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Beware Cottage Foods – Do You Sell Gluten-Free?

Last Updated on October 10, 2019
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Selling gluten-free products in accordance to state Cottage Food laws is heading down an interesting path. We all know there has been a rising demand for locally produced food across the United States. Have you heard of Cottage Food Operations? Defined as preparing nonhazardous foods in the home kitchen for sale to the consumer. It has become increasingly popular in the past 10 years.

With the upsurge of Cottage Foods has come the desire for many to bake Gluten-Free products. This might appear to be great for those who want and need gluten-free options. But with that comes major responsibility.

While the FDA has clear guidelines on labeling gluten-free foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods. Today, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after August 5, 2014, must meet specific requirements.

Review the FDA requirements.

As a Cottage Food Operator, you must contact your local CFO agency for guidance. Each Cottage Food State may have different guidelines and some may ask you to do more than required by the FDA.

What is a Gluten-Free Baker to do?

As of June 25, 2014, the FDA issued a guide for small food businesses. This is to help business owners follow the final rule’s requirements. If you are not familiar with them, now is the time to learn the rules.

  • Follow the gluten-free production rules and regulations set by your Cottage Food Agency
  • Learn what the FDA expects from gluten-free manufacturers to create your own best practices.
  • If making gluten-free products, make it your mission to keep the consumer safe.
  • Consider a labeling best practice: posting allergen disclaimers on product packaging. Listing each tree nut is essential since every nut has different allergen issues.

The information above is not all-inclusive. For those who want to make gluten-free products, consider buying liability insurance. Be as transparent with your customers as possible.

glutenDon’t make a claim or guarantee. There is no way you can guarantee your product is gluten-free unless it is certified gluten-free and has been tested. Steer clear of gluten-free testing kits because the accuracy of such a test may not be known.

In October 2017, an interesting article was written about where we are with gluten-free labeling, it’s a good read.

Unfortunately, just when one dilemma was addressed another one popped up. Gluten-free packaging. Packaging stored in warehouses may come in contact with gluten-free foods. It is interesting how this issue has opened up a new bag of worms. Will warehouses have requirements that mandate packaging and bags be store in areas free of gluten? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Cottage Food Operators can only work with their agencies to devise best practices. Maintaining that the safety of the consumer must always come first.


Many Cottage Food Operators are not reporting the production of gluten-free foods. They fear that the CFO agency will inflict harsh requirements. Some bakers and food crafters also don’t want to foot the bill for liability insurance. The truth is serving gluten-free foods comes with a high degree of responsibility.
This is not something you can ignore. If you are serious about serving the consumer healthy, properly prepared food, own it. Take the good, the bad and the ugly.
One suggestion is to have a Gluten-Free Baking day. Allow consumers to PreOrder-PrePay so you always know what day you have to bake so you can properly prepare. As your business grows you can look for a commercial kitchen you can turn into a gluten-free kitchen. Give this considerable thought and remember, consumer safety is key. Not sure about cottage food rules and regulations, find your state or contact us.