State bill should help cottage foods

A new opportunity was just signed into law two weeks ago – the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.

The bill’s intent is to support economic development by generating entrepreneurial opportunities and direct consumer sales of locally grown and prepared foods. Bottom line is an individual can produce foods (not potentially hazardous foods) in one’s own kitchen and sell directly to an end user, for example, a consumer.

This list lists spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seed, honey, bakery products, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter and candy. Note that none of these food items require holding refrigeration or temperature control. Baked goods such as pumpkin or cream pies, however, can certainly be hazardous and therefore not an automatic fit. Other potentially hazardous foods such as eggs, salsas, canned fruits, canned vegetables and pickles also do not fit into the Cottage Foods Act. Consumer be aware. This is very different from that cupcake at the church bake sale.

The intent of this unfunded mandate was clear initially, but more unanswered questions are starting to surface. What the bill does say is certainly a start. In addition to being prepared in one’s own personal kitchen, it can ONLY be sold to the end user (ultimate consumer) basically on the producer’s premises, own farm stand or at a farmers market, not a grocery store, wholesaler or the Internet.

This bill adds a new level of protection as well as exposure. The personal kitchen does not have to be inspected, though the producer must be certified in safe food handling and processing. Producers are required to obtain certification (the bill specified Colorado State University Extension or Department of Agriculture). This requirement can help provide better food-safety understanding.

No one ever intends to provide food that will make one sick (sometimes deathly sick), but what one doesn’t know can truly be harmful in this case. Knowing safe preparation, sanitation requirements, what constitutes acidic foods and its importance can certainly solve some problems, but this bill also opens new ones. If preserves are OK, then how about pumpkin butter, how about chutney, what about focaccia bread or bourbon balls? The book is just starting to open.

The bill addresses net revenue by stating a producer is allowed $5,000 annually per revenue source. Put another way, a producer could have several revenue sources limited only by his home kitchen limitations – for example, $5,000 net revenue annually from raspberry chocolate cookies, $5,000 net revenue annually from super sugar cookies, $5,000 net revenue annually from gluten-free muffins, etc. Do you see where this could go?

The product also must contain a label that lists product identification, the producer’s contact information (name, physical address where product was prepared, current phone number and email), date product was produced and a complete ingredient list. It also must contain a disclaimer that the product is not intended for resale, was produced in a home kitchen not subject to state licensure or inspection, and may possess specific common food allergens.

I anticipate that this Senate bill will keep on giving. or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.