After much study and discussion, Montana’s revised cottage food law finally went into effect Oct. 1, 2015. The revision is courtesy of House Bill 478, which passed the 2015 legislative session earlier this year. Among other provisions, it expanded the types of foods legally allowed to be made at home and sold in person at a public or private venue, at farmers markets, or online. Homemade cottage foods for saleMontanans no longer need access to an industrial kitchen to legally produce and sell so-called “cottage foods” to the public. However, anyone who wants to do more than sell their items at a farmers market must register with their local health department, pay a $40 fee, and fill out an extensive application listing their intended products and processes. Gayle Shirley, communications manager with the Lewis & Clark Health Department in Helena, told Food Safety News that the county just received its first application on Monday and that the individual had submitted several recipes for items proposed for manufacturing and sale under the state’s newly revised cottage food law. The county has posted the required application and also a working draft of administrative regulations regarding personal cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation practices for the production and sale of cottage food products. The general types of cottage foods regulated under the revised Montana law include non-potentially hazardous foods, such as baked goods, candy, cereals, granola, nuts and nut mixes, preserves and honey. Other products may be approved on a case-by-case basis. Raw and unprocessed farm products are not regulated under the cottage food law. According to guidelines posted by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the new regulations require cottage food operators to produce items in a kitchen “that is clean and has restrictions on eating, drinking, and using tobacco during packaging of cottage foods, and the access of household pets during production.” Sales of cottage foods in Montana may only be made directly to consumers in public and private venues within the state, and no sales to restaurants or other licensed food establishments are allowed. No cottage food products may legally be shipped, and no consignments sales are permitted. Cottage food producers in Montana may advertise online, but the actual sale must be done in person. A label must also be on the cottage food product noting who made it, the ingredients (including any allergens) listed in order of predominance by weight, and a statement that the item was created in a non-inspected facility. The latter must be easily readable and state the following: “Made in a home kitchen that is not subject to retail food establishment regulations or inspections.” Revisions to Montana’s cottage food law go back to 2013, when state legislators passed a bill requiring an overview of current food laws, analysis by three related state agencies, and a series of public meetings and public comment. The final report of the “Montana Food Modernization Project” was released in May 2014 and contains numerous recommendations for improvement. HB 478’s sponsor, State Rep. Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman), indicated that the revised cottage food law could help provide an economic boost to Big Sky Country. “When California passed theirs, they created a thousand jobs out of it, so it’s just really pro-business, pro-producers, pro-nutrition,” she said, adding, “I think it will diversify the type of food products that are available to consumers. It will allow people to work from home that [didn’t] have that opportunity before this law went into effect.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)