All across the United States, Americans 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. North Carolina does not have specific laws for selling homemade food, but the state’s Food and Drug Protection Division allows home-based food businesses to operate. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Food and Drug Protection Division provides guidelines…

Grades For Homemade Food Laws North Carolina
Final GradeC+
Food Varieties Grade C-
Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade A
Regulatory Burdens GradeD+

North Carolina cottage food types

Food VarietiesNorth Carolina
What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in North Carolina?No restrictions
Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in No
Can I Sell Meat in North Carolina?No
Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in North Carolina?Yes
Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in North Carolina?No
Can I Sell Fermented Foods in North Carolina?No

Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. North Carolina cottage food producers may sell “low-risk packaged foods.” Examples include baked goods, jams, jellies, candies, dried mixes and spices. North Carolina cottage food producers also may sell shelf-stable pickles, acidified foods, sauces and some liquids, but these foods require laboratory testing. Contact North Carolina State University’s Food Science Department for testing information. North Carolina cottage food producers may not sell “high-risk” products, including refrigerated or frozen products, low-acid canned foods, dairy products, seafood and bottled water. To determine if canned goods are low-acid or acidified, contact a food compliance officer at (984) 236-4820 for guidance.

North Carolina cottage food venues

Sales and Venue RestrictionsNorth Carolina
Annual Sales CapNo limit
Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in No restrictions
Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?Yes
Online OrdersYes
Mail DeliveryYes

North Carolina cottage food producers may sell their products at almost any venue, including online to buyers within state limits. Other allowable venues include homes, farmers’ markets, roadside stands, special events and retail outlets like grocery stores and restaurants.

However, North Carolina cottage food producers cannot have any pets or animals who enter the home at any time.

Getting started in North Carolina

Regulatory BurdensNorth Carolina
Inspections Required Before StartingYes
Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?No
License, Permit or Registration RequiredNo
Recipe Approval or Lab Testing RequiredOnly for acidified or pickled food, dressings, sauces, and “moist” cakes and breads.
Food Handler Training RequiredNo

North Carolina cottage food producers must complete a long application process, which includes a home inspection. Prior to inspection, North Carolina cottage food producers must create a detailed business plan, check local permitting and zoning information, create labels, and provide a copy of a recent water bill. If a North Carolina cottage food producer uses well water, then the water must be tested for coliform bacteria prior to inspection. Some local jurisdictions require completion of a food safety course. 

North Carolina cottage food labels

North Carolina cottage foods must be packaged to protect them from contamination. A label must be affixed to the package, showing the product name, the manufacturer’s name and address, the net weight of the product in ounces/pounds, and the gram weight equivalent. Labels also must include a complete list of ingredients in order of predominance by weight.

North Carolina 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.

North Carolina 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: 

Tell your North Carolina story

Is government violating your homemade food freedom in North Carolina? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here… 

Support North Carolina legislation

Help expand cottage food laws in North Carolina 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.