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. South Carolina joined the movement in 2012 with the passage of South Carolina Code § 44-1-143. The state amended the law in 2018, removing certain restrictions.
South Carolina cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. South Carolina allows “home-based food production operations” to sell non-potentially hazardous foods. Allowable products include most types of breads, cookies, granola, biscuits, rolls, candy-coated nuts, candy-coated dried fruits, candy-coated popcorn, cotton candy, candy apples, popcorn balls, and chocolate-covered high-acid uncooked fruits such as strawberries, cranberries and cherries. South Carolina cottage food producers may sell baked high-acid fruit pies, but these products are not allowed unless product testing demonstrates that they are non-potentially hazardous.
South Carolina cottage food venues
South Carolina cottage food producers must sell their goods directly to consumers at farmers’ markets, special events and roadside stands. South Carolina also permits home delivery directly to consumers. South Carolina cottage food producers may not distribute their goods for resale using third-party vendors like restaurants and grocery stores. South Carolina does not mention online sales or mail-order delivery in its cottage food laws. Proposed legislation, which stalled in 2021, would have allowed these things.
Getting started in South Carolina
Setting up a South Carolina cottage food business is relatively easy. A business license is necessary for tax purposes, but people who work in their own kitchens do not need a food establishment permit. South Carolina cottage food producers must keep all animals, including pets, out of the food production area. South Carolina also prohibits “all domestic activities in the kitchen while the home-based food production operation is processing.” South Carolina cottage food producers must ensure that their water and sewage disposal systems meet state standards. State law suggests that the South Carolina Department of Agriculture may inspect home kitchens under certain circumstances. Previously, South Carolina cottage food producers were subject to a gross annual revenue limit of $15,000. But as of 2018, South Carolina no longer imposes a limit.
South Carolina cottage food labels
South Carolina cottage food producers must package their goods and include labels that comply with federal regulations. Labels must include the name and address of the home-based food production operation, the product name, the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight; and a “conspicuous” statement printed in all capital letters and in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background that reads: “NOT FOR RESALE—PROCESSED AND PREPARED BY A HOME-BASED FOOD PRODUCTION OPERATION THAT IS NOT SUBJECT TO SOUTH CAROLINA’S FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS.”
South 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.
South 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:
- 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.
- South Carolina Cottage Food Law Facebook community provides legislative updates.
Tell your South Carolina story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in South Carolina? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support South Carolina legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in South 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.