News on Fees, Links, and Forms

Fees for new San Diego Cottage Food Operators go up July 1, 2017. Fees for San Diego CFOs who are renewing after July 1 go down. Everyone benefits from new rules re. labels. And, did you know the state of California Dept. of Public Health revamped their website, so your old links to information there won’t work. We have the new ones! Finally, we’ve created checklist forms to help you create proper labels for cottage foods. Read on!


Fees for new CFO applications approved after July 1, 2017 will be $185 for A registrations and $421 for B permits. Both will allow up to 10 labels to be reviewed for accuracy. (You can make and sell more CA state approved CFO products without having all of the labels reviewed. If you’d like more labels reviewed to be sure they are correct, that can be done for $76.50 per 30 min. The county can only bill in half-hour increments.)

The County Dept. of Health will no longer issue a list of products you are approved to make and sell. You will be able to make and sell any of those on the CA approved CFO food list and will be responsible for being sure that the ingredients and products are allowed.

CFOs renewing after July 1, 2017 will pay $74 for A registrations and $290 for B permits. An annual kitchen inspection will still be required for B permit holders. CFO permits can be renewed if there is no change in ownership, business name, location or permit type. If you need to make such changes, you will need to file a new application and pay new application fees upon approval.


With the new revamping of the state’s public health website, the Cottage Food Program got overlooked when adding links to the Index and Search bar. But we found it for you! (Hopefully, the situation will be fixed soon. Meanwhile…) You can find the main

California Cottage Food Operations website HERE.

Look for the approved food list HERE.

Find the state instructions on generating labels HERE, and the County checklist HERE  NOTE: While the instructions list information that MUST be included on your product labels, you may also include contact information such as a phone number, email address, website, Facebook page, etc. That’s a good idea if you want people to be able to order from you!

For general food-handler training instructions and the link to approved online training classes click HERE. (If you prefer attending a class in person, San Diego County offers classroom settings for you to get a CFO approved food handler’s card. Check HERE for the list, including classes in foreign languages.)


The San Diego County Cottage Food website contains many helpful links. They have tried to simplify the application forms.

New instructions for primary (or primary and secondary) labels for A and B CFOs have been written and include SAMPLE LABEL EXAMPLES. Find them HERE.

What Can I Make?

California has a list of approved cottage foods that is more diverse than probably any other state. A lot of different foods can be made, but many cannot. What can, and cannot, be made for sale under a cottage food license in CA?

Approved foods include the standard baked goods like muffins, cookies, and cakes, but also nut butters, dried herb and salt blends, popcorn, and more regional or ethnic foods such as fruit empanadas and tamales, churros, and tortillas. Many more foods also are approved to be made in a home kitchen–cotton candy, dried vegetable soup mixes, chocolate covered marshmallows, and more. And the list keeps growing! Recently, certain fruit infused balsamic vinegars were added. To see all the currently approved products, click here.

Foods that make the cut are those which are non potentially hazardous meaning that they are essentially ‘shelf stable.’ Without refrigeration, they are unlikely to foster growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Technically, they are foods that have a pH or water content that will not support growth of pathogenic bacteria. (Such foods can still carry pathogens if prepared poorly, but not support its growth. Be sure to follow safe food handling procedures.)

Adherence to the approved list of foods is very strict and you should consult the official CA approved Cottage Foods list to see if your product category is listed. As a general rule we have observed the following:



If you are wanting to make products like these, you should confirm with the health department that your products are, or are not, approvable under a Cottage Food Operator permit. If not, you will need to work out of an inspected commercial or rental kitchen.

Many times, substitutions can be made using whole milk, soy, coconut, or almond milk, or vegan products to get your recipe to qualify as a cottage food product.

Otherwise, there are so many other foods that ARE allowed as cottage foods in CA that you can easily find products to make or repackage in your home kitchen.

Roast coffee. Fry donuts. Shave chocolate. Check out the list and see how you, too, can have a home-based business!

