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.







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    • Elaine on October 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm
    • Reply

    Could you please give a suggestion for an appropriate online Telephone Directory that can be acceptable to post a CFO address?
    Thank you for your help.

    1. Here’s a link to a list of 50 online Business Directories. Some, or maybe most, charge a fee, but probably not all.

    • Elaine on October 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    I am working to launch my CFO soon. I have read and greatly appreciate your entire website. My question is, if, I am using some organic ingredients can I state that on the label? For example for almonds, can I list them as organic almonds?
    Thank you very much for your time and help.

    1. Yes, you can list your ingredients as organic if they are, but you would have to get the end product certified as organic in order to call it that on the label.

        • Elaine on October 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm
        • Reply

        You are awesome!!!
        Thanks for your advise. I will let you know when I launch.

    • Jen whiting on April 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm
    • Reply

    Does it matter what shape of your label is? I have an awkward shaped package and a large round label would not fit.

    1. The labels can be any shape you like 🙂

    • Jessica on June 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you so much for providing this info!!!
    Can you tell me if the information on the label needs to be in the exact numbered order like the example you linked (
    The reason i ask is because I designed my label to say the name of my company before the common name of the food.

    Also, are there requirement for what information needs to be on the primary label and what information can be on the secondary label?
    Thank you again!

    1. The only information that needs to be in any “order” are the ingredients which must be listed in order of greatest amount to least amount. (The numbers on the example correspond to the additional information below the example.) A secondary label can only be used to list the product’s ingredients and allergens.

  1. When you refer to the application fee are you referring to the $142?? And was wondering when we submitted labels didnt cover 10 last time? Thanks

    1. The application fee for a Class A permit is $142 (Class B fee is $284.) That is because the San Diego health department estimates it will take about an hour to review an application packet and approximately 10 labels. Their departmental rate is $142/hr. (Class B’s require an additional hour be budgeted for inspection, hence the $284 total.) If you are renewing, your initial labels should be easy and fast to renew and approve, so RENEWAL is the BEST TIME TO ADD products and get those labels approved. Theoretically, you could add approximately another 10 labels/products under same renewal application fee. (NOTE: If you have so many labels that it requires more than an hour to review them, it will be an additional $142 for each hour or part of it needed.)

  2. I just thought of something so is it we submit 5 labels and then we could submit another five labels which would bring us to the 10 and why I think that we can do 10?

  3. Hi I meant to respond and let you know I spoke with Ryan today and he clarified my questions about label at renewal.
    When I asked about the $142.00 I was referring to the review over 5 labels. I guess it just was the same at Class A 142.00 which caused the confusion.

  4. Something I learned from Ryan which what made me worry because counted all my labels in addition to the new five I was going to submit that I had way more then 5 labels. Existing labels that have been approved in the past. If it had not been for the new wording I would not have needed to resubmit them at all. this of course is not the case if it is your 1st time ( I dont know if this is a given something I should have already have known)

    • Linda on July 15, 2019 at 3:43 pm
    • Reply

    I would like to know if there are any significant changes since this was posted. The information is several years old. We have a sellers faire where several of our small providers do not ha e a CFO. Now that we have grown t be more than a neighborhood garage sale, we are working to obtain event permits and woul like to help as many of our home cooks as possible so tjey can stay with us.

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