Colorado Cottage

In these days of heightened food safety sensitivity and growing power of government regulators, its curious to see Colorado just passed a "Cottage Foods Act," which will relieve tiny food-makers of the responsibilities heaped onto larger food processors.

The key terms used in the act are "nonpotentially hazardous foods," "home kitchens" (although it also allows the use of commercial kitchens) and "direct to consumers."

Those "nonpotentially hazardous foods" are specified as ones that dont require refrigeration and "are limited to spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seeds, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter and baked goods, including candies."

And it requires labeling. Even homemade food items must carry the producers telephone number and email address, along with a list of ingredients. Residences where retail homemade food is produced must be covered by home bakery liability insurance.

Rep. Laura Bradford, who introduced the bill, was quoted in local media as saying people starting up businesses in their home kitchens should not be hindered by excessive rules. She said she launched her own business from her kitchen 27 years ago and doesnt think she could have succeeded under current rules. She said todays cottage cooks "want the same opportunity."

I learned this is not novel. At least 18 states have enacted similar "cottage food laws."

Supporters on Facebook and Twitter played roles in rallying support and lobbying local representatives to get the act passed. So I looked on Facebook for some of the dialog over the act and came upon this bubbly missive from a home baker:

Its hard to criticize that kind of enthusiasm. There are numerous similar stories in the history books of even the billion-dollar food companies. If rules and enforcement were as tough then as they are now, should Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton have been allowed to mix some caramel-colored syrup with carbonated water (hint: thats the Coca-Colas story)? Would the creations of Mama Celeste or Marie Callender ever made it out of their kitchens?

"People walk in with Grandmas recipe, and we turn it into a food product," he told me.

Hes concerned about the food safety aspects. "There will be hundreds of households making thousands of products with no inspections," he says. "And the whole point of this law is theyre no longer doing this for fun, theyre starting a business. These people want to make a living at this.

Thats an extreme but entirely possible outcome. Food for thought, as they say. The entire food industry and Washington should keep on eye on what happens in Colorado.

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