People love fresh-baked cookies and cake right out of the oven. Yet selling homemade food was illegal at most Alabama venues until 2014. That’s when Alabama passed legislative reforms to allow direct, in-person sales of nonperishable homemade foods that do not require refrigeration. Unfortunately, Alabama homemade food producers still could not sell many types of food, including certain shelf-stable foods. That changed when Alabama passed a new round of reforms, which will take effect on Aug. 1, 2021. The new rules allow the sale of all shelf-stable homemade foods, allow online sales and shipping, and eliminate a previous $20,000 annual sales cap.
Alabama cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Alabama allows the sale of cottage foods that do not require time or temperature control for safe consumption. These include baked goods like cakes and pies, jams and jellies, candy, dried fruits and vegetables, herbs and roasted coffee, among other types of foods. Fermented or preserved fruits and vegetables are permitted if they do not contain alcohol. No products that include meat, poultry, or fish may be sold as cottage food.
Alabama cottage food venues
Alabama cottage food producers must sell their products directly to consumers. However, the 2021 legislation allows sales over the internet and by phone. Alabama cottage food must be delivered directly from producers to the consumers, either by the producers themselves, by mail or by designated agents. Alabama cottage food may not be sold in retail outlets or by any third-party vender.
Alabama cottage food labeling
All cottage food sold in Alabama must be labeled with the name of the food, the name of the producer or production operation, the home or post office box address where the food was produced, a list of the ingredients in descending order of amount, a disclaimer that the food may contain allergens, and a statement that the food is not inspected by a health department. Text on the label must in a 10-point font or larger.
Getting started in Alabama
Alabama does not require any inspection for cottage food producers; however, all cottage producers must complete one of the state’s approved food safety courses, some of which are offered by the state. The Alabama Department of Public Health may also issue a stop sale, seize or hold order to any cottage food producer whose food is suspected of causing a foodborne illness.
Alabama cottage food facts
Myths about cottage food abound. Here are the facts:
- Cottage food is safe. Critics who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what could go wrong because real-world cases are rare or nonexistent.
- Cottage food is local. When neighbors trade with neighbors, money stays in the local economy.
- Cottage food is transparent. People who buy from a cottage food producer know what they get. If they have questions about ingredients, sourcing or safety, they can ask.
- Cottage food creates jobs. Many homemade food producers use their income to provide for their families. Others seek a secondary or supplemental income.
- Cottage food empowers women. IJ’s cottage food research shows that most cottage food producers are women, and many live in rural areas with limited economic opportunity.
- Cottage food expands consumer choice. Some stores simply don’t sell what you want. This is especially true if you have a gluten-free, peanut-free, halal, kosher or vegan diet. Cottage food fills market gaps, giving consumers more options.
Alabama cottage food resources
As part of its Food Freedom Initiative, the Institute for Justice provides a variety of resources for home bakers and other food entrepreneurs. These include:
- Model Food Freedom Act from the Institute for Justice guides activism efforts at state capitols nationwide.
- Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses surveys 775 cottage food producers in 22 states about what their businesses mean to them.
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s cottage food victory in Wisconsin.
- The Attack on Food Freedom examines the impact of regulations on farmers, chefs, artisans, restaurateurs, food truck operators and others.
Tell your Alabama story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Fill out the attached form to get started…
Support Alabama legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Alabama by teaming with the Institute for Justice. Send an email with your name, background information and availability to get started…
Defending homemade food freedom nationwide
People have a right to earn an honest living without arbitrary and excessive government interference. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has defended home bakers and chefs as part of its Food Freedom Initiative. Read about IJ’s nationwide food freedom advocacy…
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All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Statutes, regulations, and processes are subject to change at any time, and specific facts and circumstances could alter how they are applied. If you have questions about the regulation of cottage foods in your jurisdiction, we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.