Minnesota’s 2015 cottage food law, amended in 2021 is being credited with the growth of an industry. It is credited with providing clarity when it comes to what can and cannot be sold at farmer’s markets around the state and what requires a food license and what does not.

Minnesota’s cottage food law permits state residents to make and sell any number of foods — canned vegetables, pickles, jams, jellies, and baked goods –all without a license. It’s a big change since before 2015 when selling homemade food products without a license got people into trouble. And getting out of trouble meant maneuvering through layers of rules and regulations that a safety-conscious Minnesota had long imposed.

State cottage food laws were fairly rare when Minnesota adopted this one. Since then, however, almost every state has passed a cottage law to make life easier for producers of homemade food.

Success with the cottage food law is largely based on resources built to support it. The University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety program is an important resource. The passage of the cottage law “opened up opportunities for Minnesota growers and entrepreneurs,” according to Extension’s Amy Johnson who says cottage foods now “contribute to their livelihoods.”

The cottage food law permits people in Minnesota to produce homemade foods in residential kitchens and then sell them directly to consumers without having a food handlers license. There are rules and training that must be followed, but it is much simpler than the old system.

Minnesota’s is not a high bar, but one that provides the skills to produce safe food. Cottage food is limited to non-potentially hazardous (NPH) food. NPH foods do not support the growth of bacteria and do not have to be kept at certain temperatures either hot or cold to remain safe. Foods that are usually acidic or contain sufficient amounts of sugar or salt are NPH.

Johnson says such cottage foods usually do not make people sick and there is a whole range of “non-potentially hazardous foods.” Most baked goods and finished products with a pH level of 4.6 or lower quality are considered safe.

Another resource is the Minnesota Cottage Food Producers, which keeps an updated list of products that can and cannot be sold as cottage foods in the state.

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