Is It Illegal to Sell Food on Instagram?

selling food on instagram

Regardless of the kind of business you have, utilizing the power of Instagram to get your product out there and reach your target audience is a no brainer. However if you’re in the food business and are looking to sell food on the platform, you may be wondering is it illegal to sell food on Instagram?

Selling food on Instagram is generally allowed if you have a permit for your food business. However if you’re a home cook who sells food as a side hustle without a permit, then that is considered illegal not only on Instagram, but everywhere across the board.

Using social media is an effective method of marketing your products, and that includes home cooked meals. But as with food laws in most states, the food business needs to have a permit. If you’re not sure what to do, this article is for you. We will explain when it’s considered illegal to sell food on Instagram, and when it’s perfectly fine.

Is Selling Food on Instagram Legal?

Instagram is a great place to turn to for inspiration – inspiration to get healthy, to travel and see the world, and even learn new things. It’s also the place where you can see a lot of interesting things for sale, including home cooked meals that you will never have tasted in your life.

Home cooks have been using Instagram to showcase their latest recipes and even put up meals for sale. You might have seen an increase in this trend as well during the pandemic, as many restaurant chefs have lost their jobs and turned to online food business to continue earning and bringing unique flavors to the community.

Patrons would line up outside the home cook’s home just to get a taste of the food. After all, it’s not every day you get to taste something fancy and unique but at a lower price. Besides, it’s a great way of exploring your food options. 

However, there is always the concern of sanitation. Was the food prepared in a hygienic facility? And was it prepared following proper sanitation practices? This is where the cottage food laws come into play. The laws help protect consumers, especially when there’s a possibility of food contamination.

If you want to sell your food on Instagram, it would give you some peace of mind to legitimize your business. This helps you avoid fines and punishments and the risk of getting shut down by your local government. 

Do I Need a License to Sell Food on Instagram?

You do not need a specific license just to sell food on Instagram. You do however need to make sure you’ve setup your business properly and have the needed licenses to own and operate a business.

Making your food business on Instagram legal eliminates the worries of getting in trouble with the law. Even if you’re just selling food through an online platform, getting a license shows that you’re in compliance with the food laws in your state.

This gives people the confidence to trust in your home cooking and that the meals are prepared hygienically. 

In a previous blog post we looked at whether selling food on Facebook Marketplace is considered illegal or not. For the most part, these same principles apply here for Instagram.

First up, you need to register your home based food business with your local government and get a food and safety certificate, or also called a food handlers permit.

You need to complete a course so you can get this permit. If you have someone helping you prepare the food, that person should also have the food handlers permit. Regardless of how small your business is or if you’re just operating from your home kitchen, obtaining this permit is important to make sure you get to keep your business.

While you can’t sell food that requires refrigeration such as meats and pies with the cottage laws, you do have the option to sell baked goods and pickled items. However, if you want to go big and sell home cooked meals, renting a commercial kitchen space is the best way to make your homemade food business legal.

Keep in mind that each state has different laws when it comes to selling food online. Some states don’t even have license or permit requirements.

You can check out this comprehensive guide from Harvard Law School to see the list of states that do and don’t require licenses and permits to run a homemade food business.

How Do You Sell Food on Instagram?

Once you get the legalities out of the way, which means you’ve complied with the laws and you have your own inspected commercial kitchen space, you need to start planning strategies on how to start selling food on Instagram. The following quick tips will help you get started:

  • Create your Instagram business page and make sure to complete the bio section. You may also choose to sell using your personal profile.
  • Regularly post photos of your meals
  • Use Instagram Story feature to promote your meals, especially special menus
  • Follow other accounts
  • Tag your friends and get their support
  • Use hashtags to reach the right people

As you may have noticed, Instagram is all about being visually enticing. So, if you want your food business to capture your audience’s attention, you have to post great photos of your food regularly. For food, flat lay photos tend to work best as they always look appealing, especially when done right.

Another tip on marketing your food business is to share a behind-the-scenes video or photos of a particular recipe. Always make sure you produce interesting content that people want to see and get people talking by engaging with them in the comments.

Keep in mind that using Instagram to sell food means you are actually using the platform to promote your products. Shipping or delivery, on the other hand, is a different story. As a home chef in your community, it’s best to deliver your products yourself to ensure its quality when it reaches the customer.

How to Report Someone Selling Food on Instagram

If you spot someone selling food on Instagram and you believe it’s shady or you know so well that they are not preparing food in sanitary conditions, it might be a good idea to report them.

Usually, you can use the report option on Instagram and provide a reason why you did so. Instagram will handle it from there and do an investigation.

Conclusion: Is It Illegal to Sell Food On Instagram

It is not illegal to sell food on Instagram as long as you do it following your state’s food safety regulations.

If you are planning to sell baked or dried goodies, it’s rather easier since it is covered under the Cottage Food Regulations and you don’t need to have a dedicated kitchen as long as you have a food handlers permit.

On the other hand, if you plan to sell home cooked meals, a legal way to do this is to have a separate commercial kitchen space that has undergone health inspection.

You also need to have the required permits. Since the requirements and regulations vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to contact your local health department to know more in-depth details regarding the laws you need to comply with.

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