While states regulate the production of food for commercial sale, cottage food laws often allow those looking to start a small business to produce specific types of goods to sell to the public. The first step in any certification is to prove to the state that the food you're baking is considered safe. The second is to allow an inspection of your kitchen to confirm that it meets health code requirements and qualifies as a home kitchen rather than a commercial one.
Local Laws Hold Sway
Home kitchen certification licensing requirements vary by state. Some states have less rigorous regulation for a home kitchen, while others won't allow them at all if you also use the kitchen to prepare the family meals. Check with your local government, whether that's city hall or a county regulatory agency, for the specific requirements where you live.
If you have pets in the home, you'll likely be out of luck attempting to get your kitchen certified. That's usually a deal-breaker. The application in North Carolina, for example, asks if you have pets that "come in your home at any time?" and notes that "Pets in the home are a violation of Good Manufacturing Practices."
Home Kitchens Treated Differently
Baked goods are considered "safer" goods in many cases, as long as they don't carry a risk of spoilage. As such, state laws tend to be friendlier to a home-based bakery than they would be for a business selling other food products, and the application process less rigorous. For example, Oregon has a domestic bakery license for products made in a home kitchen. It's intended as a less rigorous standard that allows prospective bakers to try their luck on a small scale with limited production. Kitchens must be made available for inspection between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, as well as other production times.
Similarly, Ohio has a home bakery license for those who want to produce baked goods for sale from their regular home kitchen. It's available for a kitchen in the operator's primary residence, and that kitchen may contain only one single or double oven. Homeowners must apply for a license by contacting the state's Department of Agriculture, arrange for an inspection and pay the annual fee, which is $10 as of 2015.
Because these laws are intended for small businesses and not larger operations, states may limit the licenses to only those with a volume below a specified threshold. Iowa businesses, for example, can only be a home food establishment if they gross less than $20,000 per year. Anything greater and you're a food processing plant.
Not Always Permitted
Some states don't allow home bakeries at all. In Connecticut, for example, baked goods made for sale can only be made in a commercial kitchen that's state-licensed and approved. A home kitchen can't be certified at all. In addition, even in states with cottage food laws that permit home-based bakeries, neighborhood zoning laws still may make them illegal, so check with your municipality, public health department and homeowners association as well.