Importance of Passing & Strengthening Cottage Food Laws ~ Written by the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic

It has come to our attention that as of 2010 there has been a Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. If you want to find out more about them just click on the link. They have some really interesting articles. The following excerpt is on page 6 of their article “Cottage Food Laws in the United States.” This article is dated August 2013.

Importance of Passing and Strengthening Cottage Food Laws

At their most basic, cottage food laws permit the in‐home production and sale of non‐potentially hazardous foods. As of the publication of this report, forty‐two states had some sort of cottage food law, and nine states, including Washington, D.C., did not.  Although more than two‐thirds of states have cottage food laws, there is no uniformity among the laws. Some states restrict home‐based food processing activities to a very narrow category of processors (such as on‐farm only). Others cap allowable sales at a low amount, such that in‐home processing activities can only be a hobby and not a viable business or launching pad for a more traditional food processing business. Some cottage food laws are relatively easy to find in the states’ laws and have clear requirements, while other states’ cottage food laws are difficult to find and may not clearly state the requirements for a cottage food operation.

For the nine states that have not yet passed a cottage food law, there is a great opportunity to learn from other states and craft a thoughtful, thorough cottage food law that will be clear, easy to find, and will allow in‐home processors to start businesses to support the local economy. In turn, businesses created under these cottage food laws will increase access to local products for their communities.

States with very limited cottage food laws always have the opportunity to review and improve these existing laws, based on the examples of other states. For example, it seems that many cottage food laws were passed with the intention of only allowing cottage food processors to use their home‐based food businesses as a side business or hobby. With the increased focus on supporting and growing local economies and providing access to local products, cottage food laws need to be broad enough to allow producers to make their operations viable businesses. Removing or increasing the sales limits for cottage food operations would help establish cottage food operations as important contributors to the local economy. Similarly, removing restrictions that limit cottage food operations to on‐farm processors would also allow a significant number of potential cottage food producers to enter the market.

Cottage food laws also need to be easy to find within a state’s laws or regulations. When potential in home processors are looking to start cottage food operations, they should be able to find the laws and regulations governing their businesses relatively easily, and they should be able to understand what is required of them. By having difficult‐to‐find cottage food laws or hidden exemptions from the requirements for food establishments, states may cause cottage food operators to inadvertently break their state’s laws or lead potential cottage food operators to forego starting cottage food businesses. States should review how their laws are structured and direct relevant state agencies to create easy‐to follow guides for potential cottage food operators. To help potential cottage food operators understand and comply with laws and regulations, it is critical to ensure that relevant guidelines are easy to find on the state’s department of agriculture and/or department of health’s website.

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