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What You Should Know About Starting a Cottage Food Business

By Susan M. Collins-Smith, MSU Extension Service

Cupcakes and other baked items prepared in a home kitchen can be sold under the Mississippi Cottage Food Law. Photo by Can Stock Photo Inc./Ivonne Wierink.

Are you thinking of selling food items from your home kitchen? This kind of business venture is popular because if you like cooking, it’s a fun way to earn some extra cash.

Just be sure you know the rules for this kind of food business. Mississippi’s Cottage Food Law allows certain food items to be prepared and sold from home kitchens without getting a permit from the Mississippi Department of Health. Here’s what to know:

What food products can be made and sold under this law? Foods that don’t require time and temperature controls, and foods the health department considers low-risk items when it comes to the potential for causing food-borne illness. Those items include baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, cookies, pastries, and tortillas; candy; chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as pretzels, nuts, and fruit (except for melons); dried fruit (except for melons); dried pasta; dried spices; dry baking mixes; granola, cereal, and trail mixes; dry rubs; fruit pies; jams, jellies; and many other items.

What food products cannot be made and sold under this law? These items include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cooked vegetables, cooked potatoes, garlic and other fresh herbs in oil, sliced fruit, rice, nut butters, low-acid canned foods, and other items. For questions about whether a food item is allowable, contact the Mississippi Department of Health.

Where can cottage food items be sold? In Mississippi, cottage food items can be sold directly to the consumer from your home or at venues, such as farmers markets and roadside stands. You cannot sell these items over the internet, through the mail, or in a wholesale or retail establishment. You may sell items only in Mississippi.

What permits, licenses, or food safety training do I need? As long as you are preparing and selling foods allowed under Mississippi’s Cottage Food Law, you don’t need a license, permit or any type of food safety training from the health department. However, you should check with your city or county to see if you need a business license or permit. You should also consider taxes, zoning, and insurance.

Although not required, the health department does strongly encourage producers to participate in food safety training, especially when providing acidified and pickled food products. Among cottage foods, these products are most often linked to food-borne illness and can cause botulism when improperly prepared.

Our upcoming webinar provides training on preparing acidified and pickled food products.

Cottage Foods Webinar: April 5, 2022 The Acidified Canned Foods Training for Farmers’ Market Vendors and the Cottage Food Industries is a workshop designed to teach the basics of food safety and regulations for processing acidified foods in Mississippi. Get more information and a link to sign up on our website.

How much product can I sell? Yearly sales cannot exceed $35,000.

Do I have to label my products? Yes. In Mississippi, products must be labeled with several pieces of information, including the name and address of the cottage food operation, name of the product and ingredients in descending order by predominance of weight, net weight or volume of the product, allergen information, appropriate nutritional information if applicable, and a declaration that the product is made in a cottage food operation. For more detailed information about labeling requirements under Mississippi law, consult MSU Extension Publication 3327, “Cottage Food Laws in Mississippi: Key Guidelines and Policy Implications.”

How do I store my products? These products must be stored in a domestic residence under the guidelines of the Retail Food Code to prevent contamination.

Is there a regulatory agency? The Mississippi Department of Health oversees the cottage food industry and has the authority to investigate if a complaint is made about unsafe food or violation of Mississippi’s Cottage Food Law. For more information about Mississippi’s Cottage Food Law, consult the following Extension Publications:

Extension Publication 3286, “Mississippi Cottage Food Operations: Regulations and Guidance” The Mississippi Health Department also offers a frequently asked questions section on their website.

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