Cottage Foods Act-Frequently Asked Questions

Visit the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment for current Cottage Foods Act information.

As part of the Land-Grant mission, Colorado State University Extension provides information and education to the public. This list of answers to frequently asked questions was developed to provide guidance for anyone interested in learning more about cottage food production. The information is based on the Colorado Cottage Foods Act and subsequent modifications and guidance provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

For more information, check the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability Cottage Foods website.




What is a cottage food operation?

This refers to the production of certain non-potentially hazardous foods in a home kitchen (can include commercial, private, or public kitchens in Colorado) and sold directly to the end user.

What is meant by non-potentially hazardous foods?

Any food that, when stored under normal conditions without refrigeration, will not support the rapid and progressive growth of microorganisms which cause food infections or food intoxications.

Where can cottage foods be produced?

You can use your home kitchen, or a commercial, private or public kitchen to produce cottage foods as long as designated labeling and selling requirements are followed.

To whom can I sell my products and at what venues?

Cottage foods must be sold directly to the consumer, and not via a third party.  You can sell your products from your home, at your residential roadside stand, through a CSA, or at a farmers’ market. Sales must be made to individuals in the state of Colorado.  Selling or providing cottage foods to grocery stores or other retail food establishments is prohibited.

Can cottage foods be sold on the Internet?

Yes, internet sales are allowed.  The mechanism of direct product delivery can be determined between the producer and the informed end consumer as long as it does not involve interstate commerce.



What foods are eligible to be sold as cottage foods in Colorado?

According to the Cottage Foods Act, “A producer is permitted to sell only a limited range of foods that have been produced, processed, or packaged that are non-potentially hazardous and do not require refrigeration.” These foods are limited to:

  • Spices
  • Teas
  • Dehydrated produce
  • Nuts
  • Seeds, including roasted coffee beans
  • Honey
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Preserves
  • Fruit butters
  • Certain baked goods
  • Candies
  • Fruit empanadas – added in 2015
  • Tortillas –added in 2015
  • Flour – added in 2015
  • Pickled fruits and vegetables – added in 2016
  • Other non-potentially hazardous foods – added in 2016

Additional details related to specific foods within these categories are given in several of the following sections.

What foods are not eligible to be considered cottage foods?

Any food that is potentially hazardous or requires refrigeration.  These foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Ready to drink brewed coffee (beverages)
  • Pepper jelly (jalapeño, habanero)
  • Pumpkin butter
  • Fresh cut fruits or vegetables or juices
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, salsas
  • Condiments and sauces, including BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard
  • Baked goods made with cream, custard, meringue, or cream cheese, or other ingredients which require refrigeration
  • Fresh or dehydrated pasta
  • Fresh or dehydrated meat, including jerky made from beef, poultry, or fish
  • Fish, shellfish or seafood
  • Milk or dairy products, including yogurt and cheese
  • Oils or vinegars, including flavored or infused

I see that jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters are allowed.  What about conserves or marmalades?

Conserves are made with other ingredients besides fruit which could alter the pH of the final product.  They are not allowed to be sold under cottage foods.  Marmalades or preserves made with citrus fruit are allowed to be sold under the cottage foods act.  The FDA guidance and other sources do not indicate that marmalade presents more risk or is any different than jams, jellies or preserves. This is because it contains sufficient sugar and acid and therefore will not support pathogens.

Is there a specific way I should make jams, jellies, or preserves?

To ensure safety, these products should be made according to safe home food preservation methods with adjustments made for higher altitudes. This does not include inversion canning, or using an oven, microwave oven, or dishwasher to process your canned goods.  For more information on safe food preservation, you can visit:

Colorado State University Extension

The National Center for Home Food Preservation

CDC – Home Canning and Botulism – Home Canning

CFR Title 21 Part 150 Requirements for Specific Standardized Fruit Butters, Jellies, Preserves, and Related Product*

* If the product is going to be sold and labeled as a jam, jelly, preserve etc. it needs to meet the standards for that product as listed.

Are freeze-dried fruits and vegetables allowed?




Do I need to go through any special training before selling my products?

