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Showing posts from March, 2017

Q: Is alcohol allowed to flavor a product?

A: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture allows alcohol to be used in cottage foods as a flavoring, as long as it is not more than one-half of one percent by volume. Note: “confections containing alcohol”, i.e. a candy filled with a liqueur filling, fall under their own section of the statute ( 31.76 ), and applies to only licensed Department of Public Safety facilities and therefore are not an allowable cottage food product.  If a food DOES have more than one-half of one percent by volume, it is considered an alcoholic item and is regulated under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Products containing over one-half of one percent by volume percent alcohol are no longer allowable as a cottage food. A cottage food producer should have a product flavored tested to ensure the final product contains no more than one-half of one percent alcohol by volume.

Q: Do I need to list each spice?

A: No. You may list each spice but it is not required. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of spicess  that may be grouped together and labeled as spices.  FDA food labeling regulations state: "Spice, natural flavor, and artificial flavor may be declared as "spice," "natural flavor," or "artificial flavor," or any combination thereof,   as the case may be." 

Q: What kind of insurance should I carry?

A: Just like starting any business, there is some risk involved. You should contact your homeowner's insurance company before starting a cottage food business in your home. The law does not protect you from being sued if someone is injured while picking up product or is sickened by a food product they purchase from you. Many cottage food producers add liability insurance as a Special Business Owner or Home-based Business policy.

Q: Why does garlic turn blue after processing my pickles?

A: The pigment of the garlic changes after processing due to a chemical reaction. This is due to iron in your water or if tin or an aluminum pan is used to cook the brine. Also, some garlic varieties naturally have bluer pigments. The pickles are safe to eat.

Q: How much can I put in the freezer at one time?

Do not overload freezer with unfrozen food. Freeze only the amount that will freeze solid within 24 hours. This is usually 2 to 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of storage space. For a 20 cubic-foot-freezer, freeze no more than 40-60 pints of unfrozen food at a time. Overloading slows down the freezing rate, resulting in poorer quality. Spread packages out around the freezer until frozen, then stack. Freezer with containers of apples.

Q: Can I sell egg noodles under this law?

Dried noodles A: No. While dried egg noodles may meet the non potentially hazardous water activity parameter below 0.85, they are a risky as an uncooked product. Dried pasta made without eggs meeting the non-PHF standards is allowed. The finished dried pasta product must meet the non-potentially hazardous parameters of: a pH less than or equal to 4.6 or water activity less than or equal to 0.85. Fresh pasta requiring refrigeration, cooked or frozen pasta is not an allowed cottage food product. A food license would be required. 

Q: Can I donate cottage food products to sell at my church bake sale?

A: Yes. Effective August 1, 2017, the law was amended to allow for donation of products to charities and other organizations fundraising events. All provisions of the cottage food law must be followed including labeling and point of sale signage, "This products are homemade and not subject to inspection."

Q: Can I sell my product as "gift boxes" under this law?

A: You could offer gift boxes and sell to someone. You would not be able to sell directly to businesses under this exemption though. If you wanted to do that, you would need a food license and prepare your product out of a commercial kitchen. There are sale tax implications on gift baskets. See Minnesota Department of Revenue, Food and Food Ingredients Fact Sheets . Also, check out Taxing Foods post on the Minnesota Cottage Food Law blog .

Q: When does a product become taxable under the exemption?

A: This fact sheet ( 148 ) from the Minnesota Department of Revenue details the certain cottage foods that are taxable in Minnesota. Also see additional Minnesota Department of Revenue tax fact sheets (102A,102B, 102C, 102D and 102E) on food and food ingredients. Authors of the Minnesota Cottage Food Law blog put together a chart on taxable and and nontaxable food. See the Taxing Foods post.

Q: Who do I contact to make sure it's okay to operate a home-based food business?

A:  A local zoning ordinance may prohibit the use of a home for cottage food production operations. You need to contact your local planning and zoning local authorities about any additional licensing or permitting and zoning concerns for home-based food business. Your cottage food business falls under 28A.152 food licensing exemption governed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). MDA has regulatory authority of this law and handles implementation and registrations. Local health departments are not handling registrations but you may want to contact the local or state health department to discuss ideas beyond cottage food.

Q: Can I attach the label as a tag for individually wrapped caramels or half-pint jars of jam?

A: Hang tags are allowed. Be sure the print or font size is legible and easy to read. The label must include: The name and complete home address of the registered individual(s) preparing the food (e.g. if a mother and son both register and prepare their cottage foods, then both their names and home address must appear on the label. You can use a P.O. box. See Minnesota Departments of Agriculture's guidance document . If you as an individual are also a DBA (doing business as), then your DBA name must be registered and must appear on the label as well.  The date the food was prepared. The list of ingredients contained in the product, including allergens. The allergens of concern are milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

Q: Can I keep an ingredients list in a folder versus on each item?

A: No. The cottage food exemption law, Minnesota Statutes 28A.152, Sec. 7. subdivision 1, (1)(i) requires cottage food offered for sale to be labeled to accurately reflect: the name and the registration number or address of the individual preparing and selling the​ food,  the date on which the food was prepared,  the ingredients and any possible allergens,​ and  the statement "These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection.";\ Attach the label to the product’s container for packaged items. For items displayed and sold individually such at a farmer’s market or community event, give the customer a label with the required information.  

Q: Do I have to add cooking sprays as an ingredient on the label?

A: Releasing agents are considered direct food additives. However, if used correctly, they should not end up as a functional ingredient in the finished product and would not need to be included on the ingredient list.  If you directly spray the cookies, bars, bread, rather than the light coating recommended for the pan, you need to list it as an ingredient. Parchment paper is a good alternative to cooking spray, especially with allergen concerns and possible soy lecithin in many of those sprays.

Q: Do I need a nutrient analysis and nutrition facts panel if I label my product gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, etc.?

A: No. These claims do not trigger the nutrition facts panel requirement for cottage food exempt products. To qualify as gluten-free, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm. Sugar-free claims contain less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving. Learn more about FDA's gluten-free food labeling rule and food labeling . If you add a health claim (i.e. reduces heart disease) on your label, you need nutrients analyzed and add a nutrition facts panel on the label.