Texas' Cottage Food Law Passed, But That Won't Stop the State from Changing It

Categories: Food News

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During the last state legislative session, the Cottage Food Law was passed, clearing the way for home bakers to sell certain goods from their home. Guidelines were established, including limiting annual gross sales to less than $50,000, requiring in-person transactions and limiting sales to non-potentially hazardous foods.

And boy did Texas bakers unite and fight hard to pass this bill. Don't let the floral, lace-trimmed apron fool you. Bakers are a scrappy crew.

So, cakes and pies have been pleasantly exchanged since September 1, when the law went into affect, adding a little money to the pocketbooks of many families.

Now, however, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is proposing a new rules that specifically address the labeling aspect of this law. The original text in Senate Bill 81 required bakers to label packaging with their name, address and a statement that the product was baked in a home kitchen that was not inspected by a health department.

The proposed new rules by the DSHS requires more specific information be added to labels.

For example, every ingredient must be listed by weight in descending order, including food coloring and preservatives. They also pulled from FDA guidelines that "allergen labeling in compliance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004" must be added. The rules would also require the net weight of all products be listed on a separate label. Guidelines for the type of ink, font and size are also listed.

Kelley Masters, who was instrumental in the passage of SB 81, is following the issue closely.

"They (the DSHS) are apparently intoxicated with their rulemaking authority," said Masters, "and have now come up with this set of proposed rules, scheduled to be published in the Texas Register for the 30-day public comment period on this coming Friday, January 27."

Part of Masters' complaint with the proposed rules is that retail bakeries and restaurants don't have to follow similar rules.

"Food establishments are not required to label their food. When was the last time you bought a cake pop at Starbucks and it came with a label? It doesn't," Masters says. "The point of the Cottage Food Law was to ease requirements for home producers. What exactly would the public health benefit be of weighing a wedding cake (metric and imperial) when the bakery down the road doesn't have to?"

State Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) filed the initial bill.

"The intent of my legislation was clear," Kolkhorst says. "The Texas Legislature sought to clarify that Texans who wish to sell baked goods from their home have a reasonable and legal pathway to do so. For a state agency to now try to go in the opposite direction, to create new burdens on small businesses, would be a shining example of government overreach."

A spokesman for the DSHS sees it differently.

"I don't think it's onerous to ask someone to know and list the ingredients of a product they prepared," Chris Van Deusen, assistant press officer at DSHS, writes in an email. "It's a simple way to inform and protect consumers who may have an allergy or some other reason to avoid particular ingredients."

The question remains, though: Is it necessary to require additional work on the seller when both parties involved are aware that the products were made in an uninspected home kitchen?

"These proposed rules are burdensome, unnecessary," Masters said. "And really, if I didn't know better, I would say that they are intended to scare home bakers away from operating a home business."

Rep. Kolkhorst has similar concerns. "The regulations should only go as far as needed without smothering start-ups or throwing up new barriers for small businesses. There's a fine line between the agency protecting public health and going so unreasonably far as to prevent small home businesses from even competing in the marketplace. "

Yesterday, Masters and others expressed their dissatisfaction before the House Committee on Public Health, which Kolkhorst chairs. In the end, Kolkhorst made clear to the DSHS representative at the meeting that she felt they were overreaching their authority and diminishing the integrity of the original law. She requested they rework the rules in council.

For now the ball is in the court of the DSHS. They can either pull the rules or, on this coming Friday, publish them in the Texas Register. From that point there would be a 30-day public comment period, which the home bakers of Texas would come out with guns blazing. The the rules would go to Health and Human Services Commissioner, Tom Suehs, who can either sign into law or not.

It remains to be seen if a law that was debated, compromised, then eventually passed through the Texas legislature by elected officials will essentially get rewritten behind the closed doors of the DSHS.


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17 comments
Sandi9
Sandi9

Trust me, embrace this amazing effort to encourage individual liberties through cottage industry rules and get your in home business organized!  Doing business at the city, state and national level is growing in regulation and cost.  Thank you to each and every person that is advocating the new laws keep it up!! 

Tlujan08
Tlujan08

drug dealers have more rights than a home baker..... im just saying.....

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I hope Big Business is not behind this.....surely they aren't afraid of Mary in Bedford selling cookies!?  

Ktoothgirl
Ktoothgirl

I agree with Kelley, big goverment trying to discourage home bakers from making a go at this. I mean, c'mon.....specific FONT sizes on the label??? I am a home baker and have been rooting Kelley on as she is our ROCK and the ONE reason we are able to now do this. KELLEY MASTERS for President, 2012!

Austintatiouscakes
Austintatiouscakes

If retail establishments don't have to list ingredients, weights and measurements, then why do home bakers? Ridiculous! I give personalized service to all of my clients. If there are allergies or sensitivities, I accommodate them more so than a regular retail establishment. If there are peanut or nut allergies, I am upfront and tell them that all items are prepared in a kitchen where there are peanuts, etc. I bake gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free if my client wishes. Tell me the nearest retail bakery that will go to such lengths (and for excellent prices). I am fed up with the government micro-managing every aspect of our lives. Enough already! I am providing a special service to people who, otherwise, wouldn't be able to enjoy cakes and cupcakes. Now there are certain government officials who want to take away my ability to make a few extra dollars and make people happy, as well.

youngbaker
youngbaker

I agree with kelly masters 100% if its that big of deal to require such detailed labels and labeling for a home operation why not require all the rest of the bakeries, resteraunts and any other shop that sells food to do the same......... MY CUSTOMERS who buy my goods ,really don't give a crap about the label just as long as it taste good and anyone who has an allergy either notifies me and I always ask if there are any allergies to any foods so I think its a bunch of nonsense and just another way of idiots trying to control everything!

