Friday, March 22, 2019

State cottage-food sales laws struggle to keep up with trend

Selling homemade food such as jams, baked goods and candies is a practice as old as civilization, but as the "eat local" movement gains in popularity, such "cottage-food" sales in the U.S. have increased from $5 billion annually in 2008 to a predicted $20 billion in 2019, Marsha Mercer reports for Stateline.

States have been trying to keep up with the trend by allowing cottage-food sellers to make their products at home rather than a commercial kitchen. State approval of a kitchen can be a time-consuming, expensive process that would put homemade-food sales out of reach for many, Mercer reports.

"Every state except New Jersey now allows home-kitchen cooks to make and sell non-hazardous foods with a low risk of causing foodborne illness such as baked goods, jams, jellies and other items that do not require time and temperature controls for food safety," Mercer reports. "Maine, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have gone further, enacting 'food freedom' laws that exempt home producers from food-safety rules that apply to grocery stores, restaurants and other food establishments."

Proponents of food-freedom laws see them as common-sense measures that preserve liberty with little risk, which the federal government seems willing to allow, to an extent: "when the Maine legislature passed a food sovereignty law in 2017 that allowed municipalities to set their own food-safety ordinances, the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to take over meat inspections in the state," Mercer reports. Meat inspections are required by federal law.

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