Cottage Foods Act

The Cottage Foods Act allows limited types of food products that are non-potentially hazardous (do not require refrigeration for safety) to be sold directly to consumers without licensing or inspection.

 

 

History

In 2012, the Colorado legislature enacted the Colorado Cottage Foods Act allowing limited types of food products to be sold directly to consumers without licensing or inspections. The Act has been modified over the past several years; below are links to each session Bill. An unofficial copy of the entire Act is also available, with recent changes indicated with CAPITALIZED LETTERS.

 

  Unofficial copy of the act

 

The following documents provide a history of the act, starting in 2012. They are for historical purposes, and have been replaced by newer legislation, which can be found above.

 

Eligible foods

What type of foods are eligible?
Foods that are non-potentially hazardous, or in other words, do not require refrigeration for safety. 

  • This includes pickled fruits and vegetables with a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below, spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seeds, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, flour, and baked goods, including candies, fruit empanadas, tortillas and other similar products that do not require refrigeration for safety. Up to 250 dozen whole eggs per month may also be sold.
  • Baked goods such as cream pies and pastries that contain cream cheese and or custard are not allowed.
  • Salsa is not allowed.
  • Canned fruits and applesauce are allowed.
  • Pickled vegetables and fruits with a finished pH of 4.6 or below are allowed.
  • Dehydrated produce includes freeze-dried produce.

To confirm if your product is eligible to be sold under the Act, you can contact us.

Frequently asked questions

What type of shell eggs can be sold?
Chicken, quail, duck, and turkey eggs. If a producer sells more than 250 dozen shells eggs per month, then a license is required. For chicken eggs, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture at (303) 477-0076. For all other types of shell eggs, contact our Manufactured Food Program at (303) 692-3645, option 2.  

How many eggs can a producer sell?
250 dozen per month.

What information is required on egg cartons?
The address at which the eggs originated and the packaging date. Additionally, any eggs not treated for salmonella must also include the following statement on the package:

"Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook any foods containing eggs thoroughly. These eggs do not come from a government-approved source."

Can egg cartons be reused?
No. New, clean and unused egg cartons must be used.

Are eggs required to be kept cold?
Yes. Eggs should be maintained at 41°F or below.

Where can I obtain information regarding poultry?
Poultry is not eligible to be sold under the Act. There are laws that do allow a producer to raise, process, and sell whole poultry to consumers. Contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Inspection & Consumer Services Division.

Are canned breads/cakes/baked goods eligible to be sold under the Cottage Foods Act?
Canned breads/cakes/baked goods are not eligible to be made under the Cottage Foods Act. Sealing the container creates a vacuum and a low oxygen environment, creating an ideal environment for the growth of clostridium botulinum, a harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness or death if ingested.

Starting a Business

What steps do I need to take to start preparing and selling Cottage Foods?
  1. Review the Cottage Foods Act.
  2. Complete a food safety course.
  3. Contact your local city and county offices to see if you need a business license.

 

Contact

303-692-3645, option 2
cdphe_mfgfd@state.co.us

Can pumpkin, sweet potato, and zucchini be used as ingredients for baked goods?
Yes. Pumpkin, sweet potato and zucchini breads can be sold under the Act. Pumpkin or sweet potato pies are not allowed because they require refrigeration to maintain product integrity and safety.

Can whole fresh peppers be used to make pepper jelly?
No. Whole fresh peppers cannot be used to make fruit preserves, jam, or jelly. However, dried spices such as cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper, etc. are allowed to be used to make these products.

Can I add liquor/alcohol to flavor my baked goods, confections and candies?
Yes, as long as they do not contain more than 5% alcohol by weight. The addition of liquor/alcohol should be included in the ingredients list on the product label.  Exceeding this limit would render the product ineligible to be sold under the Cottage Foods Act and subject it to the liquor laws and regulations enforced by the Colorado Department of Revenue

Can baked goods contain meat?
No. Baked goods that contain meat such as bacon are not allowed to be sold under the law.

Can raw agricultural commodities such as honey, vegetables, and fruits from a local farmer or bee keeper be used to prepare cottage foods?
Yes. Fruits and vegetables with minimal post-harvest processing to remove dirt, debris or dead leaves, and unprocessed honey can be used to make cottage food products.

Is flour considered a raw agricultural commodity?
No. The grain used to make the flour would be considered a raw agricultural product.

Can I use hemp in my cottage food products?
Sterile hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil from approved manufacturers can be used in a cottage food. Other parts of the industrial hemp plant, including oil produced from this material, cannot be used. The rationale is that the other parts of the industrial hemp plant contain both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while the seeds only contain a trace amount. Products that contain CBD or THC are not allowed products under the Cottage Foods Act.

Only registered and inspected food industrial hemp manufacturers are allowed to produce food products containing CBD.  For more information about industrial hemp visit our Manufactured Foods Resources page.