Yes.  “A producer must take a food safety course that includes basic food handling training and is comparable to, or is a course given by, the Colorado state university extension service or a state, county, or district public health agency, and must maintain a status of good standing in accordance with the course requirements, including attending any additional classes if necessary.

What types of food safety training are accepted, and how much does is cost?

The types of available training vary so the cost varies but the time and effort spent in learning about safe food handling and preparation is an investment that will help protect your customers and your business. Some of the available trainings include additional business management and product development materials.  These website links provide more information regarding trainings:

Colorado State University Cottage Foods Information

Do all employees in my business need safe food handling/processing training?

Yes. All employees directly handling food products are under the same guidelines of the Colorado Cottage Foods  Act as stated above and need to have the same safe food handling/processing training and certification.



Am I required to label my products?

Yes. You MUST have an individual label on each product, clearly stating in English:

  • The identification of the cottage food product
  • Your name and the address at which the cottage food was produced
  • Your current phone number and email address
  • The date on which the food was produced
  • A complete list of ingredients
  • The following statement: “This product was produced in a home kitchen that is not subject to state licensure or inspection and that may also contain common food allergies such as tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, milk, fish, and crustacean shellfish.  This product is not intended for resale.”

How do you label a wedding cake that is unpackaged?

For cakes that are not easily packaged, you must include all labeling requirements on the invoice and deliver the invoice with the cake directly to the consumer (purchaser). Smaller cakes must be boxed and the label must be included on the box.

I make my product in a commercial kitchen, not my home kitchen.  What address should I include on the label?

It is recommended to include the address of the commercial kitchen if that is where the majority of production occurred.



Do you have a recipe for making my own fruit and veggie wash to use before making preserves or drying fruit?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends thoroughly washing produce under running water before cutting or preparing.  Use of soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes is not recommended.

What about a sanitizer for my counter top and sink area?

A sanitizer for your kitchen counters can easily be made by mixing 1/4 teaspoon of unscented household bleach in a quart of water.  Store in a food grade plastic bottle properly labeled, and spray onto your counter.  Let stand for one minute and then wipe off. CSU Extension has a fact sheet on cleaning and sanitizing in the kitchen, which can be found here: CSU Extension factsheet on cleaning and sanitation.

What does a tested recipe mean?

Recipes from approved sources have been validated to ensure the processing method achieves an adequate temperature throughout that particular food product to inactivate harmful microorganisms and their spores, which can often survive at very high temperatures.

Where can I get tested canning recipes and directions for proper canning of jams/jellies?

  • The book So Easy to Preserve (available from many county Extension offices)
  • The National Center For Home Food Preservation,
  • USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning – 2009 revision
  • State University Extension fact sheets;
  • The Ball Blue Books of Preserving

My dishwasher has a sterilize cycle.  Is washing canning jars in the dishwasher sufficient sterilization?

Canning jars may be washed in a dishwasher but in Colorado you do not have to sterilize jars before processing due to longer processing times for altitude.  Anything with a 10 minute or longer processing time does not require pre-sterilized jars.  Always use clean jars that are free of chips or cracks!



I’m unsure of when I would need a commodity handler’s license. Only if I am buying direct from a farmer? If I am buying from the grocery store and making cakes with it? What are the requirements?

Cottage food producers are exempt from licensure under the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s commodity handlers program which requires that anyone who purchases farm products for processing or resale must have a valid Colorado Farm Products dealer license prior to the purchase for processing or resale. Visit Colorado Farm to Market for more information for non-cottage producers.

Are we expected to pay self-employment tax on our cottage business?

Self-employment tax is a tax consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners. You must pay self-employment tax and file Schedule SE (Form 1040) if either of the following applies:

  • Your net earnings from self-employment (excluding church employee income) were $400 or more.
  • You had church employee income of $108.28 or more.

Note: The self-employment tax rules apply no matter how old you are and even if you are already receiving Social Security or Medicare.

Therefore, if you operate a cottage food business, and you pay yourself from this business, and you earn $400 or more in net income from this business during the year, you must pay self-employment tax. Visit the IRS website for more information.

How do I register my business?

