Do I need a license to sell homemade food in New York State?

Updated: May 14, 2024

Published: May 14, 2024

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Starting a home-based food business is an exciting endeavor, allowing you to share your culinary creations with others while earning an income. However, as an owner of such a business in New York State, you are responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of your food, in addition to complying with various laws and regulations. This can seem daunting, especially when you're also trying to get your business off the ground. In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about food handling regulations, business licenses, liability insurance, and more, to help you safely launch your home-based food business in New York State.

What is the Texas Cottage Food Law?

In Texas, a "cottage food" business is any food-related business operated out of a home kitchen that makes revenues of $50,000 or less a year. With a cottage food business, you can prepare and sell a wide range of homemade food items, including but not limited to baked goods, jams, and candies. You can sell your homemade food directly to consumers at venues like food fairs, farmers' markets, and online with food ecommerce tools like FormPay. In 2013, the Texas Cottage Food Law was passed to encourage small-scale food production, while ensuring that food products sold to the public are safe and not potentially hazardous. 

Is it legal to sell homemade food in Texas?

Yes, you can sell homemade food in Texas and you are exempt from the requirements for food service establishments in Texas. You don’t need any licenses or permits to get started, but you do need to get a food handling certification and label your food clearly with all the required information. Further, you cannot sell foods that need to be specific temperature controls to avoid bacteria growth, or distribute your food via wholesale. For more specific requirements, you can visit the Texas Cottage Food Production website. Once you’re sure you’re clear to sell your homemade food, you can use an ecommerce solution like FormPay to easily sell your food directly to customers online.

What type of food can I sell from home in Texas?

According to the Texas Cottage Food Production Operations Code, you can sell the following types of homemade food in Texas:

  • 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 hot sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce, ketchups
  • Dried Pasta 
  • Fermented vegetable products 
  • Frozen raw and uncut fruits or vegetables. 

Foods that require refrigeration to prevent bacterial growth or fall under the category of potentially hazardous foods are subject to more stringent regulations and may not be permissible under the cottage food law. Here are examples of prohibited foods:

  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky, such as beef 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 
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses 
  • Beverages that require refrigeration to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria. (TCS Beverages)   
  • Meat or Poultry 
  • Seafood 

For fermented, acidified canned goods, and pickled foods that’s not pickled cucumbers, you must use a recipe from a source that’s approved by the Department of State Health Services and have your foods tested by a certified laboratory. For more information about acidic food requirements, you can visit the Texas Cottage Food Production website

If you’re still unsure whether the homemade food you want to sell is eligible under the Texas Cottage Food Laws, you can contact the Texas Department of State Health Services at foodestablishments@dshs.texas.gov or 512-834-6753. 

How much is a Texas cottage food license?

It’s free! You do not need a license to sell food from home in Texas provided you sell only non-potentially hazardous foods and adhere to specific annual sales limits. However, you must be diligent in understanding and complying with all relevant local, county, and state regulations that pertain to business operations, including those related to sales, tax collection, and any other applicable permits or restrictions.

What is the income limit for cottage food in Texas?

The income limit is $50,000 annually for cottage food businesses in Texas where you are selling food from home. We recommend that you sell your food using an ecommerce solution like FormPay that’s designed for cottage food businesses in order to help you simplify your food sales and track your earnings.

Can I run a bakery from home in Texas?

Yes, you can sell baked goods from home in Texas. Examples for baked goods you can sell include breads, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pastries, cookies and fruit pies. You do not need a license or permit to start selling baked goods from your home, but you need to ensure that you pass an accredited food handler's training course and label your food clearly. 

Further, you do not have to charge taxes on baked goods in Texas when you sell them without plates or eating utensils.

One thing to note is that you cannot sell homemade cheesecakes or any baked goods that need refrigeration. Generally these are baked goods that have custards, creams, meringue, and cream cheese icings or fillings.

Once you’re sure what type of homemade baked goods you want to sell, you should choose a cottage foods ecommerce solution like FormPay to help you easily sell food online. Baked goods sellers like G Sweets have used FormPay successfully to grow their business and save time.

Will I need a home inspection for my home-based food business in Texas? 

No, the Texas law exempts residential kitchens used for cottage food businesses from routine inspections or licensing by the state health department. However, you must still maintain a safe and sanitary environment. This includes standards for cleanliness, proper food storage, pest control, and waste management. It is your responsibility as the business owner to ensure that your kitchen complies with these standards to prevent foodborne illnesses and contamination.