Revised Fees Discussion!

YOUR INPUT NEEDED for Current and New CFO Application Fees

On March 15, 2017 the Board of Supervisors directed the Chief Administrative Officer to return to the Board with proposed fee adjustments for cottage food operators after further consideration of alternatives.


DEH-FHD is holding a Cottage Food Stakeholder Meeting on Monday, April 10, 2017 from 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm to provide you with an update on a revised cost recovery proposal for cottage food operators and program alternatives and to obtain your feedback.


When: April 10, 2017, 1:00 PM until 2:30 PM

Where: 5500 Overland Ave., 1st Floor, Room 177, San Diego, CA 92123


The Food and Housing Division (FHD) encourages stakeholder participation and input to assist in generating program efficiency and effectiveness.


Please confirm your attendance and the number of representatives from your company that plan on attending by contacting Bao Huynh at (858) 694-3853 or

Proposed CFO fee increases sent back to DEH for review, possible adjustment

Way to respond, San Diego CFOs! Your petition, calls, emails and comments to the San Diego Board of Supervisors resulted in them sending the proposed fee structure for CFOs back to Dept. Environmental Health Food and Housing Division for review and possible reduction. We will work with the department to see if there is more that can be done to keep the fees low or phase in the increase over a longer period of time. DEH-FHD will report back to the Supervisors on Mar. 22 and fees will be approved or disapproved then.

If you’d like to see the meeting yourself, go to
You will find the DEH-FHD presentation at 24:20
– CFO Barbara Preston 3 min presentation at 38:14
– CFO Sean Phillips 3 min challenge to DEH and Supervisors to have San Diego lead SCal counties in having lowest, not highest, CFO fees at 41:30
– Support for re-examining fees by Chairwoman Dianne Jacob at 48:30
– Supervisor Greg Cox (whose statements reflected renewal fees for CFOs with NO CHANGES only and did not address fees for those who’d want to add products or change labels) at 48:50
– Vice Chair Kristin Gaspar, a businesswoman herself at 54:50
– Supervisor Bill Horn who’d prefer to get rid of the CFO fees entirely (YAY!) 59:30

Please thank your County Supervisors (especially Jacob, Gaspar and Horn) for encouraging the Dept of Environmental Health to implement ways to reduce the fees. Hopefully, they will make ways to do so.

As CFOs, we appreciate the addition of a new rate for renewal fees, but would like to see the industry continue to grow and thrive by keeping the cost barrier to entry low.

Additional updates coming after the March 22, 2017 vote!

Time to Speak Up

The CA Cottage Food Law (AB1616) was specifically established to promote the creation of small businesses and the growth of home-based businesses that contribute to the health, prosperity, and well being of Californians.

The San Diego County Dept. of Environmental Health Food & Housing Department wants to raise fees for new CFO applications by more than 50% for A and B permits. We believe the fees can be kept lower through improving the application review process and improving efficiency at DEH-FHD. These high fees will have a chilling effect on new businesses trying to get started. Click to see our letter to County Supervisors Feb 27 2017


County Supervisors and contact info

District 1   Greg Cox  Tel: 619-531-5511  (Point Loma, Coronado, Barrio Logan, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Otay Mesa)

District 2  Dianne Jacob  Tel: 619-531-5522  (El Cajon, La Mesa, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, Poway, Lakeside, Santee plus nearly all places west such as Alpine, Jamul, Rancho San Diego, Ramona, San Pasqual, Santa Ysabel, Tecate, etc.) She is also the Chair of the Board.

