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. Yet selling many types of homemade food was illegal in Washington until 2012, when Chapter 69.22 and Chapter 16.149 in the Revised Code of Washington took effect. Even with the passage of reform and additional amendments in 2015, launching a Washington cottage food business remains difficult, with the state imposing some of the heaviest regulatory burdens in the country. In 2023, Washington made a small step toward easing the burden on Washington cottage food producers by passing legislation to raise the revenue cap from $25,000 to $35,000 and to allow producers to renew their permit every two years, rather than annually. 

Grades For Homemade Food Laws Washington
Final GradeD
Food Varieties Grade D-
Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade B-
Regulatory Burdens GradeF

Washington cottage food types

Food VarietiesWashington
What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Washington?Food must be on list approved by the Department of Agriculture.
Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Washington?No
Can I Sell Meat in Washington?No
Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Washington?No
Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Washington?No
Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Washington?No

Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Washington cottage food producers may sell “low risk” foods, which generally refers to shelf-stable foods that do not require time or temperature control for safety. The state-approved list includes loaf breads, rolls, biscuits, quick breads, muffins, cereals, trail mixes, granola, cakes, pastries, fried doughnuts, cookies or bars, pies (except custard-style pies, pies with fresh unbaked fruit, and pies requiring refrigeration after baking), crackers, tortillas, stove-top candies such as fudge, peanut brittle, caramels, taffy, marshmallows, molded chocolates and products dipped or coated in chocolate, potato chips, kale chips, nuts or nut mixes, snack mixes, some frostings, vinegar and flavored vinegars, dry soups, teas, coffees, spices and seasonings. Many types of standardized jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters are allowed with limitations. The Washington State Department of Agriculture provides guidelines…

Washington cottage food venues

Sales and Venue RestrictionsWashington
Annual Sales Cap$35,000
Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Washington?No restrictions
Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets Like Restaurants and Grocery Stores?No
Online OrdersYes
Mail DeliveryTemporarily allowed during the pandemic.

Washington cottage food producers must sell their goods directly to the end consumer, which means they may not use third-party vendors like restaurants, grocery stores and coffeeshops. Allowable venues include farmers’ markets, roadside stands and special events. Sales also can be made online, but products must be picked up or delivered in person. For example, cottage food producers may sell their products online and accept payment online, but pickup must occur in person. Products made with a Washington Cottage Food Permit cannot be sold outside the state. Once approved, Washington cottage food producers must cap their gross annual revenue at $35,000.

Getting started in Washington

Regulatory BurdensWashington
Inspections Required Before StartingYes
Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?No
License, Permit or Registration RequiredYes
Recipe Approval or Lab Testing RequiredYes
Food Handler Training RequiredYes

Washington cottage food producers must take a food safety course, get a business license, submit detailed business plans and recipes, and pass a home inspection. The process to get a Washington Cottage Food Operation permit costs $230 bi-annually and takes up to two months to complete.

Washington cottage food labels

Washington cottage food producers must attach labels on their products with the following information: Business name; permit number; product name; quantity by weight, volume or number of items in the package; and ingredient list in descending order of predominance by weight. Each label also must include the following statement in 11-point type or larger: “Made in a home kitchen that has not been subject to standard inspection criteria.”

Washington 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.

Washington 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:

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

Tell your Washington story

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

Support Washington legislation

Help expand cottage food laws in Washington 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.