What you need to know about “cottage food” laws

Have you seen local cooks who sell their homemade goodies—like cookies, soups, and meatballs—advertising online or on social media? Unfortunately, many of these food items are made in unregistered home kitchens by producers who do not have permits to sell their food items. This is unsafe . . . and against the law!

Before buying anything, you should ask two questions:

  • Does the producer have a permit?
  • Has the food been approved for sale?

A Cottage Food Law went into effect on October 1, 2015, which allows Montana entrepreneurs and consumers the opportunity to produce and consume more locally produced products. The law provides for registered participants in the Cottage Food program to produce specific foods in their homes which they can sell directly to consumers.

A food is potentially hazardous if it requires refrigeration to be safe.

This change in food laws means that Montanans can enjoy a wider variety of locally made foods (like bread, cookies, and cakes) that are registered under the program and are not potentially hazardous. A food is potentially hazardous if it requires refrigeration to be safe.

If you are not sure if a person selling food has a Cottage Food permit or a retail food license, you can contact a CCHD sanitarian at 406-454-6950 to find out.   

Do you want to acquire a Cottage Food permit? Registration requires a one-time fee of $40. This allows your county’s Registered Sanitarian to review your recipe(s) to ensure they are not potentially hazardous and to educate the you on important food safety measures.

Foods that are potentially hazardous must be produced by a licensed retail food establishment. If you are not sure if a seller has a Cottage Food permit or a retail food license, you can contact a CCHD sanitarian at 406-454-6950 to find out.   

Cottage food producers can advertise to the public in many ways (Facebook, Great Falls Yard Sale, etc.), but the actual sale must be conducted face-to-face.

Highlights of the Cottage Food law include:

  • Registration of participants and food products with County Sanitarian
    • The Cascade City-County Health Department’s sanitarians can be reached at 406-454-6950
  • Food sales directly from the producer to the consumer
    • Cottage food producers can advertise to the public in many ways (Facebook, Great Falls Yard Sale, etc.), but the actual sale must be conducted face-to-face. For example:
      • Cottage food products cannot be delivered via US Postal Service to consumer
      • Cottage food products cannot be sold in a licensed restaurant or store
      • Cottage food items can be sold at community events without further licenses or permits

For more information, please see: