Dig out Granny’s heirloom recipes and start making money - Cottage food laws take effect

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Many innovative people are seeking new ways to make additional money for their families in this struggling economy.  One option, to generate some extra cash, is to cook that highly prized, old family recipe at home and sell it to the public.   

Until recently, individuals were prohibited from using their home kitchens to prepare and sell food products.  This situation changed on July 1, 2011 with legislation allowing the legal sale of some home kitchen prepared foods. But, anyone considering this opportunity is encouraged to get all of the facts before proceeding.  

The 2011 Florida Legislature changed the state food permitting requirements and a food permit is no longer required if a person sells “non-potentially hazardous” or “cottage food” products. 

This product category includes honey, cakes, cookies, jams, jellies, breads, pastries, candies, fruit pies, dried fruits, pasta, cereals, popcorn, certain dry mixes, fruit pies, dried herbs and other seasonings.  

The new law also limits annual gross product sales to under $15,000, before a food safety permit is required.  Additionally, the legislation eliminates the requirement for these products to be prepared in an inspected commercial kitchen.

The law does place restrictions on how the homemade cuisine can be sold.  These products must be sold directly by the cottage food operator to the end-user or consumer.  The word “directly” in this law means the products cannot be sold at an Internet site, through mail order deliveries or wholesale distributors. These unique and tasty delicacies cannot be sold through restaurants and food stores, either.  

Some food products are considered Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHF) and are not legal to sell under the new cottage food law.  The reason for the restriction is all PHF’s contain at least one food component requiring specific time and temperature control which limits pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation.  

Examples of PHF include, but are not limited to: fresh or dried meat or meat products including jerky, canned fruits, vegetables, salsa, fish and shellfish products, canned pickled products, bakery goods which require refrigeration (such as cream, custard or meringue pies, cakes or pastries with cream cheese icings or fillings,) milk and dairy products (including hard and soft cheeses, cottage cheese and yogurt), cut or processed fresh fruits and vegetables, juices, barbeque sauce, ketchups and mustards.

The cottage food law has precise labeling requirements to identify if any ingredients are made from one of the following food groups:  eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, fish or tree nuts. Visit: fda.gov for more information regarding federal allergen labeling information.

The Bill authorizing these changes is 7209. A hand out is available at freshfromflorida.com or you can request a copy at your County Extension office.   If you are a prospective cottage food operation, please take time to carefully review this law to be well informed of what has changed and what is still legally required of the cottage food industry.   

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has the authority to investigate any cottage food producer if a complaint is filed.  Penalties for non-compliance may be imposed.  

This is a significant change to Florida law.  Individuals who are wish to offer products for sale should carefully study the statutes to insure a clear understanding of what has changed and the sections of the law that are unchanged.  

If you have questions about the a particular cottage food product, contact the Department’s Division of Food Safety, Bureau of Food and Meat Inspection at (850) 245-5520.