Kelley Masters
Kelley Masters

It's always interesting to hear the bureaucratic spin on things.  In the article: "I don't think it's onerous to ask someone to know and list the ingredients of a product they prepared," Chris Van Deusen, assistant press officer at DSHS, writes in an email. "It's a simple way to inform and protect consumers who may have an allergy or some other reason to avoid particular ingredients."

Oh come now.  If your proposed rule had simply mandated a list of ingredients, we probably wouldn't be in this position.  But here are the actual proposed rules (for a label the intent of which was to notify the consumer, who made their food, where it was made, and that it wasn't inspected):

(d) Labeling Requirements for Cottage Food Production Operations. All foods preparedby a cottage food production operation must be labeled.(1) The label information shall include:(A) the name and physical address of the cottage food productionoperation;(B) the common or usual name of the product and an adequatelydescriptive statement of identity;(C) if made from two or more ingredients, a list of ingredients indescending order of predominance by net weight, including a declaration of artificial color orflavor and chemical preservatives, if contained in the food;(D) an accurate declaration of the net quantity of contents including metricmeasurements;(E) allergen labeling shall comply with the Food Allergen Labeling andConsumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA);(F) the following statement: "Made in home kitchen, food is not inspectedby the Department of State Health Services or a local health department" in at least theequivalent of 11-point font and in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background.(2) Labels must be clearly legible and printed with durable, permanent ink.(A) Ingredient statements shall be at 1/16 of an inch or larger.(B) Ingredients shall include components of the ingredients.(C) Net quantity of contents shall be separated from other text on the label and must be located in the bottom third of the label.

Sounds a little different when you put it that way, eh?  All this to sell a cupcake to a customer who is probably someone you already know.

And, Mr. Van Deusen, if you don't think it's that onerous, why don't you require it of bakeries, coffee shops, doughnuts shops, and restaurants?

Guest
Guest

I suspect "big business" is trying to stifle grandma fromdoing what the the big bakers can't. Bake better cookies, pies and cakes.

cp
cp

So stupid. The people buying the cakes and stuff already know what's in them. 

Buckeye
Buckeye

I suspect it was this crew of home bakers that forced Hostess into bankruptcy.

homebaker
homebaker

The guidelines are a bunch of red tape (among other choice words).  I'm fine with the original intent to label as "not inspected by..." I have a severe tree nut allergy and everytime we eat out I ask if there are tree nuts in the dish or dessert, home baker customers can do the same!  DSHS should get to work on a new draft proposal.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

I'm trying to get my home-based bakery started, and if these new regulations are passed, it stops me dead in my tracks. There would be more regulations on a damn cupcake than there would be on a certified personal trainer (of which, there are almost NONE). It's ridiculous.

meg
meg

Starbucks may not put labels on their cake pops or scones, but I believe that nutritional info is available somewhere. Still, the barista or the cashier is not going to know the exact ingredients of the item in question off the top of his or her head like I will about a cake I baked. If a customer has a nut or other allergy, I assume they'll let me know, and if they don't, I will ask. 

As for listing ingredients, I do list ingredients on the labels of my preserves, but that's because I want to let people know they contain home grown and organic/sustainably grown produce. 

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I can't find the angle either...my guess is some do-gooder in DSHS just got their panties in a wad. 

Heather@Midnitechef
Heather@Midnitechef

Everyone needs to write emails or snail mail to DSHS, and your local state rep.  go to texascottagefoodlaw.com for more info!  There's not much time left in the public review period for the rules proposed above.  Don't quit! 

I don't know why who ever is influencing DSHS can't see the bigger picture here.  Home bakers buy stuff from the "chains" to prepare our goods, that's money for them and us!  If the government can't affect positive change to save the economy we are in for a recession AGAIN.  Leave us alone to do our work :-) 

And hey, all you massive bakery producers, do you have a quaint little space to sit down with your clients over coffee to discuss their special order, allergies, or flavor concerns?  No, huh?  Do you know any customers by name?  There is a place for these things, a neighborly love sort of thing, that's why home bakers do what they do.

Side note: Did you also hear about sliced tomatoes at farmers' markets are against DSHS proposed rules?  REALLY?  A tomato?!? Yup, we're just too dumb to feed ourselves and should stay slaves to big AG and let them pump us full of genetically modified foods... sound good to you?

Sorry, I'm ranting again...

Piece & Love

Md Watkins
Md Watkins

Good points.  The governor needs to rein in these regulators.  They are going to cause an investigation into what their interests are in the matter.  As it was said before - someone in big business wants the home bakeries to be prohibited from competing with them.  

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