McHenry County Department of Health - Environmental Health
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Cottage Food Operation

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Effective January 1, 2012, P.A.097-0393 (Cottage Food Operation Act) allows the offer of limited non-potentially hazardous food prepared in home kitchens at Illinois farmer's markets with limited regulation. To access a copy of the Act, please click here [PDF].

What foods can I prepare at home and offer at farmer's markets?

  • Limited fruit-based jams, jellies and preserves
  • Fruit butters
  • Non-potentially hazardous baked goods (i.e. breads, cookies, cakes, pies)
  • Limited dried foods (i.e. dry herbs and teas; dry herb and tea blends)

For a complete listing of the non-potentially hazardous foods allowed to be prepared in the home please click here [PDF]. 

Certain non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams, jellies and butters are prohibited. For a list of the foods that cannot be prepared or sold by a cottage food operation, please click here [PDF]. 

Other jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters or fruit pies not listed in the Act require testing by a commercial laboratory and shall be documented to be non-potentially hazardous (at the owner's expense). Testing data shall be submitted with your registration. For a list of laboratories, please click here [PDF].

The Act does not allow the allowable cottage foods to be offered in retail stores or at any other non-farmer's market venue including online. In addition, these foods shall meet specific labeling requirements and the vendor shall register the cottage food operation with the local health department where the business is located. 

A valid Temporary Health Permit is required to offer open food samples. However, a temporary health permit is not required for pre-packaged samples (i.e. individually wrapped cookies or cup with lid). For additional cottage food sampling requirements, please click here [PDF]. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health has developed a technical bulletin to help operators get started and comply with the requirements of the Cottage Food Operation Act. To view the bulletin, please click here [PDF].

How do I get started?

If you would like to start a cottage food operation please follow these steps:

1. Obtain a valid Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) food service sanitation manager certificate by completing an IDPH approved 8 hour course and passing the examination. There are fees associated with training, and it may take 4 weeks or more to obtain your certificate from IDPH after passing the examination and remitting the application fee. Certification is valid for 5 years. For information about training waivers and reciprocity, please click here.  

If you are not already certified, click here [PDF] for a list of regional opportunities to obtain the required training. For a list of IDPH approved trainers and course search, please click here

2. Determine which food item(s) to prepare consistent with the provisions of the Act.

3. Develop a product label.
The label shall include the following information in English:
  • The name and address of the cottage food operation.
  • The common or usual name of the food.
  • All ingredients including any colors, artificial flavors and preservatives, listed in decreasing order of prominence by weight. If a prepared item is included in the recipe, the sub ingredients shall be listed as well.
  • The net weight or net volume of the food.
  • The following statement. "This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens."
  • The date the product was processed.
  • Allergen labeling as specified in federal labeling requirements.
4. Prepare a placard
The placard shall be prominently displayed at the point of sale and shall include the following. "This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens."
For a sample placard please click here [PDF]. 
5. Register your operation with the McHenry County Department of Health

Complete the Cottage Food Industry Registration Form [PDF]. Cottage food operators must register with the health department of a local unit of government where the cottage food operation resides.

The registration form shall be signed and submitted with a copy of your IDPH food service sanitation certificate, food product label(s) and testing data, if applicable, for review.

Submit this information via mail or fax to:

McHenry County Department of Health
Division of Environmental Health
2200 N Seminary Avenue
Woodstock, IL   60098

FAX: 815-334-4637

Registration confirmation will be provided in writing once all of the requirements of the Act have been met. You may need to provide confirmation to other local health authorities if you will also operate at farmer's markets located outside McHenry County.

Please update the Department whenever your menu, contact information, sanitation certification, location or operational status changes.

6. Follow all other requirements in the law.
You are responsible for all other provisions in the Act including but not limited to:
  • Product packaging
  • Product labeling
  • Displaying a placard with the required language
  • Not exceeding gross receipts of $25,000 in a calendar year from the sale of food exempted under the Act, and
  • Limiting offer only to foods allowed by the Act and only at farmers' markets in Illinois
Are there any fees associated with operating under this new law?
There is no fee to register with the McHenry County Department of Health. However, as previously noted, there are fees associated with the food service sanitation training, certification, and related refresher courses.
Who can I talk to if I have more questions?
Department staff is available for additional consultation. Please feel free to contact us directly at 815-334-4585 if you have any questions or if we can be of further service to you.

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