The Etsy Blog

Selling Your Edibles on Etsy

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

SarahSays

The term “handmade” encompasses a wide range of items on Etsy…and some categories of handmade items have specific business and legal concerns. This is important information for those Etsy sellers who make and sell handmade food.

In the last fifty years, the once innocent concept of selling brownies or jellies has evolved into a legal obstacle course. For those of you taking the plunge into a delicious business adventure, we will address some of the most frequently asked questions.

Do I need a license to sell edibles on Etsy?
According to Etsy’s Terms of Use, it is up to each seller on Etsy to abide by the appropriate laws, statutes and regulations relating to your business and selling your products. However, many laws vary from country to country and from state to state. For example, many states require that all items intended for human consumption are stored, prepared, labeled and packaged in a licensed kitchen. Other states require notifying the local health department and filing the respective paperwork for a food permit. Alternatively, Etsy shop owners might have to secure a licensed kitchen with yearly inspections and a state approved food handlers. The state might even limit what you can legally produce for sale on and off the Internet. Your first step is to contact your local health department or department of agriculture depending on where you reside.

What if my local health department says I have to prepare everything in a licensed facility?
Obtaining a licensed kitchen may be easier than you may think. There are many companies who specialize in commercial kitchen rentals or shared/ co-op kitchen rentals. These are usually the easiest and most costly options available. For those on a budget, churches, day care centers, even your local VFW, might offer kitchen rentals. It is important, however, to make sure that the prospective facility has the appropriate licensure. Some facilities that are licensed to serve their own members are limited to what may be prepared on site, or do not permit the sale of edibles in excess of a specific dollar amount per year.

I also strongly suggest taking a tour of the facilities before signing a contract, however formal or informal the arrangement may be. Once you have located a potential space, you’ll need to ask some important questions.

What questions should I ask about the licensed facility?

  • Can I rent by the hour, day or month?
  • Will I have any storage space, including refrigeration space?
  • Can I use the kitchen’s address as my actual business address?
  • What if I need more or less than my scheduled time?
  • Can I get deliveries and/or pick ups?
  • Will anyone else have access to the same kitchen when I am in it?
  • Am I obligated to clean up after myself?
  • Do I need a food handler’s permit?

You might also want to ask if you are covered by the licensed facility’s insurance policy. Although most facilities for rent are insured, many renters are not covered by their own coverage. If you are a homeowner, your homeowners insurance may offer the option of placing a rider on your policy to cover your business. Renters, don’t fret; similar coverage may be available with renters insurance.

Do I need to label my goods? If so, what needs to be on the label?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has clear cut guidelines on labeling your items. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act provides a detailed account of what is required to include on a label. Additionally, the FDA has a helpful illustrated guide regarding the requirements when listing your ingredients. Again, the kind folks at your local health department will be able to guide you through the specifics.

Is there anything special I need to do with my listings on Etsy?
When selling online, make sure your potential consumer knows what is in your product. Your Etsy item descriptions should contain the same list of ingredients found on your label.  It’s also helpful to inform customers with allergies and/or food sensitivities of common products that might be of concern to them, ie; wheat, dairy, nuts. Better to lose a sale than to gain a lawsuit!

One final and equally important topic is for the pet lovers who have an itch to sell pet treats. Pet treat bakers are required to comply with their appropriate laws for the manufacturing of pet food. Some states regulate this through their health department, others through the department of agriculture. Many require a feed license as well. But one thing that they all require by federal law is a “guaranteed analysis.” The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has cracked down on this in recent years due to mass pet food recalls. A “guaranteed analysis” is simply the minimum percentage of what various ingredients are contained in those treats and is performed by a chemist and who may be appointed by your state or privately contracted. AAFCO has a plethora of information regarding what is required regarding what is permissible for sale in the United States.

Seller Handbook Best-of Archive | 7 Tips for Selling Food Online

Sarah Feingold is Etsy's in-house attorney. She is also a jeweler with an extreme sweet tooth.

  • HowlingWolfSauces

    HowlingWolfSauces says:

    Great article. Thanks for taking the time to write it all down!

    7 years ago

  • fromArtisanHands

    fromArtisanHands says:

    Good, concise information. Correct ingredient labeling is really so important!

    7 years ago

  • nakedtile

    nakedtile says:

    Very informative!

