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Everything You Need to Know About the Texas Cottage Food Law

Everything You Need to Know About the Texas Cottage Food Law

Are you thinking of opening a cottage food business? Wondering what the law says regarding that? It’s actually pretty simple, and we’re here to break it down for you!

What Foods CAN I Make and Sell from My Home?

• Any food, excluding meat, that does not require time or temperature control to prevent spoilage

• Baked goods that do not require refrigeration, such as cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries

Candy

• Coated and uncoated nuts

• Unroasted nut butters

Fruit butters

Canned jams and jellies

Fruit pies

• Dehydrated fruits and vegetables including dried beans

• Popcorn and popcorn snacks

• Cereal, including granola

• Dry mixes

Vinegar

Mustard

• Roasted coffee or dry tea

• Dried herbs or herb mixes

• Whole (uncut) frozen fruits or vegetables (Note: You must store and deliver these items to your customer at an air temperature of not more than 32 degrees Fahrenheit)

• Canned acidified plant-based foods with a pH of 4.6 or less

• Fermented vegetables with a pH of 4.6 or less

• Pickled fruits or vegetables with a pH of 4.6 or less

What Foods Can I NOT Make and Sell from My Home?

You may not sell meat.

You may not sell any food which requires time and temperature control to prevent spoilage, except whole uncut frozen fruits and vegetables. However, you may use potentially hazardous products as ingredients in your food (like milk, eggs, and cream) as long as your FINAL PRODUCT does not require refrigeration (cakes, cookies, candy, etc).

Sales of homemade acidified canned plant-based foods, fermented vegetables, or pickled fruits and vegetables are subject to certain other requirements.

How Much Money Can I Make?

Your gross annual income from the sales of these foods must be $50,000 or less.

What Licenses or Permits are Required?

You must obtain a food handler’s card prior to selling your food. Your certification is good for two years. The course can be taken online or in person. Online courses can be found at: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/food-handlers/training/online.aspx. In person courses can be found at: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/food-handlers/training/classroom.aspx.  If you have anyone assisting you in the preparation of your product, such as an employee, they must also obtain a card if at any time they will be unsupervised by you. This does not include members of your household.

No health department or local government authority can regulate your production of the food. There are no licenses, registration, or permits required by state law. If the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) or your local health department has reason to believe your operation poses an immediate and serious threat to human life or health, they may take action, including getting a warrant to enter your home, and shutting down your operation. No municipal zoning ordinance can prevent you from having a cottage food operation in your home. However, your neighbors can take action against you if your business becomes a nuisance to them.

Where Can I Sell My Food Products?

You may sell the food directly to consumers anywhere in Texas. Local ordinances apply. You may not sell wholesale; in other words, you must sell your product directly to the end consumer. You may not sell your food to a reseller such as a grocery store, restaurant, or coffee shop. You may sell your food on the internet, in Texas, as long as you personally deliver the food to your customer.

How Should I Package My Food Products?

Your food must be packaged in your home kitchen in a way that prevents the product from becoming contaminated. Items that are too large or bulky for conventional packaging, like wedding cakes or cupcake bouquets, are not required to be packaged.

How Should I Label My Food Products?

Your food must be labeled according to the labeling requirements. The label must be affixed to the package, except for items that are too large or bulky for packaging; in that case the label may be incorporated into the invoice. All the information on your labels, except your home address, must be provided to the customer BEFORE the customer pays for the food. Here are the labeling requirements:

  1. The label cannot cause product contamination and must be attached to the food package, unless the product is to large or bulky for packaging. In that case, the label should be on the customer invoice.
  2. Include the name and physical address of the cottage food production operation. Some people object to providing their home address, but there is no exception to this rule. You may, however, include “By Appointment Only” if you want to discourage drop ins.
  3. Include the common or usual name of the product.
  4. Disclose any major food allergens such as eggs, nuts, soy, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, or shellfish used in the product. These must be individually listed.
  5. You are NOT required to list all the ingredients in your product, but you may if you like.
  6. Include the following statement: “This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department.” You cannot change this wording.
  7. The label must be legible.
  8. If you want to advertise that your products impact health, disease, or other similar claims, those must be consistent with what is allowed by the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 101, Subparts D and E.
  9. A label must be on every package, even if you provide a bulk order to one customer. For example, a box of one dozen cupcakes would need one label. One dozen individually packaged cupcakes would each need a label.
  10. You may split the required information on more than one label, as long as all the required information is on each package of food.

There are a few extra labeling requirements for whole (uncut) frozen fruits and vegetables. In addition to the requirements above, you must also include on the label of the item—or on an invoice or receipt provided to the customer—the following statement in at least 12-point font: “SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria, keep this food frozen until preparing for consumption.”

For each batch of pickled fruit or vegetables, fermented vegetable products, or plant-based acidified canned goods (except for pickled cucumbers), a cottage food producer must:

1. Label the batch with a unique number.

2. For a period of at least 12 months, keep a record that includes: the batch number; the recipe used by the producer; the source of the recipe or testing results, as applicable; and the date the batch was prepared.

How Do I Know the pH of My Foods?

If you are selling canned acidified plant-based foods, fermented vegetables, or pickled fruits or vegetables under the cottage food law, these products must have a pH of 4.6 or less. (Cucumber pickles are the exception—they do not have to meet pH standards.) To ensure compliance, you must do one of the following:

  1. Use a recipe that is from a source approved by Texas DSHS.
  2. Use a recipe that has been tested by an appropriately certified laboratory that confirmed the finished fruit or vegetable, product, or good has an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or less.
  3. Use a recipe that is approved by a qualified process authority.
  4. Test each batch of the recipe with a calibrated pH meter to confirm the finished fruit or vegetable, product, or good has an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or less.

How Do I Stay Safe From Customers who are Strangers?

Never open the door to a stranger. Never invite a stranger inside your home. Consider meeting your customers at a neutral location or even a “Safe Place” in your community like a library or police station.

Running a Cottage Food Business from your home in Texas can be a fun and lucrative business. Hopefully having all the rules and regs in one spot will help, whether you’re a seasoned vendor or just thinking about starting a new endeavor. Big Plate has a LOT of kitchen equipment, food prep supplies, and food packaging materials to help your business succeed, so call or come see us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff!

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