The cottage food movement that has gained traction in the states since about 2010 is continuing to take hold this legislative season.
Current law recently crafted in Virginia permits unlicensed home kitchens operating without inspections to produce a long list of cottage foods that can be sold in homes or at farmer’s markets. And, for most products, there is no sales limit. Take an extra step and obtain a license as a home food processor, and a home kitchen in Virginia can produce almost any type of food.
Delegate Robert Bell (R-Charlottesville) wants to completely exempt homes and farms with 10 or fewer full-time employees from Virginia food laws. Bell is the chief patron, or primary sponsor, of Virginia House Bill 135, assigned to the Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.
Bell’s proposed cottage food law would require labels stating that the products were made without state inspection. Virginia’s restriction for cottage foods to at-home or farmer’s markets sales would be lifted. Food safety advocates in Virginia say they are monitoring the bill and are prepared for any hearings its gets by the Delegates.
Legislative experts say in recent years state lawmakers have made it easier to make and sell so-called cottage foods from home kitchens in as many as 40 states.
While often thought of as baked goods, a long list of foods may be classified as cottage foods. Examples include biscuits, breads, brittles, brownies, cakes, caramel corn, cereals, chocolate, chocolate-covered items, cobblers, cones, cookies, cotton candy, crackers, crisps, dried fruit, drink mixes, dry coffee, dry tea, fudge, granola, hard candies, herbs, honey, jams and jellies, mixes, muffins, nuts and seeds, pasta, pastries, pickles, pies, popcorn, preserves, pretzels, rolls, scones, seasonings, soft candies, spices, sweet breads and vinegars.
Many states have embraced cottage food laws as an economic development strategy during a time of extended high unemployment and also as an endorsement of so-called food freedom. But cottage foods have not been any easy sell everywhere.
State Rep. Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman) could not get the Montana Legislature to bite on her cottage food bill last session, but she did get a food law study bill passed to go through what Williams calls Montana’s “patchwork” of food laws. Big Sky Country lawmakers are expected to return to the issue after the study in 2015.© Food Safety News