Tips to Getting Permitted

approvedCottage Foods Sandie got her Class B permit from San Diego Environmental Health on Friday.  There are a few delays you can avoid and ways to streamline your process if you want to make it easier on yourself.  For instance . . .


  • Your food product MUST be one of the foods on the CA state CA CFO foods list
  • Check to see if you need to obtain a business license before you apply for a CFO permit, or if you can obtain it afterwards.  It varies with your location.  See the list HERE. Unless it specifically says, “DEH-FHD will permit first” you will have to get your local business license first and submit it with your application. Click HERE to find links to San Diego County towns and the business license forms you will need.
  • You will need the Assessor’s parcel number for your residence which can be found HERE by typing in your address as indicated.
  • You will need to know your public water and sewer district.  (If you have well water and want a Class A permit, they will recommend that you have the well water tested to make sure it is not contaminated with bacteria. If you want a Class B permit, and you have a well OR use a private septic system, it must be inspected by Land and Water Quality Division (858-565-5173) prior to operating.
  • You will need a sample label for each product and flavor variation.  See the Environmental Health Department’s Cottage Food Label Sample for specific information required on the label.  Cottage Foods Sandie recommends you take a packaged, labeled sample of your product for them to see, as well as copies of the labels for them to keep for review.  Getting your labels done right for approval is the most challenging step. Be sure to search our posts on Labels and start reading from the most recent to past.
  • Fill out the right forms.  For a Class A permit, carefully read, answer, and sign the Self-Inspection Checklist.  If you want a Class B permit, carefully read, and answer the first half of Public Health Permit Application-San DiegoSkip the “Food Facilities” and other sections and sign and date it at the bottom.
  • Have cash, check, or money order made out to San Diego County for either $142 (Class A) or $284 (Class B).  The office now accepts debit or credit cards and also takes checks and money orders.
  • Take your forms to the San Diego Department of Environmental Health located at 5500 Overland Dr., Suite 170, San Diego, CA 91923.   At this time, the San Marcos office is not yet processing Cottage Food Operation permits.

Finding the office of San Diego Department of Environmental Health:
The office building at 5500 Overland Dr. is easy enough to find (sitting at the corner of Overland Dr. and Farnham St.) but the office itself is a bit more obscure.  It is best reached by parking in the lot on Overland Dr.  You then walk around the building past the credit union down Farnham St. to the first sidewalk on your left.  (This is the “back” of the 5500 building.)  Walk down the sidewalk between the two buildings (with your back to Farnham St.)  Near the end of the 5500 building on your left will be a set of double glass doors. The San Diego Department of Environmental Health office is on the first floor immediately on your right.

You can also call the Specialist on Duty at 858-505-6900 to ask questions and make sure you have everything you need before you arrive.

Any problems or unanticipated questions? Let me know!



Skip to comment form

  1. We sell pre-packaged Maple products from Vermont at local Farmers Markets in San Diego, Maple syrups, maple candy, maple seasonings. We sample the products on plastic spoons. We are required to store our products at a certified commissary . Would this bill allow us to store it at home?

    1. I believe not. AB1616 was specifically created for nonpotentially hazardous foods made in home kitchens in CA. The permits allow you to store your sellable product in your home, but only if it’s made there.

  2. Im having no luck finding the accesors parcel number for my residence. I live in an apartment. Any suggestions???

    1. Click on this LINK and type in your street address, choose street type (avenue, lane, drive, etc.)from drop down menu, input zipcode. That should take you to a page and give you the Assessor’s Parcel Number in the first box.

      1. I did that and I get a “No Records Found”. I live in an apartment, would that make a difference? I would like to go and get a permit tomorrow, so and other suggestions on how to get the parcel number sinceIm kinda in a hurry here?
        THank you!!

        1. Please confidentially email your address and I will see if I can find it for you! Email me at

            • Sara on May 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm

            I was getting the same “no response found” message and I live in a house.

          1. Try typing just the number and street then zipcode. If you still have issues, email the address to us and we will respond directly

    • Bea on February 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm
    • Reply

    HI! Are we supposed to apply for our business license first in our county, and then for the Cottage Foods permit? I’m kind of confused but I will keep looking through your website for info.



    1. I believe either way is fine, but personally I got the Cottage Food permit first because without that, there is no business. San Diego County Dept. Environmental Health Services will want you to confirm that there are no zoning restrictions on your residence. (You could get the permit and it could be revoked if there were some strange zoning prohibiton, so it would waste your money.) Cottage Food Sandie suggests getting the Class A or B permit first, but after you have examined your zoning and local business license regulations. Let us know if you need help finding that info!

