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:

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:

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:

Or you can contact us directly with any questions.

Download Our Primer on the MD Cottage Food Law