Maryland Cottage Food Law
In 2012, Maryland passed a Cottage Food Law, allowing residents to operate a home-based bakery or home food processing company. The intent was to encourage the development of small food businesses, and create market opportunities through farmers markets and community events. Prior to the law, these small businesses were not allowed to sell at these venues.
A cottage food business, in compliance with the requirements, is not required to be licensed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH); however DHMH has developed the regulations to enforce the legislation. County health departments are able to determine whether they accept and enforce the DHMH regulations, or develop their own laws and ordinances to regulate the preparation, processing, storage and sale of cottage food products. See our Regulations page to determine whether your county has Cottage Food regulations other than DHMH.
Products eligible for production under the Cottage Food Law include:
- High acid fruit jams and jellies
- Non-potentially hazardous baked goods
- Hard candy
- Honey (unflavored)
While many farmers and vendors can sample their product at markets and events, those who produce cottage food products can only sample their product if each sample is individually packaged and labeled, prior to attending the market and/or event.
Limited quantitative data on the impact of Cottage Food Laws exists. However, a 2013 Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic study provided a solid analysis of the national Cottage Food Law landscape, its shortcomings, and opportunities.
The study stated that cottage food laws provide a number of important benefits, including both direct and indirect economic benefits and community benefits:
- Increasing the number of locally made products available for purchase at farmers markets and similar locations has the direct economic benefit of increasing the amount of money that stays in the local economy.
- Home food production or cottage food production can also serve as a business incubator by reducing some of the start‐up barriers for fledgling entrepreneurs and providing the indirect economic benefit of growing more local businesses.
- Communities benefit from cottage food production because it provides residents greater access to locally produced foods.
- Cottage food laws encourage more people to grow food because the growers know they have an outlet to create value‐added products from any excess fresh fruits and vegetables they produce. (Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, May 2013)
MDFMA has compiled a few ideas for ways in which this law can be better utilized in Maryland’s Farmers Markets. You can read our Policy Brief outlining these ideas here: MDFMA Policy Brief on Cottage Food Law.
If you are interested in selling products under the Cottage Food Law, please see the following resources for more information:
- List of Foods for MD Cottage Food Law
- Text of the MD Cottage Food Law Legislation
- University of Maryland Extension (UME) Synopsis & Resources on the Cottage Food Law
- Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Chart of Value-Added Products
- Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center Resources on Specific Foods
- Department of Mental Health & Hygiene (DHMH) Office of Food Protection
Or you can contact us directly with any questions.Download Our Primer on the MD Cottage Food Law