District 3  Kristin Gaspar  Tel: 619-531-5533  Newly elected in Nov. 2016!  (District 3 has a strange shape, stretching along the coast from Del Mar to Encinitas, west through Mira Mesa, and North to Escondido but not Rancho Santa Fe)

District 4   Ron Roberts  Tel: 619-531-5544 Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Serra Messa, Mission Valley, west to Oak Park and South to Encanto and Greater Skyline Hills)

District 5   Bill Horn   N.County office 760-806-2400  County Admin office: 619-531-5555       (Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista Oceanside, Camp Pendleton, Fallbrook, Pala, Pauma Valley, and west to Borrego Springs)

Chief Administration Officer

If you are unsure of your district, you can find out by searching your address here or email us here

SPECIAL MEETING for CFOs w/the SD Health, Food & Housing Division

We have arranged a SPECIAL MEETING with the San Diego Dept Environmental Health, Food and Housing Division to express displeasure and discuss ways to avoid the drastic
50%+ Fee Increase proposed by DEH
for cottage food permits.

The meeting is scheduled for next Friday, FEB 3, 2017 at NOON at the main office 5500 Overland Ave #170, San Diego, CA 92123

DEH/FHD’s position is that it requires too long (2-2.5 hrs) to evaluate CFO applications and they initially set their fee too low. Currently, the fees are in line with other S.Cal Counties (Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties) but the increases to $215 for an A registration or $445 for a B permit are higher than all of them, and higher than most in the state. Something is wrong.

Your voice needs to be heard so that our young industry isn’t crushed under oppressive application fees.

What should you do?

  1. Plan to attend the meeting if at all possible. Bring your ideas and suggestions on how to streamline and improve efficiency. DEH says most of their time is spent reviewing and revising applicant labels. It is in their interest and ours to make the application review process as clear and simple as possible. If you cannot attend, send me your ideas, suggestions, and comments and I will present them.
  2. Contact county officials by email and/or phone to let them know  your thoughts. Here is their current info:
    • Sarah Aghassi, Dep. Chief Admin Officer for DEH:  (new from previsous email)
    • Elise Rothschild, Director for DEH: (correct email address)
    • Gloria Estolano, Chief Food and Housing Div. DEH: Estolano, Gloria; phone 858-505-6898. Let her hear from you!
  3. Join our Facebook page San Diego Cottage Foods to get current info.

Please let me know if you have insights, comments, or suggestions AND if you will be able to attend the meeting Fri, Feb 3 at noon on Overland Ave.

Cottage Foods Sandie

New for San Diego CFOs in 2015

2015Hard to believe but we are starting the third year of growing small businesses, establishing entrepreneurs and being able to legally sell food made in our own home kitchens! Each year changes take place in the details of how to do that, so here are some things to know when starting or renewing in 2015:

Renewal Late Fees!!
Last year, if you were renewing your Cottage Food Operations permit and did not get it in before the end of the month your license expired, it still cost the same amount. I noticed on my renewal this year, that

San Diego Dept. of Environmental Health says that if you are not changing your menu or labels, you can either  renew by mail or online.

If renewing electronically, you can pay your permit fee at To do so, select the DEH tab along the top, then–using the General Search or Record Search– enter your record [i.e., permit] number in the Record Number field.  Note: you can also choose Address Search and supply that information to find your records. In the Action column you should see, “Pay Fee Due”. Click on “Continue with Application” and choose a payment option.)*  You should then email the following information along with your permit number:

  1. Name and locations of where your foods are sold,
  2. Proof of current food handler certification (which is good for three years so your initial certification is still valid. Just send a copy of it.)

If you want to add new products or flavors, the time to do it is at renewal! Up to five additional labels will be reviewed at no additional cost. Beyond that, label approval may be subject to additional fees.

Remember, if you changed address or owners you must apply for a new CFO license as they are not transferable.

popcorn ballsNew Foods Added
In 2014 a slew of additional foods were approved for Cottage Food Operators including, very significantly, certain buttercream frostings.  That clarification went a long way toward allowing many cake, cupcake, and cakepop makers to use some favorite recipes.  Of note, frostings still cannot use cream or half-and-half, but regular, low fat, or skim milk is fine (as well as non dairy milk such as almond or soy milk).

In 2015, three new items have already been approved. They are marshmallows that do not contain eggs, thin icing, and popcorn balls.  The current list of approved foods for California Cottage Foods Operators can be found HERE.