    • Linda on March 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm
    • Reply

    I was looking at the flow chart and noticed, for the first time, that a weights and measures permit is required. What is that and how is it obtained? Thank-you!!

    1. Officially, you should have your scale registered and “sealed” (marked with an inspection seal) by the county department of weights and measures. This registration seems to apply most stringently to point-of-sale scales and meters where you are paying by weight or volume but technically applies to any item, including food, sold other than by count. In San Diego, the registration fee is a little over $100 annually. With all the commercial scales, balances, and meters needing calibration and registration CFOs have not yet been really targeted for compliance, though legally you are required to comply. More information is available here and at the county website here.

    • Jenny on April 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm
    • Reply

    How do I determine my sewer district (under the “wastewater disposal” section on page 2 of the Cottage Food Operation Registration form)?

    1. Are you on a public water system? The easiest way is to either use this site or look to see who bills you for your water.

    • Roger on August 13, 2013 at 11:25 am
    • Reply

    I found a Food Handlers class, but they didn’t know for sure which class I need – the 3, 8 or 16 hour class – to specifically meet the CFO requirements. Can you assist? They have a 3 hour class that lines up with my schedule and location nicely, but I wasn’t sure if that was sufficient. It looks like the requirement is that the class be no more than 4 hours, but I wanted to make sure. The link to the class company’s website is or the search at

    1. The company has SD County Health Dept approved food handler card classes ( The 3 hour in-person class should be sufficient, but you can call the Food Handler Training Coordinator at SD Environmental Health to be certain (858-505-6900). Alternatively you can take any of the online classes offered (see state link here. We liked California Food Handler’s (also known as eFoodHandler’s) because of the convenience, low price ($10), and guarantee pass. See Post Here. However, some people benefit more from a real life classroom setting where they can interact with others. Either will work! Just be sure to get your CFO permit before spending the money for whichever training you choose.

    • karen on August 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm
    • Reply

    I’m trying to find out if Miracle Whip is CFO approved. Do I need to take a sample to a laboratory for testing? It has some egg in it, but has been shelf tested in the markets because it is not refrigerated. Does anyone know already? Thanks for any help . . .

    1. Does it say “refrigerate after opening”? If so, it would need to be an ingredient in a baked item or part of a product that, in the end, meets the criteria for “non potentially hazardous” food. Likely, if it’s unbaked, you would need to test the final product. By itself, if it should be refrigerated after opening, it’s unlikely to be accepted.

    • ana on November 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm
    • Reply

    hi, me and my friend wanted to sell cupcakes out of my house what d we need? and how long to get the permits?

    • ana on November 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm
    • Reply

    me and my friend want to do a cupcake busines out of our house what do we need and how long?? does it take??

    1. Start on our RESOURCES page. Read “Simple Steps to Starting” followed by Tips to Getting Permitted and Labels: Do Say, Don’t Say in order to get the information together. Times vary to get your permit (assuming you have all the information complete on the forms and the designs for your sample labels are properly done) from same day approval to a week or more.

    • Allison on December 2, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    Do I need to have liability insurance? If so, is that prior to obtaining the permit? I will be doing custom cakes and desserts out of my home.

    1. Liability insurance is not required for your permit or business license. It may be required if you want to sell at a Farmer’s Market, though, depending on the market.

    • Beverly on April 30, 2014 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply

    I am thinking of moving to an apartment from my house do you know if you can have a cottage food operation from an apartment?

    1. As long as it is not an issue with the landlord, it is permitted. Some municipalities require the landlord’s written permission on the business license in order to get approval.

    • Rick on December 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm
    • Reply

    I don’t live in San Diego but am thinking of starting a cottage food business in Fresno county. I came upon your blog,it has great information. What I will be doing is repackaging dry roasted pistachios. We will buy 25 lb. boxes and repackage into 3 and 7 oz. bags. So my question is ,do you you think getting permitted would be a pretty simple process ? With only one ingredient dry roasted salted pistachios. Thanks for your help in advance.

    1. Yes, it should be a simple process but all of the sanitation requirements, etc. will still need to be in place. Whether there is one ingredient or there are hundreds, the permitting process is the same.

    • Jenny on April 7, 2015 at 10:10 am
    • Reply

    What if you are planning to have a food business that is more intended to cater events with a specific item, so there will be no packaging involved? Is that doable under Cottage Foods? Or does each food item need to be packaged with labels? I am desiring to make macarons for events, and possibly find a store or café that would want to sell them for me. This would involve different flavored macarons that are not packaged, but rather, fresh batches would be made each week for a seller or for each event. Can I get a Cottage Foods permit with this type of business?

