.

Summary

Luckily, Nova Scotia is one of the easiest provinces to sell homemade food in, since they’re relatively relaxed on where you can establish a food business. You don’t even need a permit to start selling your home-made food as long as it’s considered “low risk”. All you have to do is keep your kitchen tidy, and you’re all ready to start selling your food either in-person or online using an e-commerce tool like FormPay

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