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Selling Homemade Food in West Virginia

Selling homemade food in West Virginia is easy, thanks to a law that took effect on June 5, 2019. Since then, policymakers have had no regrets. “West Virginia has not seen any widespread food borne outbreaks or negative effects from loosening regulations on cottage foods,” says Kent Leonhardt, West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture. “To the contrary, we as a department continue to push for common sense regulations that move the government out of the way of producers. This is part of our effort to foster economic development through agribusinesses and local food.” To help entrepreneurs get started, the Institute for Justice has prepared a West Virginia cottage food startup guide…

West Virginia cottage food types

Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in home kitchens for sale. West Virginia cottage food producers may sell shelf-stable, non-potentially hazardous foods. A good rule of thumb is: if it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, you can sell it from your home-based business. Examples include baked goods without cream, custard, cheese or meat fillings. West Virginia cottage food producers also may sell caramel corn, cereals, chocolates, churros, coffee, confections, cotton candy, crackers, dried herbs, dried pasta, dry baking mixes, fruit empanadas, fruit pies, fruit tamales, fudge, granola, honey, jams, jellies, nuts, dried fruits, pretzels, seasoning blends, seeds, syrups, tea blends, tortillas and trail mixes.

West Virginia cottage food venues

Selling cottage food was not always easy in West Virginia. Prior to 2019, the state restricted cottage food sales to seasonal farmers’ markets and sporadic community events. But because of the efforts of over 250 cottage food producers, who collaborated with the Institute for Justice and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 285 with bipartisan support. Now, West Virginia cottage food producers may sell their goods at farmers’ markets, community events and retail outlets like grocery stores and restaurants. West Virginia cottage food producers also may sell their goods directly from homes or take online orders with mail or in-person delivery.

Getting started in West Virginia

West Virginia does not require permits, training or inspections for cottage food producers. All they need to get started is entrepreneurial spirit.

West Virginia cottage food labels

West Virginia cottage food producers must put an individual label on each product, clearly stating the product name, the ingredients in descending order of predominance, and the producer’s name, home address and telephone number. Labels also must include the following statement: “This product was produced at a private residence that is exempt from state licensing and inspection. This product may contain allergens.”

West Virginia 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.

West Virginia 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: 

Selling Homemade Food in West Virginia

West Virginia cottage food resources:

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

Tell your West Virginia story

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

Support West Virginia legislation

Help expand cottage food laws in West Virginia 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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