Do you know your cottage food laws?

2016 brings changes and clarifications to Ohio Cottage Food Laws.

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Cottage Food
Dried herb blends are under the regulations of Ohio Cottage Food Laws.

SALEM, Ohio — Selling a homemade pie or granola mix? Notable changes in Ohio’s cottage food regulations went into effect in 2016, adding to the acceptable food list.

What are cottage foods?  “The purpose of Ohio’s cottage food requirements is to allow individuals to sell certain types of food products without needing a license, assisting individuals and the local economy,” said Terri Gerhardt, ODA chief of the Division of Food Safety.

The 2016 revisions were mostly clarifications, along with the addition of flavored honey, fruit chutneys, maple sugar and soup mixes containing commercial dried vegetables, beans, grains and seasonings, she said.

Ohio cottage food regulations were first established in 2009.

“One of the common violations we see is in labeling; you do need to label each product and they must be individually packaged. Under the cottage food laws, it cannot be sold in bulk,” said Lorie Barnes, environmental director in Columbiana County.

Gerhardt agrees that labeling is one of the most common errors.

“Many don’t get all the requirements on the label right, but we help educate them,” she said.

Her job is to make sure consumers are provided food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements and cosmetics that are safe, unadulterated and honestly presented.

“The ingredients list is really important, especially with allergies today,” Gerhardt said.

“Another common violation we find is people canning salsa and other acidic foods,” Barnes said.

Another issue they often encounter is operators creating something “like” one of the foods on the cottage food list, Gerhardt said.

“Just because a product may be similar to something on the list, doesn’t allow it to be produced under the title cottage food; this doesn’t mean they can’t make and sell it, it just means they have to go about in a different way,” she said.

Changes

Ohio’s Cottage Food Laws are reviewed on a five-year rotation. The changes made took effect in January of 2016. Several new food items have joined the list of cottage food products that may be produced without licensing or inspection by ODA:

• Flavored honey produced by a beekeeper, if a minimum of 75 percent of the honey is from the beekeeper’s own hives;

• Fruit chutneys;

• Maple sugar produced by a maple syrup processor, if at least 75 percent of the sap used to make the maple syrup is collected directly from trees by the processor;

• Waffle cones dipped in candy; and

• Dry soup mixes containing commercially dried vegetables, beans, grains, and seasonings.

Three edits clarify foods that do not fall under the cottage food law:

Fresh fruit that is dipped, covered, or otherwise incorporated with candy;

Popping corn is not permitted; popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn continue to be permitted.

Fruit in granola products — if adding fruit to granola, granola bars, or granola bars dipped in candy, which are all cottage food products, the fruit must be commercially dried.

To produce and sell foods which do not fall under cottage food requirements a license from ODA is required.

Selling

The only retail stores that can sell cottage food products are grocery stores and restaurants. Restaurants can use products in their food items.

“Events” must be government-organized festivals or celebrations that do not last longer than seven consecutive days. You cannot sell your products at privately-sponsored events, like craft fairs or flea markets.

In addition to farmers markets, you can sell at farm markets and farm product auctions.

“Many people are interested in selling their products on the internet, which is allowed, but they need to understand their customer base is limited to Ohio,” Gerhardt said.

Cottage foods are not to be sold across state lines, but shipping within the state is allowed.

Cottage Food
Pamela Bowshier has been baking for eight years, Cosmic Charlie Breads and Threads, combines her passion for baking and vintage clothing. Pictured is her Cosmic Charlie Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Roll. She sells her breads to restaurants and multiple markets in central Ohio.

20 cottage food items allowed

Non-potentially hazardous bakery products;

Jams;

Jellies;

Candy, not including fresh fruit dipped, covered, or otherwise incorporated with candy;

Flavored honey that has been produced by a beekeeper exempt under division (A) of section 3715.021 of the Revised Code;

Fruit chutneys;

Fruit butters;

Granola, granola bars, granola bars dipped in candy; if fruit is used in any of these products it must be commercially dried;

Maple sugar produced by a maple syrup producer exempt under division (A) of section 3715.021 of the Revised Code;

Popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn , not including popping corn;

Unfilled baked donuts;

Waffle cones and waffle cones dipped in candy;

Pizzelles;

Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings;

Roasted coffee, whole beans or ground;

Dry herbs and herb blends;

Dry soup mixes containing commercially dried vegetables, beans, grains, and seasonings;

Dry seasoning blends

Dry tea blends.

