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Selling Homemade Food in Washington, D.C.

People love fresh-baked cookies and cake right out of the oven. Yet selling many types of homemade food was illegal in Washington, D.C., until 2013. That’s when the District of Columbia adopted rules to allow the sale of nonperishable homemade foods that do not require refrigeration at farmers markets.The rules were amended in 2019, with help from the Institute for Justice, to remove an annual revenue cap and to allow all direct sales.

District of Columbia cottage food laws

Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Cottage food producers in Washington, D.C., may sell directly to customers, including from their homesAllowable food items include homemade breads, candies, dry goods, pastries, jams, jellies and certain snacks. Read District of Columbia cottage food rules… 

District of Columbia 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.

Selling Homemade Food in the District of Columbia

District of Columbia cottage food resources:

  • DC Cottage Food Reform Coalition: Like our Facebook page to learn more about the DC cottage food law, how you can get involved, and learn tips of the trade from fellow cottage food producers.

District of Columbia 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 District of Columbia story

Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Washington, D.C.? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here… 

Support District of Columbia legislation

Help expand cottage food laws in Washington, D.C. 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. 

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