    7 years ago

  • Marmalady

    Marmalady says:

    also bear in mind that many countries (usa being one of them) have strict import laws for food -- so you are best limiting food sales to domestic only! here in the UK, you need to register your kitchen with your Local Environmental Health Dept and obtain a Food Hygiene Certificate before selling foo dto the public. Your local Trading Standards Office can give you guidance on the labelling regulations.

    7 years ago

  • VictoriaB2007

    VictoriaB2007 says:

    well I am glad I read this before offering any food for sale was thinking of sugar free stuff for Diabetics like my self! I just stick to my arts and crafts and hand made jewelry thanks Victoria

    7 years ago

  • vargasgirl1

    vargasgirl1 says:

    Thank you Organidog for sharing this valuable information! I will now see if it's even worth my while producing edibles for Etsy, since it seems it can be legally quite costly, time consuming and risky (which defeats the purpose of selling on Etsy)...good food for thought. Thanks again, Vargasgirl1

    6 years ago

  • emarielivesinatree

    emarielivesinatree says:

    Thank you for posting this information. I have ordered some food items from Etsy in the recent past, but none of the sellers have mentioned meeting any state or federal health/food codes. Thanks for the heads-up!

    6 years ago

  • libraryoflostthings

    libraryoflostthings says:

    wow, incredibly helpful info. - thanks for taking the time to share!

    5 years ago

  • SudsandScrubs

    SudsandScrubs says:

    This was very informative and helpful thank you!

    5 years ago

  • AttentionDeficit

    AttentionDeficit says:

    This was very informative. I want to offer homemade to order cakes where the clients would come to a tasting and see my kitchen. Can I have a listing for that in Etsy? worded differently of course.

    5 years ago

  • TheTwoLittleMoos

    TheTwoLittleMoos says:

    Here is where I am having trouble finding more detailed info and wasn’t sure. My state doesn’t have a Cottage Food Law like some just yet – but it seems all the laws I am finding reference COOKED/PRE-MADE edibles. What about those who package “Make Your Own” dry ingredients -- where it actually is baked in the purchaser's own kitchen? Insight appreciated!

    4 years ago

  • enidcandles

    enidcandles says:

    I know at least here that getting a home kitchen licensed is not that difficult; hot water, triple sink, washable surfaces (no carpet)..just call the health department and they will walk you through it all. Thanks for the article!

    4 years ago

  • enidcandles

    enidcandles says:

    Great article! Strange how getting pet food approved is more difficult than human food...I haul grain for a living and there are more regulations at the pet food plants than anywhere else we deliver.

    4 years ago

  • wolfemporium

    wolfemporium says:

    Thank you for writing such an informative article. Many people don't realize just how much is involved in handling food for retail. As a retired restaurant owner I'm constantly amazed at people you think you can just walk into the kitchen, chase the family cat off the counter and start cooking! You broke it down very well!

    4 years ago

  • MGLdesign

    MGLdesign says:

    Very helpful! Thank you!

    4 years ago

  • fabricsquares

    fabricsquares says:

    Thank you for all of this helpful information.

    3 years ago

  • bargainboughtgoods

    bargainboughtgoods says:

    I have to wonder how strongly this is enforced or how much applies to natures goods. I often buy nuts from online sellers who have nothing more than a few old pecan trees. There are simply too many people online and in real life who sell their native products (nuts,oranges, garden grown goods, wild blackberries) as well as jams/homemade nut butters. None I know have ever registered for any licensing for such things. I think its more of a on paper law but simply can't/shouldn't be attempted to be enforced fullscale. I do suppose in the event of an issue (processing your pecans using the same gear you used for peanuts for example and getting one of the 1% who are deadly allergic) without any basic licensing you would stand no chance. Good read though - its all safe enough in my opinion as a buyer. I would rather buy oranges from a guy who has a few trees than ones at the grocery store who have been palmed by half the city.

