All across the United States, people are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form a small but growing industry—the homemade or “cottage food” industry. The movement fits within a larger trend toward healthy eating and responsible sourcing, as consumers take greater interest in where their food comes from and who makes it.
Previously, only farmers could sell homemade foods in Delaware, under the state’s On-Farm Home Processing regulations. That program is still in effect and still only applies to farmers. But in 2016, Delaware expanded opportunities for all residents with 16 Del. Admin. Code § 4458A, which let the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services to modify and enforce cottage food regulations. Now any person may sell homemade food. Nevertheless, the state’s cottage food law remains highly restrictive.
|Grades For Homemade Food Laws||Delaware Cottage Food||Delaware On-Farm Home Processing|
|Food Categories Grade||F||D-|
|Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade||D-||D-|
|Regulatory Burdens Grade||F||F|
Delaware cottage food types
|Food Varieties||Delaware Cottage Food||Delaware On-Farm Home Processing|
|What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Delaware?||Baked goods, candies, jams, and jellies.||Limited to a set list by the Department of Agriculture.|
|Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Delaware?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Meat in Delaware?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Delaware?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Delaware?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Delaware?||No||No|
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Delaware cottage food producers may sell some foods that are not time- or temperature-controlled for safety. The list includes traditional bakery items such as cakes, breads, cookies, rolls, muffins, brownies, fruit pies and pastries. Other allowable items include condiments, dry goods, pastries, jams, jellies and certain snacks and candies. The law specifically allows fudge, lollipops, chocolates, tortes, hard candies and rock candies that are not time- or temperature-controlled for safety. Bakery items with cream or meat fillings are not allowed. Delaware cottage food producers who wish to sell additional items may apply for a variance with Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.
Additionally, farmers in Delaware are allowed to sell a broader list of products, including maple syrup, dried fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, honey, popcorn, and peanut brittle.
Delaware cottage food venues
|Sales and Venue Restrictions||Delaware||Delaware On-Farm Home Processing|
|Annual Sales Cap||$25,000||$50,000|
|Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Delaware?||Farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and special events.||Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and from the farm.|
|Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?||No||No|
Delaware cottage food producers may sell their goods directly to consumers within the state at farmers’ markets and special events. Online advertising is permitted, but the state bans online sales. Wholesale or other sales to resellers or food establishments are not permitted. Gross annual sales may not exceed $25,000 for cottage food producers. The on-farm home processing permit caps sales at $50,000 but doesn’t allow any pets to ever be inside the home.
Getting started in Delaware
|Regulatory Burdens||Cottage Food||On-Farm Home Processing|
|Inspections Required Before Starting||Yes||Yes|
|Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?||No||No|
|License, Permit or Registration Required||Yes||Yes|
|Recipe Approval or Lab Testing Required||For certain products determined by the Division of Public Health.||No|
|Food Handler Training Required||Yes||Yes|
The process to get started in Delaware is onerous. Delaware cottage food producers must register their operations with the state and pay an annual fee of $30 during each fiscal year ending on March 31. At the time of registration, Delaware cottage food producers must provide information about their products and processes. Specifically, they must provide a complete list of products they wish to sell, along with a complete list of ingredients, sample labels, and the types of venues where their products will be sold. Delaware cottage food producers also must provide floor plans of the processing areas where they will work. Plans must identify appliances to be used, food contact surfaces, areas for refrigeration and dry good storage, and restroom facilities. Delaware cottage food producers must pass a state inspection and complete a state-approved food safety course. They must keep animals and pets out of the food preparation area at all times. Additional restrictions may apply at the county or municipal level. The process to obtain an on-farm home processing license includes a $25 fee, a home inspection, and the completion of an eight-hour food safety course.
Delaware cottage food labels
Delaware cottage food producers must package their products and include labels with the following information: Name, phone number and email address of the cottage food producer; product name; net weight or unit count; production date of production; allergen information; ingredients in descending order by weight. If the product label is too small to allow for printing of ingredients, the list shall be available at the request of the consumer. Labels shall include the following statement: “This food is made in a Cottage Food Establishment and is NOT subject to routine Government Food Safety Inspections.”
Delaware 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 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.
Delaware 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 Delaware story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Delaware? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Delaware legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Delaware 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.