We’re coming up on the first birthday of SB 81, the Texas cottage food law that was signed by Gov. Rick Perry on June 17, 2011 and went into effect last September.
Cottage food laws allow individuals to make certain non-hazardous foods (generally baked goods, jams, spices, etc.) in their home kitchen and sell them directly to consumers; currently, there are 32 states with cottage food laws. In theory, these provisions remove barriers for both entrepreneurs and consumers.
But in my dear Lone Star State, it’s not been all sugar and spice and everything nice. Home bakers hit a serious roadblock when the proposed labeling rules were unveiled. In a flurry of red tape, cottage food producers had to include an ingredient list in descending order of prominence including metric measurements (is it just me, or is that essentially publishing your secret recipe?) and also the words, “Made in home kitchen, food is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department” in at least an 11-point font.
Although I understand letting consumers know what is in their food and where it came from, I can’t help but feel like these are a bit extreme. But thanks to a grass-roots campaign new labeling rules were published just a few weeks ago, which seem to have at play a little more common sense and a lot less bureaucracy (for more details, visit Texas Cottage Food Law). Unfortunately, some producers are coming up against city zoning laws that threaten to put them out of business– on Tuesday, the Planning & Zoning Commission of the city of Frisco will decide whether to hold a public hearing on their home occupation rules, which currently forbid home bakeries.
Cottage food laws, or baker's bills, are growing across the US (photo courtesy: Robyn Lee)
This entire cottage food battle –the achievements and the challenges– has my mind begging a few questions: when did we start invoking the name of public health as a way of scaring citizens? Frankly, I put far greater trust into the food of a local producer trying to support their family over a corporation creating profits for shareholders. Hands down. And when did we stop trusting ourselves? Somewhere along the way, we’ve been convinced by food marketing and government entities that we –the individual– cannot possibly take care of ourselves. We cannot possibly grow our own food or bake our own treats. I disagree. I say let them eat cake…and bake it too, for Pete’s sake!
What about your state? Do you have any cottage food laws? If not, want to get one going? Visit www.cottagefoodlaws.com