Are you in the zone?

zoningBefore you can consider starting a homemade food business, check your zoning by calling your local planning department.  Although AB 1616 specifically states that a city cannot prohibit a cottage food business, the business must still comply with local ordinances re. traffic, noise, parking, signage, etc.  Some towns also require Home Occupancy permits and applications must be included with the business license application.  It’s good to know what your local requirements and limits are before you submit an application.  Zoning regulations in a number of county towns, such as San Marcos, prohibit sales at home (though if the sale is transacted over the phone or internet, and appointments for pickups are scheduled to avoid congestion and parking issues, Cottage Food Sandie wonders if the law would still be enforceable).  Other San Diego cities may prohibit posting signs, having employees who are not household members, or may limit the types of vehicles parked at the premises (e.g. Coronado), or have other restrictions.

Check with your local planning department.  Explain that you intend to start a cottage food business as a result of AB 1616 being signed into law and ask about fees and/or special permits needed.  Whether or not a special Home Occupancy permit is required, most municipalities have laws regulating various aspects of your business. It’s a good idea to know what they are for your area!

The law is designed to let people start a business from their home to reduce the overhead costs, so being zoned as Residential should not be a problem.  In fact, Residential or mixed Residential/Commercial zoning may be required for a cottage industry.  In Imperial Beach, no additional permits will be required as long as no building improvements or renovations are required.  Many cities are just learning about the law, so now is a good time to let them know you are looking into it. That should spur them into action!

For a list of San Diego cities with links to their business licenses and home occupancy permits (if required) see HERE.


Before the timer dings . . .

Cottage Foods Sandie Time is tickinghas started thinking about what we would need to get rolling quickly after Jan. 1.  Orange County helped me out by letting me know some of what they will require in their applications.  It’s likely that it won’t be much different for San Diego. If you have already started thinking about making and selling food from home, you have probably also thought about ingredients, packaging and labels.  Good thing!  Here’s what we should have ready:

1. A list of all the food products and their ingredients

2. A list of areas in your home that will be used to prepare and store ingredients and your final product.  Be sure those areas are part of the main residence (not a detached structure), that it is indoors, not outdoors (and not in a garage), and that it is insect and rodent-proof.  I think it is a good idea to pick up some of those (relatively) inexpensive plastic bins with lids to store ingredients and product. They are insect/rodent proof AND an easy way to keep your business supplies separate from your household cooking supplies–an important feature when it comes to tracking your expenses and ingredient inventory!

3. A sample label

The label needs to have some specific information on it so now is the time to get creative and figure out how to get it all on there!  The label will need to show:

  1. The common name of the food product
  2. The name of your cottage food operation (business)
  3. Where the product was produced
  4. The health department Class A or Class B permit number (which you will receive once your application is approved).  For Class B operations, the name of the enforcement agency must also be included (e.g., “San Diego County Dept. Environmental Health”)
  5. The ingredients, in descending order of predominance by weight.  (We must also list ingredients of ingredients, so if I use popcorn and peanut butter as an ingredients, I would write it as Ingredients: Peanut butter (peanuts, oil, salt), popcorn.
  6. The words, “Made in a Home Kitchen” in 12-point type
  7. New weight (solids) or net volume (for liquids)
  8. List of Allergens*

Federal regulations require that known allergens be listed on food products. This was not specific ally required in the state law, but may be federally mandated.  The main label should include a specific reference if any ingredient is wheat, milk, eggs, fish (specify type, i.e., cod, flounder, trout, etc.), Crustacean shellfish (specify shrimp, lobster, crab, etc.), tree nuts (specify type, i.e. almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.), peanuts, wheat or soybeans.  Ingredients (other than oil) derived from these products (e.g., almond milk) also count.  The allergens must be in the same size font (or larger) than the other ingredients listed and can be in the ingredient list, or noted separately under the list.

If your product will have an ingredient from one of these categories, you may want to plan on including a separate line under ingredients which states:

Contains: Wheat, Milk, Pecans (or whatever the major allergens are)
NOTE:  To avoid having to get an analysis and include a complete Nutrient Content Panel, avoid making nutrition claims such as “low in sugar,” or health claims like “good for the heart.”

 * For more information on allergens and how to label your products see this Fact Sheet from the USDA


Looks like there’s plenty to do in the next few weeks. Let’s start doing what we can do while we wait for further info from San Diego County Environmental Health.  A phone call to them today confirmed they aren’t going to start anything until Jan. 1.  Of course, they are closed that day, so…Jan 2!


Let’s get cookin’

Yes, San Diegans, you can start your own business right from your kitchen.  On Jan. 1, 2013 California’s Homemade Food Law goes into effect.  AB1616, known as the Cottage Food bill, means that you will no longer have to rent a commercial kitchen to make and sell your homemade cookies, cakes, candy, or vinegars, mustards, flavored oils, candied fruits, nuts, or any other “non-potentially hazardous” food product.  C’mon entrepreneurs!  Here’s our opportunity to start a business literally “from scratch.”

    Want more details on the law? Want to know how to get started? Need details on what steps to take?  San Diego Cottage Foods intends to be your source of information for mixing aspiration, hope, and recipes  to create your dream of extra income for you and  your family.   Now is the time to get started putting the  ingredients together!
     To get answers to the most often asked questions, see our FAQsTo read the bill in its entirety, click here. Or, read a simplified, easy-to-understand version here.  Want to know about the regulations as they are announced, or know how to get prepared before Jan. 1, sign up for our e-newsletter or blog posts!  And stay tuned . . .