November 1, 2014

Cottage Food Industry Approved in Florida

Have you ever wanted to sell food you make in your own kitchen? You’re not alone. Home cooks preparing food for public sale is called the “Cottage Food Industry”. Some states allow this practice, as long as only “low risk foods” are sold. Yesterday, another county in Florida took the first step toward eliminating state licensing requirements for the Cottage Food Industry.

Last year, the Florida legislature passed House Bill 7209, which legalized the sale of foods produced in home kitchens. Cities and counties in states can have different and varying laws on the books, which may or may not follow state law.

The foods that are usually allowed under “Cottage Food Production Operations” include:

  • Baked goods
  • Jams and jellies
  • Honey
  • Homemade pasta
  • Flavored vinegars
  • Trail mix and granola
  • Breads, rolls, and biscuits
  • Candy
  • Dry mixes
  • Spices
  • Some sauces

These foods are considered “low risk” because they are either heated to a high enough temperature to kill most pathogens, or don’t include ingredients that are typically contaminated with bacteria.

In most states, the home cook can’t make more than a certain dollar amount every year (ranging from $5,000 to $25,000) or sell to restaurants or stores. The food must be labeled stating that the food was not inspected and prepared in a kitchen not governed by the state’s food safety laws.

The products can’t be sold over the internet, by mail order, at wholesale, or by consignment. Sales are usually made directly to consumers, at roadside stands, and at farmer’s markets. And the foods must be labeled according to state and federal law.

The foods that are not allowed to be home-produced include:

  • Fresh meat
  • Dried meat, including jerky
  • Fish or shellfish products
  • Cut fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Salsa
  • Baked goods that require refrigeration such as meringue pies
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Raw sprouts
  • Ketchup and mustard
  • Barbecue sauce

This type of industry is widely supported. In fact, the Food Safety Modernization Act was specifically amended to exclude on-farm food sales and sales at farmer’s markets. In the current economy, these types of businesses can help bring in needed income.

The problem with these types of industries is that no food is ever “no risk”. Bread and jellies can be contaminated with mold. Trail mix can include allergenic ingredients; trusting a homemade label about ingredient contents can be risky. Dried spices have been contaminated with pathogens. Cottage food industries have been the source of outbreaks. And everyone knows someone who has become ill eating at a church or school potluck.

Traceability in cottage food industries, which can pinpoint contaminated food in case of an outbreak, is non-existent. It’s also important to remember that most food poisoning happens at home. After all, not every home cook follows food safety rules.

 

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