Selling homemade food in Tennessee got easier in 2012 with changes to the state’s Domestic Kitchen Laws. The reforms allowed home-based food producers to sell directly to consumers without inspection and permitting by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Regulatory Services Division. The law was amended in 2017, which increased the types of venues in which homemade food could be sold. The 2017 amendment also legalized the employment of part-time employees at a cottage food business, though the employment of full-time employees remains prohibited.
Tennessee cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Tennessee permits cottage food producers to sell any non-potentially hazardous food. Examples include baked goods that do not require refrigeration, jams, jellies, preserves, candy, and dried spices, fruits and vegetables. Prohibited foods include any food that requires refrigeration, pickled items, foods that contain meat or poultry, and sauces.
Tennessee cottage food venues
Cottage food producers in Tennessee may only sell cottage food directly to the consumer, and may not sell through a third party such as a retail store. However, cottage food producers may sell directly to the consumer by almost any means. They may sell over the internet, by delivery or pickup, at a farmers’ market or as a roadside vendor.
Tennessee cottage food labeling
Tennessee cottage food must be labeled with the name of the food, the name and street address of the cottage food producer, the amount of food in the package in Imperial and metric units (both grams and ounces), the ingredients in order of prominence by weight, and a lot number or date for the purposes of tracing the food in the event of an issue that requires market withdrawal. Tennessee also recommends that cottage food producers note any allergens that the food contains. The 2017 amendment eliminated the requirement that all cottage food be labeled with a statement declaring that the food was made in an environment that was not inspected by the state.
Getting started in Tennessee
Tennessee cottage food producers do not need to register with the state or obtain a permit or license to operate. The 2017 amendment also eliminated the requirement that all Tennessee cottage food producers must complete a food safety training course. To get started in Tennessee, a person only needs a kitchen and entrepreneurial spirit.
Tennessee 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.
Tennessee 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 Tennessee story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Tennessee? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Tennessee legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Tennessee 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.