Can I sell low sugar fruit butter, preserves, jams, and jellies under the Act?
No. Standardized recipes for these products use sugar. When sugar is added to a product a high sugar environment is created which provides for protection and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners are not allowed for use in the production of cottage foods because they create a low sugar environment thus allowing the growth of harmful bacteria.

The Colorado Cottage Foods Act requires producers to complete a food safety training course prior to starting a cottage foods business. The following options are available to meet this requirement.

Only one of the three options below must be completed. Trainees must remain in good standing with the course requirements including renewal of certificates of completion as required by the course developer. 

Option 1: Complete Food Safety Training for Colorado Cottage Food Producers, offered by Colorado State University Extension. This is an in-person, classroom style training. Since 2014, 140 trainings have been implemented statewide. As a result, over 2,020 cottage food producers have received certificates of completion. Certificates are good for three years from the date of completion. 
 
 
If you already have a food safety training certificate from CSU Extension, but it has expired, you can take the online course to renew your certificate. 
 
Option 2: Obtain a Food Handlers Card. Producers can obtain a food handlers card by completing an online training course at State Food Safety.
 
 
Option 3: Attend a food safety training course offered by your local public health agency. Some agencies offer classroom style food safety training to restaurant operators and staff. Contact them to determine if cottage food producers can attend. 
 

 

Do Cottage Foods have to be packaged and labeled?
Yes. All Cottage Foods should be packaged and labeled with specific information including an exact disclaimer prior to selling them directly to the informed consumer.

 

Can Cottage Foods be labeled as "allergen­ free"?
No. All Cottage Food products must be labeled with a disclaimer stating that they were produced in a home kitchen without regulatory oversight and may also contain common allergens.

Can Cottage Foods be labeled as "organic"?
Cottage Foods labeled as "organic" have to be certified by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - National Organic Program accredited certification agency. A producer may list an ingredient as "organic" without obtaining certification as long as the term "organic" is not on the primary label.


Contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Plants Division for additional information.

There are restrictions on how and where you can sell your Cottage Foods product(s).

  • Product(s) must be delivered directly from producer to an informed end consumer and cannot be resold.
  • Product(s) cannot be sold to restaurants or grocery stores.
  • Product(s) may only be sold in Colorado. 
  • At the point of sale, clearly display a placard, sign or card with the following disclaimer: "This product was produced in a home kitchen that is not subject to state licensure or inspection. This product is not intended for resale."

What is a designated representative?
A designated representative, is a representative of the cottage food producer who is knowledgeable about the product and able to answer general consumer questions about the product.

What is an informed end consumer?
An informed consumer, is a consumer who has been provided with general product information including the product name, address where the food was prepared, current telephone number or email address of the producer, date the food was produced, ingredients, and a disclaimer that the food was prepared in a home kitchen not subject to licensure or inspection and that it may contain common food allergens. An end consumer is the person who purchases and consumes the product.

Can a producer sell their Cottage Foods product(s) at multiple locations and events, even if they occur on the same day and at the same time?
Yes. A producer or their designated representative can sell and deliver the product directly to an informed end consumer.

Can Cottage Foods be sold on the Internet?
Yes, internet sales are allowed.  The mechanism of direct product delivery can be determined between the producer and the informed end consumer as long as it does not involve interstate commerce.

Can I make my cottage foods for a catered event?
No. The Cottage Foods Act requires that product be sold by the producer or their designated representative directly to the informed end consumer. 
 
Can a retail food establishment (restaurant, mobile unit, grocery store, etc.) sell Cottage Foods?
No. Since these products are not from a licensed, inspected and regulated facility, they are not considered approved sources and therefore not allowed for sale in these types of establishments.

Can Cottage Foods be sold out of a store front or via consignment?
The law requires that Cottage Foods be sold directly to an informed end consumer from the producer or their designated representative. The store and its employees would need to function as the designated representative.

Net revenue allowance
If I produce muffins, does the Act allow me to earn up to $10,000 for each type (blueberry, banana, chocolate chip)?
Yes.  

We recommend seeking advice from a qualified accountant or tax professional.

Where can I find information about my Colorado tax obligations and business license requirements for my cottage foods business?

Your cottage food business is subject to income and sales tax, and in some locations you may need to get additional licenses or pay additional taxes.


You can visit the following Department of Revenue pages for more information.

Instructions and forms:

Contacts:

Colorado Department of Revenue Call Center
Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

(303) 238-7378

Find a walk in Taxpayer Service Center. Locations include Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction.

Where can I find additional tax resources?

Applicable statutes can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes:
39-26-707.1 - Articles & Containers RE: Food Products
39-26-103(6) - Licenses - fee - revocation - definition
39-21-113 - Reports and Returns

Registration is not required; however you may choose to register your business with the Secretary of State. Register with Secretary of State (clicking this link will open in a new window).

The Act requires a cottage food business structured as an LLC to have two or fewer members, meaning one to two owners. An LLC can have an unlimited number of employees (non-owners) including those that are designated representatives.

For templates to print labels, see Printable Resources.

