Zoning Permits Branch

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mon-Thu, 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Fri

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 250
Fairfax, VA 22035

Leslie Johnson,
Zoning Administrator

Home-Based Food Production

A Permitted Home Occupation

A home-based food production use may be permitted as a home occupation and is therefore allowed as an accessory use, within a residence, with an approved home occupation permit for home-based food production. Home-based food production uses have additional standards within the Zoning Ordinance and are also regulated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD).

Home-based food production uses are different than restaurants, which are strictly prohibited as a home occupation, because restaurants are a principal use with the intent that the food can be eaten and/or sold on the premises.  Home-based food production is also different than catering, which may include food requiring time and temperature control.  While restaurants and catering are also regulated by the FCHD, home-based food production is overseen by both FCHD and VDACS and guided by the Virginia Cottage Food Laws §3.2-5130.

The Virginia Cottage Food Laws §3.2-5130 provide guidance for certain types of foods prepared in private homes, some of which are exempt from health inspection requirements with VDACS and FCHD. Exempt food products typically do not require time and temperature control after preparation, but do have production and sale restrictions such as quantities, sale locations and labeling requirements. For the list of these exempt foods and the additional regulations, please visit the VDACS website. FCHD further regulates and provides guidance on types of food regulated by exemption in Fairfax County.  A home-based food production use can only produce exempt food products, per FCHD, to be issued a home occupation permit.   

In order to obtain a home occupation permit, there are use limitations within the Zoning Ordinance that must also be met. A home occupation is an accessory use that must be clearly subordinate to and customarily found in association with the principal use of a residence. The Zoning Administration Division may need to collect additional information on the proposed business to make sure that it is clearly subordinate to the principal residential use.   Any applicant seeking a home occupation permit for home-based food production must comply with the use limitations for home occupations outlined in the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Article 10, Section 304.  This section includes limitations on employees, customers, storage of materials, the appearance and use of the property, etc.  

Permitted Foods

The only foods permitted to be produced in a home are those listed below. 

  • Baked good, without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, cakes, and tortillas
  • Candy, such as brittle and toffee
  • Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods such as nuts and dried fruits
  • Dried fruit
  • Dried pasta
  • Dry baking mixes
  • Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
  • Granola, cereals, and trail mixes
  • Herb blends and dried mole paste
  • Honey and sweet sorghum syrup
  • James, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Nut mixes and nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Vinegar and mustard
  • Roasted coffee beans and dried tea
  • Waffle cones and pizelles
  • Cotton candy
  • Candied apples
  • Confections such as salted caramel, fudge, marshmallow bars, chocolate covered marshmallow, nuts, and hard candy, or any combination thereof
  • Buttercream frosting, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese
  • Dried or dehydrated vegetables
  • Dried vegetarian-based soup mixes
  • Vegetable and potato chips
  • Ground chocolate
  • Seasoning salt
  • Flat icing
  • Marshmallows that do not contain eggs
  • Popcorn balls
  • Dried grain mixes
  • Fried or baked donuts and waffles
  • Dried hot chocolate (dried powdered mixes or molded hardened cocoa pieces)
  • Fruit infused vinegar (containing only high acid fruits such as apple, crabapple, nectarine, peach, plum, quince, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, grape, tomatillo, youngberry, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange)
  • Dried fruit powders
  • Cottage food products not already listed, for which a product assessment is conducted by FHD, that verifies that the food product is not a hazard to public health and approved by the Division Director*

*If you are planning on preparing an item not listed above, please contact the Health Department at 703-246-2201 to request a product assessment.  Approval documentation will need to be included for acceptance of this application.

Home Occupation Permit Limitations

Article 10 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance allows certain businesses and occupations to be conducted in a dwelling unit as a home occupation provided certain of limitations are met. 

  1. A home occupation must be conducted by the home occupation permit applicant within the dwelling which is the primary residence of the applicant or in an accessory building thereto which is normally associated with a residential use and shall be clearly subordinate to the principal use of the lot as a dwelling. Please see Paragraph 12 below for exceptions related to horseback riding lessons.
  2. Except for articles produced on the premises, no stock in trade shall be stored, displayed or sold on the premises.
  3. There shall be no exterior evidence that the property is used in any way other than for a dwelling.
  4. No mechanical or electrical equipment shall be employed other than machinery or equipment customarily found in the home, associated with a hobby or avocation not conducted for gain or profit, or customary for a small office.
  5. No outside display or storage of goods, equipment or materials used in connection with the home occupation shall be permitted.
  6. The home occupation permit applicant and other persons who use the dwelling as their primary residence may be involved in the home occupation use. In addition, one (1) nonresident person, whether paid or not for their services, may be involved in the home occupation use on the property provided that there is only one (1) such person on the property and the hours of such attendance shall be limited to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please see Paragraph 13 below for exceptions related to horseback riding lessons.
  7. Only one commercial vehicle shall be permitted per dwelling unit, subject to the following provisions:
    1. Any commercial vehicle parked in an R district shall be owned and/or operated only by the occupant of the dwelling unit at which it is parked.
    2. The following commercial vehicles shall be prohibited from parking in an R district:
      1. Food trucks, solid waste collection vehicles, tractors and/or trailers of tractor-trailers, dump trucks, construction equipment, cement-mixer trucks, and towing and recovery vehicles;
      2. Vehicles, including any appurtenances attached to the vehicle, that are greater than twenty-one (21) feet in length, eight (8) feet in height, or eight and a half (8 ½) feet in width;
      3. Vehicles carrying commercial freight in plain view;
      4. Trailers used for transporting equipment whether attached or unattached to another vehicle;
      5. Vehicles with three (3) or more axles; or
      6. Vehicles or equipment that are similar to Paragraphs B(1) through B(5) above.
  8. The dwelling in which the home occupation is being conducted shall be open for inspection to County personnel during reasonable hours.
  9. A permit for a home occupation is valid for only the original applicant and is not transferable to any resident, address or any other occupation. Upon termination of the applicant's residency, the home occupation permit shall become null and void.
  10. No sign shall be permitted, and all outdoor lighting shall be in accordance with Part 9 of Article 14.
  11. There shall be no customers or clients.
  12. If there are any changes proposed in the dwelling or in the plumbing or the electrical system, appropriate permits will be required. Approval of this permit or of any other permit does not relieve the Applicant from compliance with the provisions of any applicable ordinances of Fairfax County or the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  13. A permit for a home occupation shall be revocable by the Zoning Administrator because of the failure of the owner or operator of the use covered by the permit to observe all requirements of the permit and the Zoning Ordinance.

Applying for a Home-Based Food Production, Home Occupation Permit

home-based food production

Completed applications may be submitted in person, by email or postal mail to:

Department of Planning and Development
Zoning Administration Division
Zoning Permits Branch
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 250
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5508

Office Hours:
8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday - Thursday
9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday

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