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Showing posts from February, 2017

Q: Can I reuse jars?

A: Jars designed for home-canning can be re-used. Customers may return them to you for re-use. Wash and sanitize before re-using.

Q: Do I have to use an approved recipe?

A: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture does not have an approval process for recipes or products. It is the responsibility of the cottage food producer to make and sell safe products. Remember, non-potentially hazardous foods do not require refrigeration to prevent growth of spoilage and pathogenic organisms. See Minnesota Department of Agriculture's types of food allowed guidance document. For recipes and resources, check out our resource  hub .

Q: Can I use heirloom canning recipes?

A: Old family recipes may be outdated and not based on research or the latest science. Compare heirloom recipes with a current, tested recipe. Compare ingredients and processing times. If they match, you can safely use it. If it doesn’t, update your recipe or have your product and process analyzed. Direct any specific cottage food product questions to mda.cottagefood@state.mn.us .

Q: What recipes and substitutions are legal?

A: There are not really any “approved” recipe sources for baked goods or confections. It’s not the intent of the law to limit originality — food safety is of utmost importance. Use tested science-based recipes and procedures to control for pH or water activity for canning, drying and fermenting food. We've compiled a list of recommended resources and recipes for cottage food producers.

Q: How do I home test for water activity?

A: Most dried, baked, roasted food products, jams and jellies do not need to be tested by you or a commercial lab. If you make up your own recipe and add low-acid or high-moisture foods, then you should have the product commercially tested. Water activity meters are expensive, around $2,000. It is less expensive to have the product tested by a lab.

Q: How do I get my food tested? Cost?

A: You may choose a commercial testing lab that fits your needs.Pricing varies but averages $15/pH test, $30/water activity and $100/alcohol content test/per product. These are a few labs in Minnesota or you can use out-of-state labs.  Market Fresh Food Testing Laboratory , 612-331-4050, Minneapolis, MN Medallion Labs , 1-800-245-5615 or 763-764-4453, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Valley Testing Lab , 507-354-8517, New Ulm, MN Mocon , 763-493-6370, Minneapolis, MN

Q: Do I need to test baked products?

A: Most baked goods, candy, confections and dried foods--probably 95%--do not require product testing. The cooking, baking or drying process reduces water activity, placing it in the non-potentially hazardous food category. However, for any unusual products, mixing higher water activity products together, or adding low acid foods should be tested to verify it meets the pH or water activity  parameter.  You may choose a commercial testing lab that fits your needs. Pricing varies but the average pH test costs $15 per sample and water activity $30 per sample. These are a few labs in Minnesota or you can use out-of-state labs.  Market Fresh Food Testing Laboratory , 612-331-4050, Minneapolis, MN Medallion Labs , 1-800-245-5615 or 763-764-4453, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Valley Testing Lab , 507-354-8517, New Ulm, MN For product questions, email   mda.cottagefood@state.mn.us .

Q: Can I bake my cookies at the farmers market?

Full question: Can I bake my cookies at the farmers market in my solar oven and sell them fresh? A: The main issue with the solar oven is you would have potentially hazardous food onsite at the market (cookie dough or batter). That would not fit with the cottage food law. If you want to do this type of food service activity, you need to apply for a temporary food stand license.

Q: Can I prepare samples at home to bring to the farmers market?

A: Yes. Only cottage food products can be prepared at home to bring to the market. However, if you Food product samples make something like pesto with ingredients you are selling at the market, then it needs to be prepared onsite. There is no training requirement for food product sampling. You do need to follow the special event licensing requirements (but you do not need to get a license). See our video series and resources to comply with the 2014  Minnesota Safe Food Sampling Law.

Q: Can I use out of state produce under this law?

Full question: Can I buy Colorado peaches and home-can them in Minnesota to sell under this law? A: The out-of-state limitation is for the production of the canned goods only. So you could buy produce from wherever, but the canning and selling of the product has to occur in Minnesota. Interstate sales of acid and acidified foods fall under federal regulations.

Q: Can I sell banana bread under this law?

A:  Many sweet or quick breads made with fresh fruits or vegetables like banana, pumpkin, zucchini  test as a potentially hazardous food: acidity level (pH > 4.6) and water activity level (aw > 0.85). Therefore, are not an allowed cottage food product. However, changing the recipe or baking products longer, can change the final product to a non potentially hazardous food. Sweet or quick breads tested to meet the non-potentially hazardous parameters would be allowed.

Q: Can I sell blanched and frozen vegetables to sell under this law?

A: Frozen vegetables are an allowed cottage food. However, you could sell frozen vegetables under the product of the farm exemption provided you do not add salt or flavorings. You would need to process them using Good Manufacturing Practices including processing facilities. See Selling Minnesota Produce .

