The updated cottage food law specifies the requirements for home cooks who want to sell grandma’s chowchow or that Christmas goody the family loves. While the law exempts cottage food producers from many regulations, it does carry a shortlist of requirements:
• Only “non-potentially hazardous” foods can be sold. That means nothing that requires time or temperature controls for safety or that needs refrigeration. No meat products are permitted.
• Cottage food producers can sell up to $18,000 each year. (Because these endeavors are often family businesses, the law caps each individual member of the family at that amount, so a couple could earn $36,000.)
• Cottage food producers must register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. There’s no registration charge to those who sell $5,000 or less; the fee for producers who earn $5,000 to $18,000 is $50.
• Cottage food producers are required to take an approved food safety training course, offered through University of Minnesota Extension. “We dig into the science, talking about foodborne illnesses, what it takes for microbes to grow,” said Suzanne Driessen, an extension food-science educator. She travels the state training cottage food operators; she guesses that she’s personally certified about 800 of them. She’s working on an online version of the course. “We review cleanliness, sanitizing, safe food handling practices,” she added. “We want every person to be aware of how easily products can be contaminated.”
• Cottage food products must be labeled with the maker’s name and address, the date produced and a list of all ingredients.
• Whether goods are sold at a market or ordered via internet (and delivered personally), producers must display a notice that reads, “These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection.”
• While the law does subject cottage food sales to income tax, it does not require producers to have insurance coverage.