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The UK does not have any specific Cottage Food laws, but that does not mean you can't do it! Many people are safely making foods at home and legally selling them.
Generally speaking, the starting point is your local Council.
Below are the steps, as best we can determine them, given there is no officially defined process published by government.
Neither is true. Food companies conduct many trials and lab tests, examining the properties of the food product, including bacterial counts, pH, water content, etc. to determine that each recipe, process and packaging yields a shelf-stable product that will be safe for a consumer to eat months later. At home, you do not have the ability to perform this type of testing. You MUST stick to recipes, equipment and procedures that have been tested. All of the recipes here have been tested (by universities and government labs).
Commercial food companies often have equipment that can reach temperatures and pressures that home equipment cannot. Or they have unique packaging equipment that makes the finished product shelf stable.
The point is, producing a safe food product takes:
Some examples of foods that cannot be safely made and packaged at home include bottled pumpkin butter and most bottled dairy/egg products. Additional controls and procedures are required for potentially hazardous foods (those which require specific temperature, pH or water content) to remain safe to eat.
You must go on the Council's website 28 days before you plan to start your business and fill out a form there to register with the food department. Find the website for your local council.
Registration is required for all types of food businesses that serve customers directly, including:
You will need to register your food business if you:
Since there will be an inspection and quiz later, you'd better study up!
See this first: Food Safety Act 1990 - a guide for food businesses as PDF (Opens in a new window)(531.99 KB)
Or, in Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Food Safety Order 1991 business guide as PDF (Opens in a new window)(301.5 KB)
The following and more abstract. You should definitely browse through them and be familiar, but don't expect to memorize them!
It's not as much as it seems, but you obviously need to know how to prepare food safely in accordance with the law if you want to sell it!
The Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene for Catering certificate generally advised and often required by local councils if you prepare and distribute the food yourself. You are expected to know the 4C's and having the certificate proves it:
You can usually complete the accredited course online in one in a day and it typically costs £10 plus VAT. Here are several options available online:
This registration with your local Council is usually free and usually requires an inspection of your kitchen. They usually also quiz you on your knowledge of food regulations and food safety. Having studied up and passed the Food Hygiene Certificate should have you well prepared for the inspection and quiz.
The inspection is basic stuff (like checking cleanliness, walls and countertops, the temperature of your fridge, equipment, etc.)
They'll also check that you understand food hygiene, storing foods at the right temperatures, and may recommend changes or training if they think it is necessary.
If you sell food directly to customers, the inspector will give you a food hygiene rating.
Note that fish, meat, eggs or dairy are a special case. If you have these, you may also need to get special approval, unless: .
You sell direct to the public or to retailers such as caterers, pubs and restaurants and the following statements are also true:
Of course, this determination is at the discretion of the inspector...If you are unsure whether you need approval, check Applying for approval of a food establishment guidance or contact your local council.
Obviously, you may want some liability insurance and to discuss business matters with a solicitor and accountant who can guide you regarding Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Selling food requires you to register with HMRC as self employed which will affect your tax code. Most chose to set up as 'sole traders', but
your solicitor/accountant can guide you. As a sole trader, you just pay tax on your business profit and have to complete a self-assessment tax
return at the end of the year.
If your business grows larger than your home kitchen can support, you may want to look into:
The basic steps are above, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. So, here are the details:
To sell food and drink products, the label must be:
There are special regulations for labeling wine.
If you run a catering business, you sell food loose or package it for sale in your shop, you only need to show:
You must show more information if you sell meat products loose.
If you package food yourself, you must use packaging that’s suitable for food use. Suitable packaging is marked ‘for food contact’ or has a symbol on it that looks like a wine glass and a fork.
There are special rules for using plastics, ceramics or cellophane for packaging. You must have written evidence that you’ve kept to them.
This is known as a ‘declaration of compliance’ and you can get it from your packaging supplier. You also have to get one if you buy food that’s already packaged for sale in any of those materials.
Businesses need to provide allergen information if the food contains any of the 14 allergens as listed in the 'FIC regulations'. Guidance for food businesses on providing allergen information and best practice for handling allergens.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, we are responsible for the policy on food labelling and food compositional standards which are safety and
non-safety related. In Northern Ireland, this includes nutrition policy and labelling. The Welsh Government are responsible for nutrition
policy and labelling in Wales.
In England, we are responsible for food safety related labelling including allergens. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are responsible for the policy on food labelling and food compositional standards which are non-safety related only. The Department of Health and Social Care are responsible for nutrition policy and labelling.
General Food Law includes principles (Articles 5 to 10) and requirements (Article 14 to 21). We outline the key provisions for food business operators laid down in General Food Law that apply to food business operators.
Article 14 states that food shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe. Food is deemed to be unsafe if it is:
The article also indicates what factors need to be considered when determining whether food is injurious to health or unfit.
Article 16 states that labelling, advertising and presentation, including the setting in which the food is displayed, of food shall not mislead consumers.
Article 18 requires food business operators to keep records of the following:
In each case, the information shall be made available to competent authorities on demand.
Article 11 requires that food which is imported into Great Britain (GB) for placing on the market shall comply with the requirements of food law, or if there is a specific agreement between GB and the exporting country, then the imported foods must follow agreed requirements. See this page: Imported food - trade information
Article 12 requires that food which is exported or re-exported from GB must comply with the requirements of food law, unless the authorities of the importing country have requested otherwise, or it complies with the laws, regulations and other legal and administrative procedures of the importing country.
When exporting or re-exporting food, provided the food is not injurious to health or unsafe, the competent authorities of the destination country must have agreed for the food to be exported or re-exported. The competent authorities must confirm this after they have been fully informed as to why the food could not be placed on the market.
Where there is a bilateral agreement between GB and another country, food exported from GB needs to comply with its provisions.
Article 19 requires food business operators to withdraw food which is not compliant with food safety requirements and has left their control. Food business operators must recall the food if it has reached the consumer.
Withdrawal is when a food is removed from the market, this includes at point of sale. Recall is when customers are asked to return or destroy the product.
Food businesses must also notify the competent authorities (to us and the local authority) Retailers and distributors must help with the withdrawal of unsafe food and pass on information necessary to trace it.
Where food business operators have placed a food on the market that is injurious to health, they must immediately notify the competent authorities. There are also similar provisions for animal feed.
In England, The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 (as amended)(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window) provides for the enforcement of certain provisions of retained EU law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 and for the food hygiene legislation. It also provides national law for: bulk transport by sea of liquid oils or fats and raw sugar;(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)the direct supply by the producer of small quantities of meat from poultry or lagomorphs slaughtered on the farm; temperature control in retail establishments; restrictions on the sales and supply of raw cows’ drinking milk and derogations relating to low throughput establishments (slaughterhouses).
The General Food Regulations 2004(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window) provide the enforcement of certain provisions of retained EU law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 . It also amended the Food Safety Act 1990 to bring it in line with retained EU law Regulation (EC) 178/2002.
Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.
It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day
used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive.
And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper's range includes a pH of 4.6.
Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:
Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:
Start with your local Council's food department.