If you have an idea for a nonpotentially hazardous food item that you think should be included on the list, see our post on Amending the Approved Food list.

CFO profitsEarn More!

As of 2015 you are allowed to make up to $50,000 gross under your CFO license. Also, children 12 years old or older are allowed to work in your home-based business.   As always, you are allowed to have one employee in addition to your household members.

Labels, labels, labels
Seems there are always new updates about how to do labels! The biggest and best news from last year is that we can now have TWO labels — the primary label and a separate secondary label which states the ingredients and potential allergens.  In addition, San Diego County Environmental Health Department has changed some wording for the labels.  (You may have already made these adjustments if you began or renewed in the second half of 2014.)

1.  Labels for products made under A permits should read “Registration #” but labels for products under B permits should say, “Permit #.”

2. The format of your registration number is different. Originally the letters FRCON were in your permit number, but now the letters have been replaced by FCFO. The remainder of your permit number will be the same.[/important]

To see an example of how the labels should be done, see HERE.

2015 promises to be a great year as San Diego Cottage Food Operators continue to learn and grow as entrepreneurs.  This year we are looking forward to more meet ups to share information, ideas, challenges and encouragement, plus posts on how to photograph your products, market them, and grow your business.  Got any ideas for posts? Share them with us on our Facebook page or contact us!

*Cottage Foods Sandie has never used the online option as she has always had to go in to the office in person. If you have had experience (good or bad) with online renewal, please let us know!


Hoiday packagingIf you have not started planning your packaging and marketing strategies for November and December’s holidays, it’s not too late, but almost! Have you considered dressing up your packaging to make your products more appealing as gifts? What opportunities are there to attract new customers during this time? How can your promote early ordering? Use these tips to plan a joyful season of increased sales!

Consider adding new packaging concepts and colors to inspire purchase of cottage food products as gifts. Many people will be looking for attractive, one-of-a-kind gifts to give or to take to family gatherings or office parties. Use a package design that makes it easy for customers to “grab-and-go.” Colorful boxes that can quickly be filled and wrapped with decorative ribbon, or pre-made baskets get people thinking about using your products as presents. Don’t forget to include your primary label on the top or front of the outside package, OR on each product contained inside.boxed goods

As Cottage Food Operators in California, we cannot mail or ship products to our customers, but we CAN package them in a way that makes it easy for others to send. Help Customer Cindy or Client Carlos send your goodies to family and friends by putting your product in easy-to-mail cartons. Or, plan your packaging so that it easily fits into one of the two medium sized US Postal Service Priority Mail boxes. The post office will deliver either the long, flat shape or more squarish shaped Flat Rate Priority Mail box anywhere in the US within two days for only $12.35–and irrespective of the weight! This is an especially good idea for last minute shoppers needing gifts for out-of-towners.

imageCan you create an eye-catching display? With planning, you can use the same product(s) in a variety of display formats (individually, framed in a gift box, artfully arranged on a tray or tiered display) and photograph them. (The more professional looking the display and photography, the better!) Maybe you can build an attractive centerpiece from your products. Whatever type of holiday display you make, post pictures to your Facebook page, email them to previous customers, and create a Special Orders Book suggesting that people order ahead for their event or loved ones. Now is the time to get creative and make your pictures available!

Sales and Discounts
Most people get overwhelmed as holiday deadlines loom. Special events, social get-togethers, and parties start in mid-November and peak around the second week of December. New Year’s Eve celebrations present another great time for hosts or guests to share your products. Gift giving continues all the way through the end of December, with people willing to pay a premium for last minute answers. Be prepared!

Begin suggesting people order early and offer discounts to those who do. Start now promoting “special sales” of your easiest or most popular items.  Promote sales by including a free gift to those who buy a certain amount of products, or who order early. Maybe give existing customers free samples of products they have not yet tried.  Put together special combination gift packages.

