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Selling Edible Products From Home? Get to Know Alabama’s Cottage Food Law

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System team is using upcoming events to promote the state’s Cottage Food Law that took effect last June 1 and regulates the sale of certain edible products from an individual’s home.

“The law allows for the sale of certain food products deemed ‘non-hazardous’ from a person’s home, eliminating the cost of a commercial kitchen and the need for selling through a retail outlet or farmer’s market,” according to the ACES group.

Additionally, “A small business owner operating under the Cottage Food Law must register with the county health department and take a food safety course or attend a Cottage Food Law class,” according to ACES.

Information about the law will be part of the organization’s third annual Food Entrepreneur Conference on April 8-9 in Auburn at the Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Commerce and Industry at the Auburn University Research Park.

Angela Treadaway, the group’s Shelby County-based regional extension agent in food safety, preservation and preparation, said the conference is targeting people interested in making a business out of selling their food products.

The conference is for “a person that has a food-type product they are wanting to get out to the public. They’ve got Grandma’s favorite pancake recipe or pancake flour they want to get to the public or get on the market. This is the place to start,” Treadaway said.

Among the featured speakers is Patricia Barnes, better known as “Sister Schubert,” who will start the meeting by discussing her experiences as a struggling food entrepreneur. One of the sessions this year will focus on Alabama’s Cottage Food Law.

Additionally, the ACES group is holding the Cottage Food Law Food Safety Course from 4 to 6 p.m. on March 19 at the Shelby County Extension Office in Columbiana. The course will be available at different times and locations around the state.

“It’s for those that want to sell baked items or jams and jellies or a few other things they can sell from their home. It keeps them from having to be inspected by the health department if they come in for the course and get their certification,” Treadaway said.

Here are five tips that home-based food entrepreneurs should know about Alabama’s Cottage Food Law:

What is the Alabama Cottage Food Law?

According to ACES, “Before the passage of the SB 159, non-hazardous foods could only be sold at state-sanctioned farmers markets, as well as special events such as charitable, religious, civic or a not-for-profit organization’s food sale.”

The law allows the sale of “non-hazardous foods” from a person’s home. They include baked goods that do not need refrigeration; canned jams and jellies; dried herb mixes; candies; and other similar products.

A small business owner operating under the Cottage Food Law must register with the county health department and take a food safety course or attend a Cottage Food Law class.

Also, sales over the Internet are not allowed under the law. Purchases must be made directly by the consumer and producers cannot sell to grocery stores.

What food items cannot be sold under the law?

Because the law allows only non-hazardous foods sold out of homes, that means no meat, fish or low-acid or acidified foods.

“A lot of people have the misconception they can sell pickles and salsa products as cottage food but they can’t,” Treadaway said. “Those are items they call an acidified food. There’s the danger of having some kind of bacteria like botulism that could form in those if the correct ratio or PH is not reached.”

Other products prohibited under the law include juices from fruits and vegetables, milk products, soft and hard cheeses, barbecue sauces, canned fruits and vegetables, garlic in oil and meats in any form, according to ACES.

What is required on the mandatory label on each product?

The Cottage Food Law requires entrepreneurs to include labels with the following information on their products:  the name of the entrepreneur or business; the address of the entrepreneur or business; and the statement that the food is not inspected by the Department of Public Health.

What are the sales limits for the Cottage Food Law?

“Their sales cannot exceed $20,000 a year,” Treadaway said. “Most of them are just really small businesses. If they’re doing it in their home, they can’t do a large quantity of it.”

The Cottage Food Law is intended to regulate small, home-based operations. “These are just for the smaller folks,” she said.

What is the Cottage Food Law certification?

“Having this certification prevents you from having to have inspections by the health department, and the certification is good for five years,”Treadaway said.

The safety class to get the certification offers information to ensure people have the safest products for the public.

“We try to convey to them about sanitizing solutions they would want to use, keeping stuff they are going to sell to the public and the individual’s stuff for their family separate, keeping kids out of the kitchen when you’re doing stuff for sale,” she said.

For more information about the Food Entrepreneur Conference, contact Jean Weese at (334) 844-3269 or or Jacque Kochak at (334) 844-7465 or For the Shelby County food safety course, contact Treadaway at or (205) 410-3696.

February 10, 2015

Martin J. Reed | By Martin J. Reed |

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