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How local foodies can change local laws

I’d rather purchase these than highly processed canned food any day!

Ever heard of Cottage Food Laws?  These laws basically say that if you want to sell foods that you make in your home (and are for human consumption), you can do so without jumping through hoops.  These laws enable the home cook to legally sell their items as long as the food is not a potentially hazardous food.

A ‘potentially hazardous food’ requires time and/or temperature control to be safe (i.e. meat, fish, anything that requires refrigeration, most fruit and veggie products).  So, what can home cooks sell?  Breads, cakes, cookies, popcorn, dry herbs and herb mixtures, fruit pies, jam/jellies, dry bulk mixes, dried pasta or nuts.  Some states have slightly different regulations.

In some states, these laws exist and in some states they don’t.  To me, the advantages are clear:  home cooks do not add ingredients like artificial colors or sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, or MSG (monosodium glutamate).  They also don’t add preservatives or trans fats.  Basically, the food is less processed and probably healthier than most packaged foods.

In the states that don’t have laws to allow home cooks to sell directly to consumers, they have to take unreasonable measures to abide by the law.  For instance, in Georgia, if you want to bake bread in your home and sell it, you need to first obtain a temporary land-use permit, build a fully functioning, second kitchen in your home, get the local health department to inspect it, obtain a business license, liability insurance, and a few other permits just to sell a loaf of bread. Riigghhtttt..don’t we all have enough space and money to create a full second kitchen?!

Why all the trouble?! Well, local government makes more money if they require inspections, permits, and business licenses.  But superficially, they claim that home kitchens without governmental oversight are less safe than commercial kitchens.  However, as a certified food safety expert, I can honestly say that foodborne illness is more commonly spread through commercial processors and distributors – not through mom and pop operations.

There are labeling rules and regulations (among others) that make it very difficult for home cooks – and require labeling information that food service establishments aren’t required to provide.  For instance, when was the last time your Starbucks bagel came with an ingredient list?!  Never.

It seems obvious that Cottage Food Laws would make food businesses easier to start up, create more job opportunities, and foster a better sense of community.  It could support the local economy and provide more nutritious, locally prepared foods.

Many local foodies are taking action in their state to take action to promote home prepared foods and so far, they’ve had great successes!  Though only about 26 states have enacted Cottage Food Laws, other states are considering jumping on board.  To check if your state is one of them and get involved, click here.

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