Getting new customers
This is probably the best time of year to expand your customer network. By encouraging gift-giving, you are expanding your range of contacts. Consider these ideas, too, for expanded sales:

  • Take advantage of school fairs, festivals, church bazaars, craft fairs, etc. to get a table selling and promoting your products. Nonprofit organizations (schools, churches, etc.) are less restrictive and cheaper than farmer’s markets. Use the opportunity to get your business and products to new people. Encourage them to remember you for the holidays. Be prepared with business cards and order sheets!
  • Approach clubs, organizations, businesses for the chance to supply their meetings with a some of your treats. Most companies will have a Board of Director’s meeting toward the end of the year. Many businesses throw client (or employee) appreciation parties. Some independent agents (insurance, real estate, financial brokers, etc.) like to send a token gift to their better clients. Suggest they give or send a hand-crafted artisan food product such as yours.
  • Think of unusual places — other local small businesses, repair shops, banks — where the business owners might buy your treats to offer to impatient customers while they wait.
  • Remember last-minute gift givers. Make extra product, advertise to the end, and promote ways that you will personalize it for the recipient — special tags or cards which say “Made especially for [recipient’s name]” or “A special order created just for [recipient’s name]”

Now is the time to get your holiday and year-end specials in place if you have not done so already. For maximum effectiveness you should be anticipating upcoming holidays 3-6 months in advance, so you should also start now “cooking up” your marketing strategy for February’s Valentine’s Day gifts!

Heart box







Images displayed by CC license






Labeling News


T_FoodLabels_1Getting product labels approved for your San Diego Cottage Food Operation is one of the bigger challenges owners face to getting their applications approved or renewed. Modified label requirements can impact both the design of your labels, and whether or not they get approved. Learn what is new for labels before you waste a trip to the health department.

Wording Changes

San Diego county requires specific wording on the label to reflect proper approval, and it varies slightly depending on whether you have (or want) an A permit or B permit. For an A permit, it should say,


However, if it is for a B permit, the word permit is substituted for registration so that it would read



When submitting a new application as a first time CFO, leave 6 spaces (marked with x’s) to be filled in with the actual number when approved.

If you are not creating the product, but simply repackaging it from a larger bulk purchase, the label should read, “Repackaged in a Home Kitchen.”

Primary and Secondary Labels

Primary labels must still be on the top or front of the packaging. As of 2014, ingredient and allergen information can be on a separate, secondary label affixed to a different location. This gives many CFOs more flexibility in their label design–especially if they have a long list of ingredients. The secondary label can be placed on the side, bottom, or a separate area on the front of the packaging.

Listing Your Address

Some people are uncomfortable printing the details of their home address on their labels. Federal and CA laws require a food manufacturer to put their name and complete address on the label which means, to a CFO, your home address. But, there is a ‘work-around.’ The law also says that if your business name and full address are posted in a telephone directory (online or physical book), you may list just your city, state and zipcode on the label. (If you choose this, Cottage Foods Sandie suggests you provide proof of your phone directory listing when you submit your labels and application. This is a new development and not everyone may be aware of the change.)

Be sure, though, that you have your contact information on your labels (website, email, and/or phone number) so that customers can reach you. Don’t miss sales because people can’t place orders!

Nutrition Labeling

California Cottage Food Operators are still exempt from having to include a nutrition label specifying the nutrition content of their product. However, if you want to use any of the words “free, low, reduced, fewer, high, less, more, lean, extra lean, good source, and light” you would need a nutrition label. The good news is that the county will allow nutrition analysis either from a laboratory OR an online source. There are a number of free online nutritional analysis sites. Watch for a post on this subject coming soon.

Font Size

Only the words, “Made in a Home Kitchn” (or “Repackaged in a Home Kitchen”) must be in 12 point type. Otherwise, the smallest font used must still be 1/16 of an inch tall as measured by the lowercase “o”.