Q: Can I sell freezer jams under this law?

A: Yes. Fruit based freezer jams are not frozen for food safety, but rather for quality. Fruit based freezer jams are best kept frozen until sale. Label "Keep frozen or refrigerated for quality."

Q: Do vinegars, fermented items require canning?

Full question: Do I need to use a canning process to sell vinegars, fermented sauerkraut/ pickles under this law? A: No. Vinegars and fermented products that are shelf stable without a heat process are an allowed cottage food.

Q: Can I sell kombucha, kefir sodas and herbal tinctures under this law?

A: Because of the fermentation process, Kombucha, kefir sodas and herbal tinctures do produce alcohol. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture sought clarification from the Department of Public Safety (May 2016). If the intent is not to produce an alcoholic beverage and the final product alcohol content is not more than one-half of one percent by volume, these products would be an allowed non-potentially hazardous cottage food. A commercial lab can test your product for alcohol content. The cost for lab testing is around $100. See related post on product testing . These fermented beverages must be packaged in a container and properly labeled to sell as a cottage food. Selling this products by the glass or cup is considered food service and requires a food license. 

Q: Can I sell dog treats under this law?

A: No. Under the current cottage foods law, only non-potentially hazardous food for human consumption is allowed. To sell pet treats in Minnesota, you need a Commercial Feed License. See Minnesota Commercial Pet Food Rules .

Q: Can I sell pressure-canned foods under this law?

A: Pressure-canning is required for low-acid foods like vegetables, meats, fish, soups and some mixed ingredient sauces. Low-acid canned foods fall under federal regulations and are not allowed under the cottage food law. There are some naturally acidic fruits and acidified tomato products that have tested procedures for pressure canninng and are allowed cottage food products.

Q: Can I sell honey or maple syrup under this law?

A: Unflavored honey and maple syrup are whole foods. These products fall under product of the farm licensing exemption. For honey products, include a statement on your label, "Don't feed to children less than 1 year of age." Also, include your name, contact information and volume of product.

Q: Can I use well water?

Full question: Is well water allowed for brining pickles? Is it mandated to test the water? A: Well water testing is not mandated under this exemption. It is recommended to annually test well water. View water testing instructions from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Q: Are sweet breads/muffins with fresh fruits and vegetables allowed?

A: Yes, as long as you incorporate the fruit or vegetable into the batter and properly bake, label and package it. However, moist quick breads like zucchini bread, pumpkin bread and banana bread may be considered potentially hazardous foods and cannot be made in a home kitchen. To determine whether a food is a potentially hazardous food, get it tested for water activity. The baked goods may not be decorated or garnished with fresh cut fruit or vegetables.

Q: Is cooked meringue on pies allowed?

A: It depends. Some meringue recipes are non-potentially hazardous  while others fall into the potentially hazardous food category. Come and Bake It can be purchased and downloaded for $10.99. It has 24-lab tested recipes for frosting and baked items. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will accept the recipes and test results of those products from the book deemed to be non-potentially hazardous food.

Q: Is a pastry filled with apples and cottage cheese and then baked allowed?

A: The cottage cheese probably would take it out of the non-potentially hazardous food category. It is possible that the baking is enough to drive out moisture. The concern is that the moisture is pushed against the crust, creating a section that has higher water activity (same issue seen with cheesecake and pumpkin pie). Remember, the water activity needs to be 0.85 or less throughout the product. You could either get the water activity tested by a commercial lab or make it under a license.

Q: Is a cream cheese-based frosting allowed, if I keep it cold?

Frosted cupcakes A: Icings and frosting using eggs, milk, cream or cream cheese are not allowed because most are considered a potentially hazardous food. Only non potentially hazardous foods are allowed under the cottage foods exemption. However, you can use tested recipes from the  Come and Bake  book tested and deemed as a non potentially hazardous food. If you create your own frosting recipe using these ingredients, have the product tested. If deemed a non-potentially hazardous food then it would be allowed. Keep the test results as documentation.

Q: Is pesto allowed?

A: No. Pesto is a potentially hazardous food and required refrigeration for food safety. A food license is needed to make and sell pesto.

Q: Is roasted pepper allowed?

A: No. Roasted peppers have a pH above 4.6 and are a potentially hazardous food. A food license is  required to make and sell roasted peppers.

Q: Can I sell a baked pastry filled with apples and cottage cheese?

A: Maybe. Cottage cheese is a potentially hazardous ingredient. It is possible the baking process is enough to drive out moisture, but the concern is that it would push moisture against the crust and create a section that has higher water activity (same issue seen with cheesecake and pumpkin pie). You could  get the water activity tested by a commercial lab. Remember, the water activity needs to be 0.85 or less throughout the product to sell as a cottage food. If the water activity is over 0.85, you could make it under a license.