Lessons Learned at Permit Renewal

renewalIt has been just over a year since the implementation of AB1616 which spawned a California Cottage Food industry. Now, entrepreneurial foodies can start a business making certain foods at home for sale to the public. Last year was a year of growth and learning for everyone.  Some updates and refinements have been made. What’s new for 2014?

Here’s a summary of what we saw changed when we went to renew…

Website Information:  The San Diego County Health Department now has a page on their website specifically devoted to Cottage Food Operations (CFOs).  You will find links to the most current regulations and applications on our RESOURCES page or posted here.

Applications must be submitted in person at the Kearny Mesa office of the San Diego Dept. Environmental Health by the person(s) applying for the permit.  Application forms have been updated during the year.  Links are available on our RESOURCES page or posted here

  • Generally, the application packet and labels can be reviewed over the counter when you come in, but if there are more than ten labels, the application may be taken and labels reviewed within 5 working days.  Meaning you will have to make a second trip.
  • Debit and credit cards are now accepted for CFO application fees.


  • The San Diego Health Department no longer previews labels which are faxed or emailed in.  They have provided a sample with instructions here.
  • Sample labels for all items and flavors must be submitted with the complete application.   They prefer that the labels be printed on paper for review, rather than actual labels.  The design and information should be essentially 100% finished, though subsequent changes to logo or graphics is permitted.
  • Ingredients can now be listed on a secondary label so you don’t have to jam everything on the primary label!
  • Calling your product “Organic” in its title or product description is not allowed unless you have it certified as such.  However,  if it has at least 70% organic ingredients, you can say, “Made with Organic Ingredients.”  In any case, you can list individual ingredients where appropriate (i.e. organic oats, or organic peanuts, etc.)
  • The words “Made in a Home Kitchen” must appear alone in 12 point type (i.e, not Made in a Home Kitchen with Love, etc.)
  • In addition to the Permit Number, these words must appear:  Cottage Food Registration/Permit Issued by: County of San Diego DEH-FHD


  • Permits are good until the end of the month one year from the date they were issued.  At present, there does not seem to be a penalty for late renewals, but you should not do sales if your permit is not renewed beyond the expiration date.
  • If you get a Permit A ($142) and decide a few months later that you want a Permit B so others can sell your items, you will have to apply for Permit B and pay the full $284.  The Permit B will be good for one full year from date of issue, but you will not get credit for any remaining time or money from Permit A.
  • Before applying, carefully consider your budget and sales strategy, and whether or not you really want or need the B permit.


Class B inspections are being scheduled within 5 business days of the application being approved.  Unlike earlier, the CFO may not begin operation until this inspection is complete.

Approved Foods

California’s state health department recently developed a procedure for citizens to request that specific foods be added to the Approved CFO Food List.  You can find information on the steps and deadlines in our post, “Amending the Approved Food List.”


There are still some questions about what frostings will be approved.  Presently in San Diego, most butter cream or cream cheese frostings are not accepted.  Nearly all commercially processed frostings are acceptable.  For more information, contact the San Diego Department of Environmental Health Food and Housing Duty Specialist at (858) 505-6900 or e-mail: fhdutyeh@sdcounty.ca.gov

OVERALL, it has been a good first year, with over 1200 permits issued statewide as of mid February 2014.  And kudos to you cooks, bakers, candy makers, et al. – Last year there were no reported cases of food poisoning across California from these types of businesses.

Let’s make 2014 a banner year for CFO’s in San Diego County!



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    • J.C. Mayfield on April 21, 2014 at 10:20 am
    • Reply

    Just wanted to say thanks for the site. It has been a big help in finding information for CFO info. I do jams and jellies under a DBA of Homesteaders Pantry. Since I only make what I grow I am seasonal and mother nature seems to have a big hand in that. I am in Chihuahua Valley near Sunshine Summit and at 4600′ elevation one can never count on the weather. So far this has been a good year but we are looking at freezing temps next week so not sure if I will have fruit or not. Currently every tree is loaded and with limited heaters and cost of fuel not sure what we will have after next week. Have submitted a request to add pepper jellies/jams to the approved list. Hopefully it will be approved and would open up a new area for me not so tied to the weather. Any way thanks for you site and I look forward to using it often.

    J.C. Mayfield

  1. Hello there just wanted to let you know I just got the phone with Ryan at the health dept. Ok There is a fee for late renewals first late fee is 100.00 2nd is 50.00 and you can not operate till its renewed. I was told I had bring in my copy of my food handlers card, I can submit up to 5 additional labels free of charge and lastly on your label where it says FRCOM should know read FCFO (food cottage food operator. (I’m pretty sure) Just thought I would share

    The Fudge Lady

    • Fred Bacher on July 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm
    • Reply

    I see contents weight mentioned for labeling but never anything about what scales you can use, calibration requirements or fees for this. Seems like I need to fill out a form for a scale I plan to use to weigh roasted coffee and then pay a fee for my location, $100, and another fee for the scale, $20. Is this true and is this a yearly fee. Seems a bit steep for a cottage food operation for a simple digital scale. Or do I have to buy some expensive certified grocery scale to weigh a lb of coffee? Thanks

    • Catherine on September 27, 2017 at 1:09 pm
    • Reply

    I am just beginning the CF process. Based on what I’ve read and pasted below I conclude that we can add food to our buisness anytime of the year and do need need to wait for a permit renewal time to add items or change ingredients as long as we adhere to all label and allowed food laws. AM I CORRECT ???? THANKS

    “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.)”

    1. Yes, that is correct IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY as of July 1, 2017.

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