    1. Macaroons can be approved as a cottage food product. If you wanted to fill an order for 60 for a customer you could do so and even put them all in one bag. Just provide a label that has all the information required. If you sell to a coffee shop i believe uou can provide cards that have the information required when they are purchased (ingredients, allergens, etc.).

    • Eva on June 8, 2015 at 9:54 am
    • Reply

    I found a flow chart in the web of the county of San Diego. They say you first should check with the planning department before you go to the Health Department. I would do that, but I could not find anything where this planning department is or what I actually have to bring to them. Do you know about that? Thank you for your help.

    1. Typically you will go to your local town’s city hall for a business license. The planning departments are there, though generally you don’t need permission from the planning department, just the municipal government for your business license. Check to see what your town requires as it varies. If you are in an unincorporated area of the county, you do not need a business license. And, some towns such as Imperial Beach allow you to make sure you can get your CFO permit before having to get the business license so check the Health Department’s sheet on what to get first.

    • melissa on August 5, 2015 at 10:09 am
    • Reply

    great website! what is the timing on getting the CFO permit from the day of submitting all the requirements?

    1. If everything goes well and everything gets approved, you can get your A permit that day. Temporary B permits can be issued same day, but a fully approved permit requires a kitchen inspection which is usually scheduled pretty quickly (3-10 days depending on location, typically).

    • Chris Bonds on September 11, 2015 at 9:53 am
    • Reply

    Great insite on this business. I’m in the process of getting my cottage license now. I have a question about the use of eggs. You spoke on it with some one else cant find the conversion so thought I would ask myself. Can eggs be used if it is a part of the recipe or a part of the product. Thank for your insite.

    1. Eggs as an ingredient of a baked product (i.e., cakes, cookies, bread, pie crust…) are OK but generally not otherwise. Check with San Diego Environmental Health to be certain.

    • Sharon on February 22, 2016 at 9:56 pm
    • Reply

    I was wondering how the labels work for custom cakes. Specifically the weight listed… Will I need to weigh each cake? Or will I be able to list it as a unit of 1 cake?
    Thank you!

    1. Items can be listed by weight, volume, or number so Amount would be 1 ea.

    • Chrs Bonds on February 23, 2016 at 9:58 am
    • Reply

    Hello Cottage Assistance. Would fruit jar cobblers be made with a Cottage License. I see fillngs are ok. Would my product fall under that. Thank you for your time.

    1. Fruit jar cobblers would be approved as long as they met the allowance for pies. No custard or crème fillings. They also cannot be heat sealed the way jams usually are.

    • Brian on June 9, 2016 at 4:22 pm
    • Reply

    Do you know, roughly, the time frame from dropping the application off, to an inspection for a class b permit? Thanks!!

    • Sara on January 23, 2017 at 5:04 pm
    • Reply

    Have buttermilk or sour cream been considered for the approved list? They both have a pretty high acid content so I was curious if they’d ever be considered .

    1. Sour cream and buttermilk are not on the approved list–probably unlikely as their water content is too high and they need refrigeration to help control growth of bacteria. See our post on how to submit products to the CA Dept. of Health for consideration on the approved list of Cottage Foods.

        • * on May 3, 2017 at 9:22 am
        • Reply

        Just a follow up question on that, so using buttermilk as an ingredient to making cupcakes won’t be approved?

    • martha moore on June 4, 2017 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply

    Can you please direct me to which food handlers course I would need to take if I will be making protein bars and baking granola bars.
    You have answered this question for me before, but I cannot locate it. Hopefully the answer gets emailed to me 🙂
    Thank you!!

    1. We like due to the low fee and ability to take the test as many times as necessary until you pass it for no additional charge 🙂 It’s online and can be done at your own pace. Remember, you have 3 months after your permit is issued to obtain your food handler’s certificate. This info has also been emailed to you 🙂

    • Lina on July 21, 2018 at 12:56 am
    • Reply

    Great insite on CFO business. I’m in the process of getting my B level cottage license. My products is authentic Mediterranean one which is not listed in the allowed food categories, however my ingredients are over shelf items (bread crumb, olive oil, red ground pepper, cumin, pomegranate molasse, walnuts, salt, mixed together and not cooked) to make spread like texture. Do you think this is acceptable? or I need to take a sample to the health department or to a laboratory for testing? what if I mention on the label that it needs to be kept at certain temperature? Thanks in advance.

    • Erin Kelly on August 13, 2018 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply

    Can you tell me if fresh fruit is approved? We make bowls with fruit, granola and peanut butter. We make them fresh to order. Our base is a frozen sorbet so we can not make ahead. We want to make and deliver same day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.