It's been weeks since Governor Rick Perry signed a food safety and local foods bill into law. The law will take effect in September. Most know it as the "cottage food law." It deals with foods made within a home and then sold.
More than a "baker's dozen" of comments on the subject can be found on web sites, baker blogs and Facebook pages. There's confusion, disappointment over how the bill was weakened at the last minute and even criticism on how the measure is reported.
It's farmers market day in Nacogdoches. It's where Nacogdoches health inspector Tommy Wheeler is fielding a lot of questions about the new cottage foods law.
"The calls I've been receiving, a couple, mainly clarification. Some from churches too," said Wheeler.
The law makes something legal that has always been illegal. "The only change is people that normally cook and bake cakes, for say a wedding, at their home in the past, they were baking and selling them from their home, it was illegal," said Wheeler. "Now (Sept. 1), it's legal as long as they fall within those three criteria. They don't sell them outside, they don't sell over the Internet, and they don't sell more than $50,000 per year in sells." There's one additional criteria. Home bakers must label the food with the name and address of the producer, and a statement that the food is not inspected by the state or local health departments.
The law originally had a provision where food could be taken from home kitchens to farmers markets. That provision was taken out at the last minute following the lobbying by Harris County restaurant lobbyists and other local health departments.
Wheeler is informing farmers market vendors there are still ways to sell home baked goodness from a farmers market stand, and remain legal.
"They would have to meet those rules of three compartment sink, separate hand washing sink, and separate facilities from their home facility," explained Wheeler. It can be a spare bedroom, a garage, or a separate building. "It's really simple," said Wheeler.
Several Nacogdoches farmers market vendors have the full-service kitchens. Others rent or borrow ones.
And as for as those charity bake sales, bake away. "They're continuing as they always have," said Wheeler.
The law is selective in who it serves, but it's a start. Law proponents want the provisions to cover more foods and allow for the sales at farmers markets. They have until the next legislative session to cook up the recipe on how to go about it.