PA cottage food law?

Business By Cakes by Bri Updated 21 Jan 2014 , 8:08pm by LittleMom

Cakes by Bri Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:51am
post #1 of 18

AAny PA home bakers have full details on any PA cottage food law? Specific details on the kitchen regulations?

My family may be moving to PA and I'm looking to bake and sell my cakes from home to be able to stay at home with my children also.

I'm googling but getting sites popping up that look sketchy or odd?

Help/info greatly appreciated!

17 replies
Cakes by Bri Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:56am
post #2 of 18

AI see and mentions "home food processing" and lab testing your food? I'm only looking to do cakes/cupcakes here...

AHTCakes Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 11:02am
post #3 of 18

I'm in PA and just starting to navigate the system. It is fairly easy (from what I have done so far) to bake "non-potentially hazardous" cakes from a home kitchen. In other words, nothing that needs to be refrigerated. 


In general, first you would contact your township/borough and get the zoning office to give you permission. This has been my one tricky part as I got permission to "work from home" but not to "open a business" in a residential area based on the phone call I had. I now need to go back and get a letter stating this for my next step. (Hoping they will give that to me...fingers crossed). 


Next you fill out the application that you can get online and send it in to the department of agriculture. 


Once the PDA contacts you they will come do a kitchen inspection. If you pass you give them $35 and you are good to go. 


I also just got my DBA and registered with the state for my sales tax license. Both very easy, but I had legalzoom take care of the DBA just for the ease. 


What part of PA are you thinking of moving to? This is info that I have discovered from Allegheny County. Not sure if other areas are different. 

AHTCakes Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 11:12am
post #4 of 18

I just wrote a reply but because I'm new it told me it didn't post properly. I apologize if this ends up popping up twice!! 


I'm from PA and just recently started navigating the system here. Long story short, if you want to sell "non-potentially hazardous" food from your home kitchen it is fairly easy. 


First you contact your local zoning office and get a letter stating you have permission to bake cakes from home, then fill out the application from the Department of Agriculture. The PDA will contact you and send an inspector to your kitchen and if you pass a basic inspection you hand then $35 and you are good to go (on that end). I'm currently dragging my feet on asking for my letter from the zoning department. I was given permission by the zoning officer (over the phone) to "work from home" but not to "open a business" from my residential home. I'm trying to figure out the best way to phrase this in another discussion with them so I can get my letter...fingers crossed. 


I also just got my DBA and registered with the state for my sales tax license. BOTH very easy. I actually had Legalzoom take care of the DBA for me just for the ease of it. 


What area are you thinking of moving to? 

ericapraga Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:01pm
post #5 of 18

Just beware that the city of Philadelphia is really strict on businesses from home. As in, you can't do it. Outside of city limits, I believe it is far less strict, as mentioned above. Sigh. Darn my DH and is city employer job!!!

:) Good luck!

gatorcake Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:20pm
post #6 of 18

Here are two sites that will give you the information you are looking for.


This is the from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.  The pdf provides a bit more explanation of the limitations on home kitchens -- such as the no pets in the house restriction, how ingredients must be stored, use of kitchen for processing, children etc.


This is the P.A. Department of Agriculture site.  It explains the process and links you to the forms you will need.

Cakes by Bri Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:35pm
post #7 of 18

AThank you all so much! After I posted I found a lot more info!

Gator cake-- thank you those are the links I ended up stumbling upon!

AHTcakes--I'd love if you could keep me posted on what happens! The zoning is what I'm worried about! We are looking to move just over the MD/PA line (Hanover/Gettysburg area) specifically looking to build and worried if I want to do this I will need to be sure the "development" etc will let me. We currently live in MD and its SO much harder to do it here, besides renting a kitchen :-/ not what I want. So it looks like in PA you don't need a "commercial kitchen"? In or out of the home? And you can "work from home " but not start a business? Odd? Hmmm. What area do you live in?

