Cakes Not Plates: A Quick Review Of Texas Cottage Food Law
Chances are, you have a friend or family member who sells food either for a living or to supplement their income- if that person isn't you. Food is a huge part of being human, and a big part of being a Texan, too. Texas has a beautiful and diverse food culture.
If you or your family member owns a restaurant or food truck, then you know that there are many permits, inspections, and training you must jump through hoops to obtain. It keeps people safe, but it can also be eye-rollingly bureaucratic.
However, whether it's cakes, cookies, candies, etc. made at home, Texans have a refreshing amount of freedom to bake or create for profit as they please- so long as they abide by Texas Cottage Food Law. The best part- it's fairly simple and inexpensive to do so.
According to Texas Cottage Food Law's (really excellent) website, it's a three-step process: know the rules, get your food handler's certificate, and make appropriate labels. Easy!
So, what are the rules?
Basically, it boils down to this: you can sell any food, "that does not require time or temperature control to prevent spoilage."
There are a couple of exceptions both ways- you cannot sell meat, even beef jerky, because meat is federally regulated. You CAN sell frozen whole, uncut fruits, and vegetables, even though they do require refrigeration (with proper labeling).
Your gross income has to be under $50K from selling these items.
You must package and label appropriately.
If you sell on the internet but you have to deliver in person, that is, everything must be a direct-to-consumer sale.
You cannot sell wholesale to another business.
You must have a food handler's certificate (these are no big deal, most people who work in restaurants get them all the time).
That's pretty dang easy!
Of course, there's a little more nuance, especially with certain types of foods, and you should review all the rules in detail before going into business with your cakes, pies, jams, etc. Or kimchi! You can totally sell kimchi.
Minors can have lemonade stands (different, but very common sense law). CBD/ Hemp falls under different rules, too, as do pet treats/ food.You CAN sell eggs from your chickens, but that's a different law and doesn't fall under the purview of Cottage laws.
What should consumers know?
Someone selling any kind of meat or anything that can spoil without refrigeration is breaking the rules. If they broke that rule, what other rules are they breaking? Remember this meme?
If you have allergies, proceed with caution. Hopefully, the seller labeled everything appropriately, but remember: they are preparing food in a home kitchen, and cross-contamination of allergens is not only possible but likely. However, if you have severe allergies you know this can happen in a commercial kitchen as well.
If you have a legitimate complaint about a food item you bought under this law, you should let your local health department know. They are required to keep a record and can interfere if they have a legitimate concern about the health and safety of the food items.
Go forth, and enjoy your freedom Texas! I'll have the pie.