If you are using a trade name that is different from your own legal name, you must register it with the Colorado Secretary of State (for sole proprietorships & general partnerships). You can do so by visiting the Colorado Secretary of State website.

If your spouse is a co-owner in the business, then the Colorado Department of Revenue considers your business a general partnership and you must register accordingly. You can search the Secretary of State’s database of business names to see if your proposed one is taken. However, just because you register your trade name doesn’t mean it’s yours alone. To gain exclusive right to a name, you need to use it over time and/or file for a trademark.

Do I need to be insured in order to sell cottage foods in Colorado?

You are not required to carry insurance by law, but it is encouraged (and may be required by some farmers’ markets) to obtain insurance to cover the specific products you propose to sell (produced in the home, not in a commercial kitchen).

The Colorado Farmers Market Association insurance program offers member markets liability insurance only. It covers bodily injury and property damage to a third party (such as customers, vendors, and property owners) for which the market is negligent. Markets are covered for product liability only for products sold or given away by the market itself. A market’s liability policy also does not cover sales by individual vendors outside the market– it is the responsibility of each vendor to obtain his/her own property and liability insurance.



Can I advertise my products anywhere I want (i.e. Facebook) as long as I only sell my products direct to consumers?

Yes, advertising online is acceptable.

Can I make my product on site?  For example can I spin cotton candy at the farmers’ market or fry donuts fresh to order?

Cottage foods must be sold pre-packaged, and cannot be made on site. Prepackaged cotton candy could be sold as a cottage food.

What about using all your own home grown goods? Do I need a license to use them?

You are allowed to use home grown produce and herbs in the products you produce for sale. You do not need a license, but it is recommended that you follow the USDA Good Agricultural Practices.   Colorado State University Extension has information on handing produce and herbs safely.

Are all pies allowed?

Many pies are allowed, peach and apple pie are two examples of fruit pies that are allowed. However, potentially hazardous pies such as pumpkin and cream pies are not allowed since they support pathogenic growth and therefore require refrigeration. Quiche would also not be allowed since refrigeration is required.

Can I sell pumpkin butter?

No. There is too much variation in density or thickness among different batches of home-prepared pumpkin purees to safely permit the verification of a recipe for home processing. Since there is no available safe process for making canned pumpkin butter, it is not one of the allowed foods in Colorado under the Cottage Food Act.

Would frozen jam/jelly be allowed?

No, frozen foods are not allowed under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.

Will cupcakes or cakes be allowed with butter cream frosting?

Only frosting that does not require refrigeration is allowed, many frostings containing butter or dairy products require refrigeration.

Are cakes or quick breads baked in jars safe?

From Pennsylvania State University Extension: Some cakes or breads prepared in this manner have shown a water activity of 0.93 and a pH of 7.2. Harmful bacteria can grow under these conditions. Furthermore, the oxygen-free environment due to the vacuum seal is ideal for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism. Therefore, baking bread or cake in a canning jar and storing it at room temperature is not a safe practice.

Do pet treats fall under Colorado’s Cottage Food Act?

No, pet treats are not included in Colorado’s list of allowed cottage foods.

Are medicinal syrups allowed?

No, this product is outside the scope of cottage foods.

I have a recipe for home-made anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.  Can I sell it as a cottage foods product?

No, this product is outside the scope of cottage foods.

I heard that you can sell chicken eggs under the Cottage Foods Act. Is there anything specific I should know?

Chicken eggs are not classified as cottage foods however provisions for selling eggs was included on the same bill in Colorado. You can sell whole chicken eggs as long as sales are fewer than 250 dozen a month. This Act requires that the chicken eggs be transported in a clean and sanitary environment that is between 33° and 41° F.

Labels must include the address at which the egg originated and the date the eggs were packaged.  Any eggs not treated for salmonella such as by pasteurization must have the following statement on the package:   “SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: TO PREVENT ILLNESS FROM BACTERIA, KEEP EGGS REFRIGERATED, COOK EGGS UNTIL YOLKS ARE FIRM, AND COOK ANY FOODS CONTAINING EGGS THOROUGHLY.”  Also “These eggs do not come from a government-approved source” must be on the label.

For more information, visit Colorado Farm to Market.