So thankful for all of your help guys!! :-)

tracyaem Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 2:38pm
post #8 of 18

AHTCakes laid it out the process perfectly. I have a home-based business outside of Philly and it was very easy to get licensed. I only do cakes/cupcakes and did not have to have anything tested. That said - I can't sell anything that's "potentially hazardous", i.e needs refrigeration (cheesecakes, cream based fillings, etc.) To sell any of these items you would need a separate, comercially inspected kitchen.


I believe the only "testing" that would need to be done is if you do not have city/township water - if you have well water or another private source.


I also went through LegalZoom to set up my LLC, register with the IRS, etc. I do not believe you will need to charege/file sales tax if you are only selling cakes/cupcakes directly to consumers - food in PA is exempt from sales tax. I have cleared this with my accountant, but you may want to do the same with yours to get comfortable.


Good luck!

Cakes by Bri Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 3:00pm
post #9 of 18

AThank you so much! I do only plan to sell cakes/cupcakes directly. And you're right about the water testing and refrigerated food, I found those were what would have to be "tested". Thankful it seems to be fairly easy in PA.


AHTCakes Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 5:10pm
post #10 of 18

Cakes by Bri - I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh. When I spoke with the officer she was very sweet and said that technically no one is supposed to open a "home business" but just like insurance salesmen may have a home office, I am allowed a home office that just happens to be my kitchen. She then went on to say that I could not have employees park on my property, no signs displayed, no heavy traffic, no delivery trucks, etc. If I follow all these guidelines they would not come after me in any way. My only question, is she willing to put that on paper?? :-/


I also completely agree with what tracyaem said about taxes. They ARE tax exempt. The reason I registered is because the nit-picky lady at the local festival wouldn't let me promote my business with out one. :-P She "is positive" I do in fact need to file my bi-annual taxes even though they are zero. My borough told me no...everything else I have read has told me no... but since she is "positive" and it didn't cost me more than 15 minutes of my time I did it. I figure if anything it just makes me look a little more professional. 

gatorcake Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 6:48pm
post #11 of 18
Originally Posted by tracyaem 

I do not believe you will need to charege/file sales tax if you are only selling cakes/cupcakes directly to consumers - food in PA is exempt from sales tax


A bit of an overstatement as food in PA is taxed all the time.  It is not a question of whether or not it is "food" but what kind of establishment sells it and/or whether it is classified as ready-to-eat.  The tax code differentiates between two kinds of establishments: eating establishments and food retailers.  Among the characteristics of the former is that the food is ready-to-eat, that is prepared for immediate consumption.  However it also specifies that if a eating establishment fails to also qualify as a food retailer and sells grocery items (typically associated with food retailers) it is required to charge sales tax on those grocery items.  


A food retailer which is defined as engaged in the sale of grocery type items other than for immediate consumption is not subject to sales tax. Bakeries, pastry shops, doughnut shops etc are all classified as food retailers.  Even though a cake shop is not listed (although it could easily be classified as a kind of bakery) the businesses listed is not exclusive as the provision states similar businesses to the ones listed would be exempt.


The exception is if the food retailer operates an eating establishment, which home bakers cannot do, so the cake and cupcakes would be exempt from sales tax.  However if it was a store front that contained an eating establishment cupcakes sold to people to eat on premises would be subject to sales tax.  Thus is it not correct to claim that cakes and cupcakes are not subject to sales tax--they are if sold by the part a business that qualifies as an eating establishment.  


So yes Cakes by Bri will not have to pay sales tax, but not because food is exempt from sale tax but because her business would be classified as a food retailer.

tracyaem Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 7:29pm
post #12 of 18

Apologies, Gatorcake and thank you for the extremely thorough clarification.


Seeing as Bri is intending to start a cake and cupcake only business out of her soon-to-be PA home (which is exactly what I have) I assumed she would understand what I meant. For all existing or potential grocery retailers and eating establishment owners in PA reading this thread, please ignore all of my comments - particularly those relating to tax advice. 