Standardized Recipes

Assure safe pickled fruit and vegetable products and preserves by using recipes from reputable sources, such as:

Testing pH

The pH of your finished pickled fruits and vegetables must be 4.6 or below.

 

  • Test the first batch of each recipe during the production season. You can do this yourself, or through a certified food laboratory.
  • Review information about pH and the use and calibration of a pH meter by visiting the University of Wisconsin extension website.

Record keeping

Keeping production records is a valuable business practice and should include the following:

  • Name of the product.
  • Recipe, including procedures and ingredients.
  • Amount prepared and sold.
  • Date of preparation.
  • Date and location of sale.
  • Gross sales receipts.
  • pH test results.

Sanitation

How should I clean my work surfaces?
Clean work surfaces with soap and water, rinse them with plain water, and then spray or wipe them down with a sanitizer. A sanitizer solution can be made by mixing 1/8 teaspoon unscented, regular bleach (8.25%) with 16 ounces of water.

My home has a private water system. Can I prepare Cottage Foods there?
Yes. Consider testing private water supplies at least once a year.

If I'm ill, can I prepare food?
Never prepare food while ill. Continue when you feel better and are symptom free for at least 24 hours. Wash your hands often and never handle ready-to-eat foods with your bare hands.

Food safety is at the heart of the trust your friends, family, and valued customers put in your products. One of the key indicators of whether your pickling process is working as you intend is pH testing to measure the acidity of your finished product. 

Although foodborne botulism is rare, it is commonly associated with homemade pickled fruit and vegetable products that have pH levels specifically above 4.6 because these levels create the perfect environment for harmful toxins to grow and when consumed can cause foodborne botulism. The chance of this occurring can be greatly minimized by having your pickled fruit and vegetable products tested. 

If you choose to have your product tested, the results will validate your standardized, personal, or family recipe(s) and verify a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below. Results will be mailed directly to you and will confirm if your recipe is just right or prompt you to make adjustments to assure the safety of your product for your customers. 

We currently offer free pH testing for Cottage Food producers who make the following products. Free pH testing for pickled fruit and vegetables made by cottage food producers is now being offered on a first-come, first-served basis: 

  • Chutney
  • Kimchi
  • Pickled fruits
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Pickles
  • Relish
  • Sauerkraut
  • Vinegar (fruit/vegetable)

What if I want to submit products for pH testing that are not listed above?

To request pH testing of other products at your own expense, visit the lab website for more information.

General lab information

Participation will validate your standardized, personal, or family recipe(s) for pickled fruits and vegetables and verify a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below. Pickled fruit and vegetable products not allowed to be sold under the Act will not be tested. A producer may submit up to five different products for free equilibrium pH testing. Results will be mailed directly to you and will confirm if your recipe is just right or prompt you to make adjustments to assure the safety of your product for your customers.


Download the Request for Analytical Services form and complete the following sections:

  • Customer Information:
    • Complete all fields.
  • Specimen Information: 
    • Collected (provide the production date).
    • Time (provide the approximate time the product was finished).
    • Collected by (provide your name).
    • Comments (provide the produce name).
  • Chain of Custody​:
    • Relinquished by (provide the name of the person dropping off or shipping your sample).
    • Date/time.
  • Leave the following fields blank:
    • Sample site, water type, chlorine residual, water temperature, fluoride, and temperature at receipt.

Place the form in a sealable bag (like a Ziploc™ bag) and securely attach it to the sample. Each sample must have a separate request form attached.


Drop off or ship your sample to:


Laboratory Services Division
8100 Lowry Blvd
Denver, CO 80230


Lab hours and directions

- OR -

Take your sample to one of the free courier service pick-up locations near you:
Call the listed contact to confirm your drop off time and location.

At your own expense, you can submit your samples for pH testing to the Laboratory for a fee of $16.50 per sample. Contact the Laboratory Services Division for more information.

What type of buffer solutions do I need to use to calibrate my pH meter?
Follow the instructions in your pH meter user manual. Buffer solutions must be labeled as intended for use with food. This must be clearly stated on the solution specifications and or label. Buffer solutions that are solely “lab grade” are not sufficient to calibrate pH testing equipment that will be used to test food.
 
How long do pH testing buffer solutions last?
Buffer solutions are labeled with an expiration date and should not be used passed that date. Using expired buffer solutions can result in measurement errors.

Growing beyond cottage foods has more information to help you grow a successful business beyond cottage foods. As a cottage food producer you are limited to selling certain foods, at specific locations within Colorado and your net revenue is restricted to $10,000 per product. As your business expands beyond these limits, you will need to register with us as a food manufacturer and/or become a licensed retail food establishment.
 

Egg production beyond cottage foods has more information to help you grow your egg production business beyond cottage foods. The Cottage Foods Act allows you to sell up to 250 dozen eggs per month, of any variety, directly to the informed end consumer within Colorado. As your business expands beyond these limits, specific licensing and registration requirements apply.