Safe food handling course for cottage food businesses in Texas

A cornerstone of the Texas Cottage Food Law is the emphasis on safe food handling practices. All individuals involved in food preparation and handling within a cottage food operation must complete a food handler's training course accredited by the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one person in the operation must hold a valid food handler's certificate. This requirement underscores the importance of knowledge and adherence to food safety practices in preventing foodborne illnesses.

Insurance for Texas cottage food businesses

Securing appropriate insurance coverage is a critical aspect of protecting your cottage food business and your personal assets. You should consider various insurance options, including liability insurance, which can provide protection against claims related to foodborne illness, property damage, or other liabilities that may arise from business operations. Consulting with an insurance professional who understands the unique needs of food businesses can help you select the right coverage to mitigate risks associated with your operations.

Can I sell homemade food online in Texas?

Yes, you can sell homemade food online in Texas. Selling homemade food online is one of the easiest ways to get a food-based business started and reach your customers directly. In Texas, you can sell baked goods and any non-potentially hazardous foods online, provided you’re selling within state boundaries. Further, you don’t need any permits or licenses to sell food online in Texas, just a food handling safety certificate and proper food labels. 

We also recommend that you use an ecommerce platform designed for cottage food sales, like FormPay, so that you can streamline order processing and payment collection from your customers. With FormPay, you’ll get a beautiful order form for your food, integrated digital payments, automatic order confirmation emails, and an order dashboard to help you keep track of orders. Independent food sellers like Uncle Tim’s and G Sweets have successfully used FormPay to save time on administration and grow their businesses.

Can I sell homemade food at farmers' markets and food fairs in Texas?

Selling at farmers' markets and food fairs is a great way to connect with the community and expand your customer base. The Texas Cottage Food Law for farmers’ markets allows you to sell cottage foods at these venues, subject to compliance with local health department regulations. You may also need to obtain additional permits or insurance as required by event organizers or local authorities.

Can I sell charcuterie boards from home in Texas?

No, you cannot sell classic charcuterie boards from your home in Texas as it contains meat, cheeses, and cut fresh fruits and vegetables—all foods which are prohibited under the Texas Cottage Food Law

On the other hand, if you sell unconventional charcuterie boards that are made up of foods allowed by the Cottage Food Law, such as crackers, dried herbs, nuts, fruit butters, uncut fruit and vegetables, pickled fruits and vegetables, and mustards, then you’re all cleared to sell these types of charcuterie boards. You can make them from home without additional licenses or permits. Though you’d still need a food handling certification and proper food labeling, which you can find more information on the Texas Cottage Food Law website. 

Once you’re ready to sell your charcuterie boards that comply with the Texas Cottage Food Law, you can use an online sales tool like FormPay that’s designed for cottage food businesses. 

Can I sell barbecue from my home in Texas?

No, you cannot sell barbecue from your home in Texas since meat is listed as a prohibited food to sell under the Texas Cottage Food Law. Although you can’t sell meats and other barbecued foods due to food safety, you can sell homemade barbecue sauce. Outside of food labeling and passing an accredited food handling course, you do not need additional permits to sell BBQ sauce in Texas. You can make the BBQ sauce right in your home kitchen, and sell it online to customers using a simple ecommerce tool like FormPay.

Summary

Launching a cottage food business in Texas is quite easy since you don’t even need any permits or licenses to get started. Regardless, you still have to ensure that you understand and comply with state regulations and guidelines to ensure that you safely produce and sell your homemade food.

Key things you should be aware of include:

  1. Familiarizing yourself with the Texas Cottage Food Law and adhering to its guidelines for food safety, labeling, and sales venues.
  2. Consulting with the Texas Department of State Health Services or local health departments for specific food handling, preparation and labeling requirements.
  3. Ensuring at least one person involved in the operation has completed a DSHS-accredited food handler's training course.
  4. Considering insurance options to protect your business from liability.
  5. Leveraging online food ecommerce platforms like FormPay to sell your food. You’ll also be able to keep track of your revenue to ensure that you stay under the $50,000 sales limit for cottage food businesses in Texas.
  6. Participating in local markets to reach customers while complying with state and local regulations.
  7. Promoting your new business to start selling! Here are some food marketing tips to get you started.

With diligent planning, you can successfully start and grow your cottage food business in Texas in no time.

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