Submitting for Approval

San Diego Environmental Health Department prefers you submit samples of your labels on regular paper rather than the actual label. This allows them to make edits and suggest changes more easily. Labels should be submitted in person with the entire application for a new or renewed permit. Remember, you need a separate label for every product and every flavor or variation.

When starting, try to focus on the products and flavors that you have found to be most popular. Having too many labels can cost an additional $142 to review. However, having too few products means you might need to add more during the year. Mid-year review of new labels will cost another $142. Be wise in choosing your menu! Five or fewer labels can generally be reviewed while you wait. More than five may take up to 5 days. Depending on the complexity, 10-12 labels can usually be reviewed within the one hour time frame covered by the application fee.

So while most of the basic requirements remain the same (must list common product name, the words “Made in a Home Kitchen” must be in 12 point font, etc.) some wording changes are important to know before wasting a trip to the health department. Other changes may provide greater flexibility for your label design and packaging.

The greatest delay in approvals results from label modifications. Make sure your food is on the California Cottage Food Operations approved food list, that your ingredients are listed in order of greatest to least quantity by weight, and that your wording, font type, etc. are in order. For further information, see the example provided by the San Diego Environmental Health Department HERE.






Business Insurance for CFOs


Wondering if you should get business insurance for your California Cottage Food Operation (CFO)? Will your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance cover your home-based business? Do you need liability insurance for a farmer’s market or special event? CFOs are asking!

Do I need insurance?
The state of California does not require you to get liability insurance for your cottage food business. By their nature, cottage foods are some of the least risky foods and as far as we know, no lawsuits–or even health complaints!–have been brought against a legal CFO anywhere in the country. However, you are still at risk for injury to an employee or customer on your property and liable for medical bills if your food does make someone ill.

In general, your homeowner or rental insurance policy will not extend to a home-based business. If your company is a sole proprietorship (or partnership), you and your business are the same meaning that your assets are at risk if someone sues you. If you formed a limited liability corporation (LLC), it limits your personal liability, but you will incur an $800/year franchise tax fee in California. Most CFOs are sole proprietorships.

If you are concerned about your assets, totally risk-averse, or if you often have people coming over to your home to pick up their product, you may want to consider liability insurance. As your business grows, your risk increases so determining when to get insurance is a personal decision.

Where do I get business liability insurance?
Some homeowner insurance companies also offer general liability insurance for your business. Rates vary, but are generally $500-$800 per year. Contact your own agent for a quote and be sure they offer liability protection for your premises and for your finished product. Check to make sure you can get “additional insured” certificates if you need to include others for a market or festival.

Recently a new program called FLIP (Food Liability Insurance Program) has emerged specifically to provide annual liability insurance for food providers, including CFOs. (Click HERE for linkBecause all insurance companies base their rates on risk and cottage food products are low risk, lower rates can be offered to this target community. If you need to extend coverage to a third-party—a farmer’s market, for instance—it is easy to add them as additional insureds. The standard policy is $290/year.

Just need insurance for a special event?
If you want to participate in a festival or special event, you may be required to show proof of insurance, AND to have the event and organizers listed as “additional insureds” meaning that they also are protected if your food causes harm. If you do not have an annual policy you can get temporary insurance at (click HERE). Sponsored by American Specialty Insurance and Risk Services, A/A+ rated insurers provide coverage for Vendors and Concessionaires at an event lasting 30 days or less at one location. Coverage begins the day after the application (or later if you specify) and lasts the duration of the event. Everything is easily done online and confirmation is instant. No phone assistance is available, but you can email questions not addressed in the FAQs. Cottage Food Sandie’s one million dollar ($1M) general liability policy for a local festival cost $89. Adding the festival sponsors was easy and proof was instantly available. For more than 3 events over 12 months, the FLIP insurance would be a better bargain, but for test marketing your product at a few festivals, the Fastcov insurance might be a more affordable option.

Whether you need liability insurance to participate in a market or festival or want the peace of mind that your assets are protected, multiple options are available. If you have more information, ideas, or suggestions, please comment!