Bri - if you have other questions regarding getting licensed in PA, feel free to PM me :)

Cakes by Bri Posted 11 Jul 2013 , 7:44pm
post #13 of 18


Tracy thank you I will be in touch! I'm going to be doing more research here and I'm sure I will have questions! :-)

Thank you!

Cakes by Bri Posted 12 Aug 2013 , 2:18pm
post #14 of 18

A"In general, first you would contact your township/borough and get the zoning office to give you permission. This has been my one tricky part as I got permission to "work from home" but not to "open a business" in a residential area based on the phone call I had. I now need to go back and get a letter stating this for my next step. (Hoping they will give that to me...fingers crossed). "" ---AHT cakes So house progress is moving along and the subdivision has some regulations number 12 states--" no part of this lot or the structure erected thereon shall be used at anytime for carrying on of any trade or business and no shop or store shall be kept thereon"

Sounds like what you were dealing with? I'm guessing I need to contact them?!

Thanks. !

Cakes by Bri Posted 12 Aug 2013 , 2:19pm
post #15 of 18

ASo I'd like to state like you said to be able to "work from home" but not technically open a business?

bryoli Posted 21 Jan 2014 , 2:49am
post #16 of 18

I have read all  the comments  about a business in PA. I too live in PA and would like to have my cakebusiness valid with all the necessary requirements. I know the biggest issue is animals,but im not sure what else they would be looking for. I have a full kitchen designated for only my baking,but not sure what ese they wil be looking for. I live in a residential area that has no necessary traffic on it since I live on a cul de sac.My business is beginning to take off and I want to do all the right things to keep it going.thanks for anybodys input.

gatorcake Posted 21 Jan 2014 , 5:17pm
post #17 of 18

These are the conditions


1. No animals/pets are permitted in the home at any time. 

2. Children are not permitted in the kitchen area during food processing for the business.

3. The water supply serving the home must be from an approved supply. Private sources 
must be tested annually for coliform bacteria and Nitrate/Nitrite by the home owner. 

4. Department approval may not be in conflict with any local zoning or ordinances. A 
written statement from the local municipality must be obtained stating such. 

5. Registration and fee ($35.00) by the Department of Agriculture are required, no 

6. All ingredients must be separate from those for personal use (separate shelves, 
separate cupboards, etc…) and must be properly labeled, stored and protected. 

7. There must be restricted use of the home kitchen during any commercial processing. 

8. Any required laboratory testing of food products is arranged for and paid for by the 

9. Products must be properly labeled as follows (with some labeling exemptions for 
 baked goods): *Name of product 
 *Name and address of manufacturer 
 *Ingredients listed in decreasing order by weight 
 *Allergen declaration if needed 
 *Net weight or unit count 


10. Nutritional labeling must be included on food products being shipped / sold in 
interstate commerce. Home businesses may qualify for a small business exemption 
from nutritional labeling requirements by applying with FDA. 

11. Processors must comply with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations. 


In terms of things like pets 2, 3, 5 and 6 are most relevant. You must establish that you will not violate any zoning ordinances. An independent kitchen is not enough--your ingredients for baking/decorating must be separate from home use ingredients (cannot use the same container of flour for cakes and dinner). Number 3 if you are on well-water--doesn't sound like you are. Number 2--is there evidence that children (if you have them) are in the kitchen while you are baking/decorating? 


As to pets note the wording of number 1. It was changed a couple of years ago. It used to leave open the possibility that animals could be in the house but segregated from the kitchen/decorating area. That requirement was revised to offer a more clear statement concerning pets--the DoA claimed that the despite the ambiguity in the previous wording, pets were never supposed to be in the home. Thus the wording was changed to better reflect that intent.

LittleMom Posted 21 Jan 2014 , 8:08pm
post #18 of 18

I am in PA - when setting up my business, the PA Department of Revenue determined that I am required to collect 6% sales tax on the price of the cake and any delivery charge.


(And I'm required to post my sales tax license prominantly in my place of business... which means in my kitchen, where customers don't go since I only deliver... so I have a copy in my to-go kit.)

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