Cottage food products may not be packed using reduced oxygen packaging.

Breads and Threads
Cosmic Breads and Threads set up at the Mechanicsburg Rustic Roadside Farmers’ Market, Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

Q. What is a Cottage Food Production Operation?

A. A Cottage Food Production Operation is defined as a person who, in the person’s home, produces food items, including bakery products, jams, jellies, candy, fruit butter and similar products specified in rules. These foods must be labeled properly or they will be considered misbranded or adulterated.

•••

Q. What foods are not allowed to be manufactured, distributed or sold by a cottage food production operation?

A. A Cottage Food Production Operation is not permitted to process acidified foods, low-acid canned foods, potentially hazardous foods or non-potentially hazardous foods not on the permitted list.

Low acid food means any food with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85. For example beans, cucumbers, cabbage and puddings are low-acid.

Potentially hazardous food means it requires temperature control because it is could support rapid growth of microorganisms; for example raw or cooked animal products, cooked vegetables and garlic in oil fall into this category.

•••

Q. What are the requirements for the labeling of cottage food products?

A. The following information must be on the label:

  • Statement of identity — the name of the food product
  • Net quantity of contents — the net weight, in both U.S. Customary System and International System
  • Ingredient list — ingredients of the food product, listed in descending order of predominance by weight
  • Statement of responsibility — the name and address of the business
  • The following statement in 10-point type — “This Product is Home Produced”

Q. Where may cottage foods be sold?

A. Ohio-produced cottage food products may be sold only in Ohio. Cottage food products may be sold directly to the consumer from the home where the products are produced.

They may also be sold through grocery stores, registered farm markets, registered farmers markets, and sold and/or used in preparing food in a restaurant.

•••

Q. Does a cottage food operation need to acquire a license to process and package food products?

A. No. A Cottage Food Production Operation is exempt from inspection and licensing by the ODA.

However, all food products, including those produced and packaged by Cottage Food Production Operations, are subject to food sampling conducted by the ODA to determine if a food product is misbranded or adulterated.

Learn more

The Center for Innovative Food Technology will host a seminar to discuss these changes on Sept. 26 from 4-5:30 p.m. in Bowling Green, Ohio at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen.

Visit www.ciftinnovation.org or rsvp@ciftinnovation.org to register; $25 per person or $20 a person for a group of two or more.

Sources: Ohio Department of Agriculture, Department of Food Safety, The Ohio State Extension, Department of Ag Law & Taxation.

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Katy Mumaw is a graduate of Ohio State University where she studied agricultural communications and Oklahoma State University earning her master's in agricultural leadership. The former Farm and Dairy reporter enjoys family time and sharing the stories of agriculture.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The ODA food safety division could care less about assisting individuals or helping the local economy. Maple Syrup and Honey do have some limited history of food safety issues as well I would assume jams and jellies and other products. Wine kills human pathogens and has no history of food safety issues, and since licensing passed in a 2009 budget bill (by surprise) we have been subject to food processing licensing and regulation by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This is duplicate of licensing and regulation as provided in Ohio liquor codes. Many other states exempt from this sort of duplicate licensing and regulation. Ohio’s regulation is superfluous, unnecessary, duplicate and also discriminates against Ohio wineries by wineries from out of state that are not subject to the same food processing licensing and regulatory costs that sell wholesale in Ohio. As a traditional artisan winemaker that values microbial diversity in the winery environment I also find the regulation is in direct opposition to my winemaking principles. http://www.FreeTheWineries.com or http://www.facebook.com/FreeTheWineries

  2. I have been told I cannot sell freeze dried herbs, vegetables, fruits or even store bought candy. They are not vacuumed. I really can’t understand this. I also can’t get an explanation as to why I can’t sell it at our local farm market in Ohio. Can anyone help in this regard. Thanks

  3. Can’t get an explanation on selling freeze dried items at an Ohio farm market. I’ve been told we can’t but I have not been told the reason

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