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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

“Cottage Food” exemption sought in Washington State up to $15,000

My State Senator, Phil Rockefeller, has introduced SB 5748 – “An act relating to cottage food operations.”

Apparently, Senator Phil wants to make sure candy, cereal, granola, dry mixes, vinegar, dried herbs, and baked goods can be sold along with a statement in at least 11 point font that “Made in home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Washington Department of Agriculture” as long as you do not make more than $15,000 doing so.

Screen shot 2011-02-15 at 7.22.39 PM.pngHere are the Pros and Cons according to the Bill:

PRO: When doorbelling, people often offer food and I always accept it and haven’t gotten sick. In terms of what is regulated, there needs to be a rule of reason as to how far the regulations go. Food is sold at fairs, and farmers markets, and made in home kitchens. Right now, it is illegal to bake or decorate cakes at home and sell them. Seventeen states allow certain foods made in a home kitchen to be sold. Most of those states do not have a dollar limit on annual sales. What I have to do now is go to a certified community kitchen at the local grange and find a babysitter for my children to operate my cake decorating business. It is ok if they want to inspect my home.

CON: The bill allows foods that take a lot of hand contact to be sold, that may spread disease. Many home kitchens have children and pets and there is concern about selling food prepared in home kitchens. The agencies are happy to assist small businesses with complying – as commercial kitchens are available in most communities. The current bill is opposed as written. When people get sick from a food borne illness, it can be devastating to both the consumer and to the producer who sold the food.

Seriously, with a several billion-dollar hole in the state budget, Senator Phil, don’t you have better things to do?

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    I didn’t know you had a cake decorating business. What an artsy guy you are!!

  • Sam

    As a manager for a large food company, I have usually supported regulation of the food industry. And I fully agree that all producers need to be held liable for their transgressions, especially the intentional acts. But how far are we going to take this? If we follow the current trend, eventually food production will be as heavily regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. Is that what we really want? Take some time to consider the way medicine is developed, produced and regulated, and seriously ask yourself if this is the model we want for our food chain.

  • Tim Lukens

    What has happened to common sense? What is wrong with having basic licensing requiements when you are seeking to do something of commercial value? A lemonade stand is one thing, but setting up your home kitchen as a commercial kitchen is completely different. In the very least these folks should be required to have a food handlers permit. An interesting fact is that church pot lucks are an excellent place to get sick from food poinsoning. So now the state wants to encourage a bunch of $15000.00 per year home food kitchens to pop up, with absolutely no supervision, or basic standard that would help them avoid problems? Say good by to any equity that they may have, and future lifetime earnings, when they get sued for making someone seriously sick, if homeowners insurance doesn’t cover this. Bill Marler is never going to put out of business at this rate.

  • Dawn Hooper

    I wholly support the Cottage Food Act. This is important to supporting growth of small businesses; provides consumers with quality goods; and, has the proper safeguards in place. This is a great idea. I would like to see this include all types of food production.