Making safe food choices when buying cottage foods

Having a basic awareness of Cottage Food Law can help you and your family avoid potential foodborne illness.

Whole key lime pie
Pies that need to be refrigerated, such as Key lime pie, are not allowed under Michigan's Cottage Food Law.

Throughout much of Michigan, the farmer’s market season is ramping up, and although fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful, many markets also have cottage food vendors. What is a cottage food? They are foods that people are allowed to make in a home kitchen and then sell to the public. Unlike the majority of other foods you can buy cottage foods are not inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Only certain foods that do not require refrigeration or heating before consumption fall under the Cottage Food Law – items such as fruit pies, cookies, dried pasta, dried herbs and fruit jams/jellies.

Certain foods are not allowed under Cottage Food Law because these foods are at a higher risk of containing a foodborne pathogen and would require more training and oversight by MDARD. Examples of food Items that are not allowed under Cottage Food Law include meat and meat products, fish and fish products as well as pickles, salsa, canned good and pies that require refrigeration (meringue, pumpkin, cream pies, etc.)

It is still common for vendors to sell food items that are not allowed under Cottage Food Law since vendors can be unaware that they are not legally allowed to sell them. Other vendors may also have obtained the proper training and licenses to make and sell these foods at a commercial level.

What does this mean for consumers?

There is always a possibility of foodborne illness when you consume any food. However, there are reasonable steps that we can all take when purchasing food items to lower the chances that this will happen. When it comes to purchasing foods at farmer’s market, having a basic awareness of Cottage Food Law can help you and your family avoid potential foodborne illness.

Become familiar with what is and isn’t a Cottage Food and look for incorrect labelling.

All food items that are homemade and being sold under Cottage Food Law should be labeled “Made in a home kitchen not inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.” They should also have the ingredients and allergens listed, and a physical address of the seller.

If this type of labeling is present but the food item is not allowed under Cottage Food Law (such as those listed above) you should avoid purchasing it. The use of Cottage Food Law labeling indicates that the vendor is not commercial and the available food items have not been inspected by MDARD and could cause foodborne illness.

While it is the seller’s responsibility to ensure their products are safe to eat, don’t take for granted your role in food safety. If you are interested in learning more about MSU Extension Cottage Food Law classes, contact your local MSU Extension office about a class near you.


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