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Cottage Law Factsheet

Food producers who want to sell food under South Carolina’s Cottage Food Law must follow the guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). A cottage food operation is a home-based food operation that operates out of an individual’s home that prepares, packages, stores, and distributes non-potentially hazardous baked foods and candy  to the end consumer. The text of the full Cottage Law (SC 44-1-143 H) can be found at: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess119_2011-2012/bills/4689.htm

How Do I Apply?

There is no application for producing a cottage food. All food production must be in the home kitchen. Once you move out of your home kitchen to prepare products, a permit issued by SCDHEC is required. Additionally, you may only sell to the end consumer (i.e. the person who intends to eat the food). You may not sell to a retail food establishment or sell your products at a retail food establishment (this includes permitted mobile food units). You may sell your product at venues such as farmer’s and flea markets.

Foods Covered and Not Covered Under SC Cottage Law

The Cottage Law covers non-potentially hazardous baked goods and hard candy that are sold directly to the end consumer. These foods cannot be sold for re-sale. Note that moist quick breads like zucchini, pumpkin, and banana may be potentially hazardous and may require product analysis. Canned and jarred foods are not covered by the law and are not eligible for exemption.

DHEC Defines Candy As:

  • Candies and confectioneries (confectioneries are candies, delicacies or sweets that have sugar as a principal ingredient, combined with coloring matter and/or flavoring)
  • Candy coated nuts
  • Candy coated dried fruits
  • Candy coated popcorn
  • Cotton candy
  • Candy apples
  • Popcorn balls

DHEC Defines a Baked Good As:

  • Loaf breads
  • Rolls
  • Biscuits
  • Baked cookies
  • Baked granola
  • Baked cakes
  • Baked high-acid fruit pies (apple, apricot, grape, peach, plum, quince, orange, nectarine, blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, strawberry, red currants).

Potentially hazardous foods are not covered by the law and are defined as follows:

  • Raw or heat-treated animal foods
  • Heat treated plant foods or raw seed sprouts
  • Cut melons
  • Cut leafy greens
  • Cut tomatoes or mixtures of cut tomatoes not modified to prevent microorganism growth or toxin formation
  • Garlic-in-oil mixtures not modified to prevent microorganism growth or toxin formation

Certain foods are designated as Product Assessment Required because of the interaction of their pH and water activity (Aw; moisture available to microorganisms). Examples of potentially hazardous baked goods include, but are not limited to:

  • Pumpkin pie
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Cheese cake
  • Custard pies
  • Cream pies
  • Pastries with potentially hazardous toppings or fillings

Unless a product assessment is conducted pursuant to the 2009 Food and Drug Administration Food Code, the following are considered potentially hazardous:

  • Heat-treated packaged foods with water activity between 0.92 and 0.95 and a pH greater than 5.6
  • Heat-treated packaged foods with a water activity greater than 0.95 and a pH greater than 4.6

Foods NOT Covered under SC Cottage Law:

  • Fresh or dried meats or poultry (jerky)
  • Canned or jarred fruits, vegetables, salsas
  • Fish or shellfish
  • Canned or jarred pickled products (chow-chow, relish, pickles)
  • Raw seed sprouts
  • Refrigerated baked goods
  • Vacuum sealed products
  • Tempered and/or molded chocolate (fudge)
  • Milk and dairy foods (yogurt, cheese, milk)
  • Cut fruits or vegetables
  • Cooked vegetable products
  • Dried spices or herbs
  • Garlic or herbs in oil mixtures
  • Juices
  • Ice/ice products
  • Bar-B-Q sauces, ketchups, mustards, or marinades
  • Focaccia style breads (moist quick breads like zucchini, pumpkin, and banana)

If a product is not listed, the person can determine if it is non-potentially hazardous by contacting Dr. Kimberly Baker (kabaker@clemson.edu) or Adair Hoover (cpope@clemson.edu). A product analysis to determine the interaction of pH and/or water activity (Aw) is required to exempt any product not listed above. Analysis will be at the expense of the cottage food operation.

To sell non-potentially hazardous baked goods and hard candy under the cottage law, the producer is required to follow all regulations as stated under the law and enforced by DHEC. However, registration with DHEC is not required to sell these items under the cottage law.

Labeling

Products for sale under the Cottage Food Law must be labeled. Labels must include:

  • Name and address of the home-based food operation
  • Product name
  • Complete list of ingredients (including all allergens)
  • Net weight (must be provided in both customary and metric measurements)
  • A conspicuous statement printed in all capital letters and in a color providing a clear contrast to the background that reads “NOT FOR RESALE- PROCESSED AND PREPARED BY A HOME-BASED FOOD PRODUCT OPERATION THAT IS NOT SUBJECT TO SOUTH CAROLINA’S FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS.”

Additionally information on labeling is available at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006828.htm .

Additional Information

For more information, contact Dr. Kimberly Baker (kabaker@clemson.edu) or Mrs. Adair Hoover (cpope@clemson.edu).

Question regarding the Home Baked Food Production Law (i.e. The “Cottage Law”) should be directed to DHEC Division of Food Protection (803-896-0640)

Sources
  1. SCDA Food Safety and Compliance website: http://agriculture.sc.gov/divisions/consumer-protection/foodfeed-safety-compliance/

Prepared by Tabetha Woodside, Food Science Intern, Adair Hoover, HGIC Food Safety Specialist, and Kimberly Baker, Food Safety Extension Associate, Clemson University. (New 06/16.)

 

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.