Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cottage Law Update: Draft Rule is Published!

In February, we posted a blog about Washington state's cottage foods law, which was still in the rule-making process, and how excited we were that this new law would change the face of small farmers' markets.

Update! The rule-making process is closer to completion, and last week, the draft rule was posted to the WSDA's website. You can read it here, but we'll give you the rundown on the important points so you don't have to slog through the whole thing like we did!

Only non-potentially hazardous foods are allowed to be made in home kitchens: bread, baked goods with no custard, jam, candy, roasted coffee beans, granola, fruit butter, infused vinegar, pies, cookies, and the like. Nothing can require refrigeration or heating to remain safe for consumption, so no foods can contain dairy or meat (with a few exceptions, such as frosting stabilized by high sugar content). Cottage processors must submit all recipes with their application for approval.

Home kitchens must be inspected and meet qualifications: home processors must have the ability to sterilize all utensils, jars, etc, either by setting up a three-compartment system with a large bucket next to a two-compartment sink, or by a home dishwasher. Those on private water need to show proof that their water is not contaminated. All cottage food ingredients and finished products must be stored separately from household food, including refrigeration. Pets and children under 6 must be kept from the kitchen during processing hours. And an inspector will come from the WSDA to verify all of the above, plus that the diagram you send in of your kitchen with your cottage processor application is correct.

Cottage processors can only sell small-scale, face-to-face: yearly sales can not be more than $15,000, and cottage foods can only be sold to the end consumer, face-to-face, at farmers' markets, bazaars, fairs, and the like. There can be no online sales or sales over state lines. Everything must be prepackaged and labeled, with ingredients and allergens listed in the familiar format you see on grocery store goods, and the wording "made in a home kitchen not subject to standard inspection requirements" must appear on the label.

Whew! You stuck it through the regulations!  There's much more to the rule than this summary, and we recommend that anyone considering applying for a cottage foods license read the full rule on the WSDA's website, but these are the basics. 

Applications for this rule should be available on July 1st, but as the WSDA anticipates getting a lot of these, they recommend applying as soon as possible, as it may take up to a month to finish the inspection, approve recipes, and be granted a license.

For more information, also keep your eye out for the May issue of Grow Northwest Magazine--our own Samantha Schuller, who does community outreach for the AFM, researched the Cottage Foods law and wrote an article all about it. 

And of course, feel free to contact us any time for more information or with questions about being a vendor at the AFM. We hope to see lots of new talented bakers, jammers, and food artisans in Arlington this year! 

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