People love fresh-baked cookies and cakes right out of the oven. Yet selling homemade food was illegal at most venues in Maryland until 2018. Prior to legislative reforms passed that year, Maryland had some of the strictest limits in the nation, allowing homemade food producers to sell their goods only at farmers’ markets and special events. Now, with a law supported by the Institute for Justice, homemade food producers may sell their goods directly from home or through mail deliveries. Another reform passed in 2019 allows homemade food sales at retail stores and food co-ops. House Bill 1017, adopted in 2020, also allows Maryland homemade food producers to replace their home address with an ID number on product labels. Read more about Maryland’s homemade food rules…
Maryland cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Maryland cottage food producers may sell “nonpotentially hazardous food,” which refers to items that do not require time or temperature control for safety. Examples include baked goods like breads and cookies, along with candies, honey, dry goods, pastries, jams, jellies and snacks. Maryland farmers may apply for an On-Farm Home Processing License, which permits the sale of homemade pickles, dried fruits, and certain other items not allowed under Maryland’s cottage food law.
Maryland cottage food venues
Maryland cottage food producers may sell their goods directly from home or through mail delivery. They also may sell their goods at farmers’ markets, special events and retail outlets like grocery stores and food cooperatives. Maryland cottage food laws do not specifically mention online sales.
Getting started in Maryland
Maryland cottage food producers do not need a license, inspection or training to get started. However, Maryland cottage food producers who sell their goods at retail outlets must complete a state-approved food safety course and submit product labels to the Maryland Department of Health for approval. Maryland cottage food producers must allow state inspectors to enter their kitchens upon request. The state also imposes a gross annual sales limit of $25,000.
Maryland cottage food labels
Maryland cottage foods must be prepackaged with labels that include the name and address of the cottage food business (or state-issued ID number); the product name, the ingredients in descending order by weight, the net weight or net volume, allergen information, and nutritional information if any nutritional claim is made. Maryland cottage food labels also must include the following statement in 10-point or larger type: “Made by a cottage food business that is not subject to Maryland’s food safety regulations.” Maryland cottage foods sold in retail outlets also must show the production date on each label.
Maryland 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.
Maryland 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.
Selling Homemade Food in Maryland
Maryland cottage food resources:
- Maryland Cottage Food Reform: Like our Facebook page to learn more about the Maryland cottage food law, how you can get involved, and learn tips of the trade from fellow cottage food producers.
Tell your Maryland story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Maryland? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Maryland legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Maryland 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.