East Texas Ag News: Understanding the Texas Cottage Food Law

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Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 3:51 PM CST

ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Do you make cookies, bread, jam or other non-refrigerated treats so delicious that friends and family often suggest, “You should sell this stuff?” Are you or others you know considering this but wary of confusing regulations, expensive permits and red tape? If so, you will want to get familiar with the Texas Cottage Food Law, which explains in a straightforward manner how to legally sell several homemade foods.

Following the Texas Cottage Food Law requires just three simple steps. First, know what foods you can sell and how you can sell them. Second, get a food handlers certificate. Third, create and use a required label.

This law, first passed in 2013 and updated in 2019, allows the sale of foods that are prepared in residential homes as long as gross sales do not exceed $50,000 annually. This type of business is not regulated by a local or state health department, which means that your kitchen will not be inspected by a health inspector (unless there is concern about the public’s health).

The food you can sell basically includes any food, excluding meat, that does not require time or temperature control to prevent spoilage. Some foods include baked items that do not require refrigeration (breads, rolls, biscuits, sweet breads, muffins, pastries, cookies, cakes, fruit pies). Also candy, coated and uncoated nuts, unroasted nut butters and fruit butters, or dehydrated fruits and vegetables (including beans). Additionally, consider popcorn (and popcorn snacks), dry mixes, mustard, vinegar, cereal (granola), and dried herbs or herb mixes. If you are a coffee or tea aficionado, you can sell roasted coffee or tea as well.

And yes, if canning is your thing (as it is for many), you can sell canned jams and jellies as well as pickles so long as the pH is below 4.6. You can find an exhaustive list at Texascottagefoodlaw.com.

A significant change from the original law is that you can now sell at any type of event; it doesn’t matter if the sponsor is for-profit or non-profit. You can sell your food directly to the end consumer anywhere in Texas. Any of the foods on the approved list can be sold at the individual’s home, a farmers’ market, a farm stand, or at municipal, county, and non-profit events. Foods can also be delivered to the customer, where the sale can then take place. Foods cannot be sold over the internet, by mail order, or wholesale to other vendors who would then retail sell your product.

As always, be aware that local ordinances apply and may supersede the Cottage Food Law. If a local ordinance says you can’t set up a tent by the side of the road in a particular city, then you must follow that law. Although the law precludes local government authorities, including health departments, from regulating the production of food at a cottage food production operation, if a local government has a general ordinance — such as you have to get a permit to sell any product at some location, that is still valid and applicable.

Next, be sure the food you sell is properly labeled. Labels should include the name and physical address of the operation, the name of the product, possible allergens that are in the food, and the following statement: “This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department.”

Lastly, you must have a food handlers card. Individuals interested in receiving their food handlers card can do so online in less than a couple hours at prices ranging from $8 to $15. One site is http://foodsafety.tamu.edu/. Your food handlers card is good for two years and must be kept current as long as you are selling cottage foods.

So, if you are ready to make some extra money by selling items you cooked from your home, be sure to check out the excellent website Texascottagefoodlaw.com and you’ll find all the answers to begin your home cooking business.

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Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.