Everyone has a secret recipe, whether it is those delicious blueberry muffins you’ve tweaked over the years to get just right or grandma’s secret sauerkraut recipe passed down over generations. Perhaps your kitchen’s piece de resistance is so delicious that you have considered whether you can make a quick buck off of selling it beyond your friends and family.
However, you probably don’t want your homemade treats to put you on the wrong side of the law. The state has a number of laws, rules and regulations, also known as cottage food laws, that need to be followed in order to sell safely and legally.
It is legal to sell homemade food in Maine, but do you need a license to do so? The short answer is maybe.
There are two main considerations that determine whether you need a license for selling homemade food in Maine: where you are selling and what you are selling.
Some municipalities have food sovereignty laws that allow you to sell homemade goods from the point of production (usually your residence) directly to consumers without a license. Check with your local municipality to see if that’s the case where you live.
“They don’t need a license, unless they want to sell beyond their front porch,” said Celeste Poulin, director of the Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.
Licenses also aren’t required for people to sell whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
“If they are doing any further processing if you’re using apples from your backyard to make pies, you’re going to have to cut those apples, make a filling, we consider that processing,” Poulin said. “If you’re further processing, you need a license.”
Beth Calder, extension food science specialist and associate professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said that other products like dietary supplements, tinctures and elixirs are a separate regulatory pathway for licensing.
“They are not considered food products,” Calder said. “We have our recipe to market class and we have herbalist folks who show up. If they’re wanting to do teas, this process might pertain to them, but if they’re making more of a dietary supplement, this process isn’t the same.”
Products with meat and poultry, like pies with meat in them for example, can also be tricky and require additional steps.
“Meat and poultry gets more regulated once you go above 2 percent cooked or 3 percent raw meat in the product formulation,” Calder said. “Meat and Poultry [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point] training may be required to obtain this food safety certificate and write and implement a plan prior to making meat pies, as well.”
Calder said that if you have any questions about the license you need and its requirements, reach out to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Getting a license to sell your homemade goods may seem intimidating, but Calder said not to let the bureaucracy stop you.
“I never discourage people,” Calder said. “If there’s a will there’s a way.”