    3 years ago

  • ElizabethsPearlz

    Natasha from ElizabethsPearlz says:

    Good info especially since I have been considering starting a home based pastry business:)

    3 years ago

  • quincebaked

    quincebaked from quincebaked says:

    Great post, thank you for the list of web resources! As a food seller, I want to mention the importance of being accessible for your customers to ask questions regarding your items. It can be difficult to determine the food safety of products online, so you may want to say something about your food safety practices in your about page or listings. We bake all of our products in a licensed, commercial kitchen that complies with all state laws. We also only use natural ingredients, and try our best to avoid cross-contamination of allergens. All of our packaging is "food safe" packaging and sealed to preserve freshness in our goodies. If you're ever in doubt regarding the food safety of a seller, please ask!! Thanks again for the info Organidog! http://www.etsy.com/shop/quincebaked

    3 years ago

  • mginth

    Morgan Ginther from mginth says:

    You briefly touched on the homemade dog treats. Do you need to get registered in each of the 50 states or can you get licensed in your home state and sell to all 50 on the internet? Also, can you start selling them as you are in the process of getting registered?

    1 year ago

  • ShaktiGoddessArt

    Lauren Amerson from ShaktiGoddess says:

    thank you for this! It was soooo helpful. :)

    1 year ago

  • austinbeck1

    austinbeck1 says:

    If you're trying to search for a shared/ co-op kitchen in your are a better search phrase is "shared-use" or just check out http://www.culinaryincubator.com/maps.php for listings

    1 year ago

  • flocraft

    Florence Brem from CooperYoungCrafts says:

    So this all seems to be for selling items ready to eat. What about a mix, like hot chocolate mix or custom cake mixes, that are all in powder form that the buyer cooks for themselves in their own kitchen? Do the same rules apply?

    1 year ago

  • HeatherBlossom

    Susan from TotalKindness says:

    What about items like homemade lotions and soaps? I would love to add those to my shop. I live in Nevada and can't seem to get a clear answer on what permit requirements I need to meet.

    1 year ago

  • LoveThatLeather

    Peggy Festerling from LoveThatLeather says:

    It would be really helpful if Etsy had a list of states that allow online food sales. I looked it up and it looks like there aren't very many states that allow it.

    1 year ago

  • LoveThatLeather

    Peggy Festerling from LoveThatLeather says:

    That's cottage food sales on the internet that I'm referring to.

    1 year ago

  • Can You Make Money Selling Vintage On Etsy Jersey City • MLM, Internet Business Ideas says:

    […] Selling Your Edibles on Etsy | The Etsy Blog – The state might even limit what you can legally … Is there anything special I need to do with my listings on Etsy? When selling online, make sure your … would rather buy oranges from a guy who has a few trees than ones at the grocery store who have been palmed by half the city. 2 … […]

    291 days ago

  • CottageBotanicals

    Karen from WallFlowerGardenShop says:

    Excellent information and tips, as usual! Many thanks..

    222 days ago

  • flightsfan

    Nathan Rogers says:

    In Oregon the laws are pretty strict. All baked goods must be made in a licensed kitchen. A licensed kitchen in Oregon requires a door so it can be closed off. The newer houses with open kitchens for example could never qualify. All utensils and even the refrigerator must be dedicated for commercial use so using your own pots and pans is a no go. Even church kitchens are required to get this licensing. Same requirements for a lot of bake sales. Otherwise requires hand wash sink and a 3 basin dish washing sink. As long as kitchen is licensed you can sell online. When we sold baked goods at the local farmers markets, all of them required a $1 million liability insurance policy in addition to the licensed kitchen.

    197 days ago

  • flightsfan

    Nathan Rogers says:

    @Bargainboughtgoods Different laws apply in most states to produce. The licensed kitchen is only necessary for processed goods. Jams, jellies, and butters however DO require licensing since they are processed goods. They require additional inspections if I recall due to the potential for problems with canned goods. Baking kits, mixes, and spice mixes also require it since you are handling ingredients. However as mentioned in another post you can often find a licensed kitchen in your area that you can rent time in that will allow you to comply. The more you mix and package in a time you rent the lower the cost per item is. Generally if you are required to use the commercial kitchen, you are required to also package in the kitchen.

    197 days ago

  • flightsfan

    Nathan Rogers says:

    @Susan Generally if it doesn't go in your mouth, the licensed kitchen requirements do not apply. There may be a different set of restrictions for soaps and lotions but they are not nearly as strict. Look for laws pertaining to cosmetics.

    197 days ago

  • annafabricci

    annafabricci from TEAandTABLE says:

    What if I want to start selling herbal teas and local honey? Is it hard to get approved to sell these products?

    185 days ago