Grange Lecturer Dave Wilson reports on the program at the November meeting

Cottage Food Bill meeting at the Grange

Frank Gublo, of MSU’s Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources gave a talk explaining Michigan’s new Cottage Foods Act, under which it is now legal for private parties to prepare and market certain foods. The topic obviously was of great interest, as we had 45 people in attendance and Frank fielded an enormous number of questions during the course of his presentation.

Frank’s job with the Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources is to help people start up food-related businesses—to get good food ideas out of the kitchen and into the marketplace. Michigan’s Cottage Foods Act is right up his alley, as its purpose is to encourage local food systems and entrepreneurship. He spent most of his talk explaining the practical details of the act such as what home-prepared foods can be sold, where can they be prepared, who can prepare them, how can they be sold, hygiene and sanitation requirements, and what labeling must be used.

Basically, only shelf-stable foods are permitted—foods with low risk for food-borne illness. These include dried herbs, dried pasta, popcorn, chocolate-covered items, cakes, dry bulk items, jams and jellies, breads, cookies, fruit pies, vinegars, coated and uncoated nuts. Foods that are out of bounds include all meats (which are regulated by the USDA), dairy foods (including all cheeses), canned fruits and vegetables, sauerkraut, pickles, and perishables generally.

Foods acceptable under the act must be prepared in single-family kitchens (in homes, apartments, condos); foods made in our Grange hall kitchen would NOT be acceptable, nor would foods prepared in any sort of group community kitchen or in a kitchen in an outbuilding. The act stresses the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene at all stages of food preparation, handling, and marketing, although there is no requirement for periodic official inspections. The cooking area must be free of insects, rodents, and other pests; pets
must be excluded from the area during food processing and handling, proven food processes must be used, and vehicles used for transporting the foods must be clean.

Foods must be prepared by an individual or by members of a family living in the dwelling in which the food is prepared. You cannot invite a few friends over for a session baking cookies or making jellies and sell these items under this act.

Each individual package of food must be labeled with the following information: Name of product; all ingredients; net weight or volume; name and address of business; allergen labeling; and the following statement: “Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.”

Foods must be sold by the maker directly to the buyer; there can be no middleman. It is not legal for a group of several food makers to assign the job of sales to one of their members. Only in-person sales are permitted. An annual gross sales limit of $15,000 is imposed by the act. And one must comply with all local zoning ordinances and regulations. Frank also advised that people planning to do business under the Cottage Foods Act would be well advised to discuss the liability ramifications with their insurance agent to make sure that they are adequately covered.

For further information, see http://www.michigan.gov/cottagefood, or the Michigan Department of  Agriculture at http://michigan.gov/mda, or MSU’s Extension Service Washtenaw office at http://www.ewashtenaw.org.

Thanks so much, Frank, for a most interesting and relevant program.

And thanks, Dave, for writing up the program!

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