Thursday, February 17, 2011

Texas Cottage Food Bill

I don't live in Texas. I don't even live near Texas. But struggles in one state are often found in another, and I am fascinated by the Texas Cottage Food Bill, HB 1139. I think you will be, too, once you know what it is!

Nationwide, there are a variety of laws requiring food to be prepared in a specific manner if it is to be sold to the public. These laws govern everything from what type of countertops are in the prep area to (thankfully) what is printed on the ingredient label. At the same time, many people have cooked something and then sold it. Some of us have only sold homemade goods occasionally, such as at a bake sale, and others sell homemade items regularly, such as jams and jellies at a fruit stand. Homemade goods can pose a problem, such as when Sophie wants to buy a krispy treat at a bake sale, but for the most part, homemade products are great!

Back to Texas; in Texas over the past year or two, authorities have been cracking down on the jam lady at the farmer's market, the lady who bakes wedding cakes at home, and even the Church bake sale in some cases. People who sell homemade goodies aren't hurting anyone, so why are they being shut down? Is regulation necessary in ALL circumstances?

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Texas Cottage Food Bill would require that home-prepared food items have a statement on the label saying, "Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by a state or local health authority." As long as the information is provided, it is up to each of us to decide whether or not we would like to partake.

A number of states have already passed cottage food bills, including Michigan and Oregon. It is a boon to entrepreneurs in the cooking world, and to many in the tasting world as well. A teensy part of me wonders about the impact for those with food allergies, but who better to answer questions about the ingredients and manufacturing practices for a product than the person who actually made it? And anyway, I love homemade cookies enough to think that people in Texas and everywhere else should be able to enjoy them.

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