The rules and regulations for selling food online can be a little tricky, as they vary so much based on where your kitchen is located.
However, there are some basics that you should prepare for before you start selling your food products. The laws and certifications required may seem daunting and
Know that getting up to speed and in compliance is a step in the right direction toward building a trustworthy brand that gets recommended again and again.
Let’s dive into the requirements for your online food business, from laws to labeling requirements and beyond.
Know the General Laws Around Selling Food
In the US, retailers who sell food from home are required to adhere to Cottage Food Regulations. These laws apply to baked goods, jams and jellies, dry mixes, popcorn, and nuts, and allow you to sell at farmer’s markets and other local events alongside your online operation.
While the details of these laws vary slightly from state to state (and change frequently), there are a few basic requirements for compliance across the board, including:
- An annual kitchen inspection from the health department
- Zoning clearance and appropriate permits from local government
- A state business license
- Proper storage of cold and dry ingredients
If you have questions, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your state branch of the Department of Agriculture as well as your local health department for more
Get the Right Certification and Permits
Once your workspace is
- Get your home business
state-licensed. Many states within the US require that home businesses are registered at the state level before any sales are made.
- Get a permit from your county. Check with local government departments to ensure that your home kitchen meets zoning and food safety requirements. If your home kitchen isn’t a viable option, you may need to consider renting an external or commercial kitchen space.
- Become a certified food handler. This certification includes training that can be done in person or through online classes. During the course, you’ll learn about food safety, the best practices for preparing and storing food, cooking temperatures, handwashing, foodborne illness, and much more.
Image source: eFoodHandlers
Once your kitchen space is approved for business and you’ve obtained the training you need, you can start cooking and packing up those delicious products you’ll be selling online.
Already running a restaurant, cafe, or food truck? Then you might want to sell food online by launching online ordering. In this case, you probably have the necessary certifications and permits — but you still need to complete the following steps.
Make Sure Labels Meet Requirements
When it comes time to package up your food products, you’ll want to be sure to create detailed labels that let buyers know exactly what ingredients are included. Share this information in your online product descriptions, too. This makes it easier for customers with dietary restrictions and reduces the risk of allergic reactions.
John Taylor of Taylor Family Farm, a
According to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, all food products should include labels with complete disclosure of ingredients, net quantity, and weight of total ingredients, as well as the name and location of the maker of the packaged goods. When listing ingredients, start with the largest quantity and work your way down to the smallest.
When you sell food online, remember that specific allergens should be highlighted on your packaging. The most common food allergens are:
- Tree nuts (cashew, for example)
- Fish and shellfish
Labels are also a good place to point out
Tax or No Tax?
The rules on collecting sales tax are blurry when it comes to online food businesses, but generally, legislation says that if you have a physical presence in the state (i.e. a kitchen, storefront, etc.), you do need to collect sales tax on sales made within your state of business, but not for sales made to
To read more on this topic, check out:
Last, but not least, you’ll want to make sure you’re shipping your food products safely and meeting the requirements of your desired shipping provider. If your products do not require refrigeration, often times you’ll simply be required to mark your packages as perishable and/or fragile.
However, if the quality of your food products will suffer when exposed to extreme cold or heat (ask yourself: Will this easily melt?), you may need to find a shipping supplier that offers climate controlled shipments or include refrigerants in your packaging. Always insulate your packages to reduce the transfer of heat or cold through container walls.
Finally, keep in mind that fresh fruits and vegetables are nonmailable unless presented in a dry condition.
Know the Rules & Regulations to Selling Food Online
With the right information and preparation, you can get your food products off the ground in no time at
Remember that you can sell food from home, which makes it much easier to get started. Such things like selling baked goods from home are incredibly popular.
Make sure you keep your permits and certifications