|Update 6/19: The complete application packet for Food Cottage Operators is now available online at http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation/ !
Small food producers in Washington State are now able to sell food processed in their approved home kitchens, thanks to the Cottage Food Act passed in May of last year. The long-awaited rules have finally been approved and went into effect beginning June 24.
The new law legalizes the sale of low-risk foods made in the home, allowing potentially hundreds of new small businesses into farmers markets and other direct-sales venues.
Up to this point, all foods intended for sale to the public were produced in licensed commercial kitchens. This requirement was seen as a barrier to some small businesses, especially in areas where commercial kitchens were not available for rent.
Since the law was passed, 250 home-based businesses have expressed interest in applying for a Cottage Foods license. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) estimates that more than 1,000 Washington businesses may eventually apply for the license. "The interest in this new license has been astounding," said WSDA's Kirk Robinson, assistant director for food safety and consumer services.
There are limitations to what can be produced under the new law. Annual gross sales can not exceed $15,000. And allowed products are limited to those defined as "low-risk." A more detailed list is in the official Rules document, but the broad outlines include:
(1) Baked goods cooked in an oven.
(2) Standardized jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters.
(3) Dry herbs, seasoning and mixtures that are obtained from approved sources (e.g., dry bean soup mixes, dry teas and coffees, spice seasonings, etc.).
(4) Vinegar and flavored vinegars.
There's a new online handbook that that outlines what you'll need to do before you apply for your Cottage Food Operator
permit. Once you have all of these stepss ompleted, you'll be ready to fill out the application form and sign up for a kitchen inspection.