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cottage food community

Texas

Texas passed an amendment (HB 970) to their cottage food law in September 2013, which greatly loosened the restrictions of Texas’ previous laws.

The biggest change with the new law is that cottage food operations can now sell outside of their homes, such as at farmers markets or other events. Indirect sales to retail stores are still not allowed, but it is a huge step of progress. Texas also now has a good number of foods that are allowed to be made from home, and the sales limit per year is still $50,000. Although no licenses are required, cottage food operations now need to take a food handler’s training class.

A new bill (HB 2600) was introduced in 2015, but it died in its legislative session. It would have created a new type of home food business, termed a “home food processor”, and it would not have affected the current cottage food law. It was a fairly ambitious bill, aiming to let home food processors sell from any venue, ship within Texas, and make more food items (like perishable baked goods). A version of this bill will probably be reintroduced in 2016.

Selling

Sales cannot be made at privately sponsored public events (like craft fairs and flea markets).

Only roadside stands that are on farms are allowed.

Allowed Foods

Only traditional cucumber pickles are allowed. Some types of chocolate-covered items (like chocolate-covered graham crackers and rice krispie treats) are not allowed.

Only "non-potentially hazardous" foods are allowed, but certain non-PHFs may not be allowed. Most foods that don't need to be refrigerated (foods without meat, cheese, etc.) are considered non-potentially hazardous. Learn more

Limitations

Sales are limited to $50,000 per year

Business

Food handler training program

Cottage food operators must take an accredited training program for food handlers. A simple and inexpensive option is the online course for $5. Please note that you do not need to buy the cottage food course on that website (though that course does contain a good amount of useful information) — the basic course is all that’s required. Also, you do not need to register your food card with your city.

Labeling

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The label must contain any statement that the food is not inspected by the health department or a local health department.


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, TX 73531

Although a specific allergen list is not required, any major food allergens in your products must be listed in the ingredients.

Resources

Law Dates
September 2011
SB 81
July 2012
25 TAC 229.661
September 2013
HB 970
This page was last updated on

Comments

I have 2 questions. First, I am thinking about starting a home business making baked goods. Does my home/kitchen need to be inspected by anyone from the Health Department? Second, I already have the Serv Safe Certification. Do I still need to get another type of food handler certificate.

I have a couple of questions:
I am considering starting a CFL operation, but I don’t know if I need to register as a business (LLC) or if the Food Handlers is all that is necessary.

Second question is: if I want to sell only gumpaste and fondant decorations, is that permissible? Do I need to have a CFL operation? I know most sugar decorations are not recommended to be consumed because of wires, are they still considered a food item? If not, can I sell online? Thanks for any help!

    You do not need to get a business license, but you may choose to get one (not necessarily an LLC).

    I would say that fondants are allowed under this law, and you can sell them that way. If you sell them as an item not intended for consumption, then you may be able to loosen restrictions (e.g. sell online), but I really don’t know. Maybe the health dept would know?

I own land outside city limits. I want to set up a truck by the highway and sell homemade pies and homemade breakfast taquitos made from my home. On the same property of course. Taquitos are homemade tortillas with eggs and cheese or eggs and potatoes or eggs and bacon inside. They’d be wrapped in foil then taken to the truck for sale. What licenses would in need. I live in texas.

    Sorry, that’s simply not possible. Your taquitos need to be made in a commercial kitchen (or possibly a food truck if it’s inspected by the health dept). You can sell homemade pies with this cottage food law, but not in a truck along the road.

    To sell from the truck, first you would need to contact the dept that manages your county’s zoning laws, and make sure the location is okay to sell from. Then you would need to talk to the health dept about getting commercially licensed, and you would use a commercial kitchen to prepare the pies and taquitos before taking them to the truck.

In Texas, is it legal for a cottage industry bakery to sell to a neighborhood developer? They want to provide our baked goods in the clubhouse to potential home buyers. We would deliver the baked items to the clubhouse but receive payment from the home developer business. (Money would be received at point of sale).

    They would be giving your products away for free, correct? This has come up before, and it’s a tricky question.

    First, technically speaking, you would have to make the sale at your home. You can deliver your products elsewhere, but can’t take payment there.

    Second, your sales are supposed to be “directly to consumers”. That may prevent you from being able to be paid by a business. Instead, I’d recommend you do the transaction with an individual from the business, at your home.

    Although your goods cannot be resold, I don’t think there’s a rule about them being given away. My interpretation is that once your products are in the hands of a consumer, they can share them with whoever they want.

David,
I want to sell special occasion cakes, and cupcakes out of my home. Can I do this without having to get a license or a kitchen inspection?

    Yes, though you need to follow the rules above, including getting food handler training. You may also need to get a business license from your county.

So am I to understand that Texas cottage law won’t allow me to sell my almond bark covered rice crispy treats?
Also does my kitchen need to be inspected?

    The health dept says that they don’t allow chocolate-covered rice krispie treats (I don’t know why). I’d still recommend you call them and confirm that that’s true. If you can sell your almond bark treats, you won’t need an inspection.

If I make spice mixes at home, and want to post on FB that people can contact me, meet me and pay me in person, that is OK as long as I get a Food Handler’s Card? Can I rent a booth at a craft fair as well?

    Yes, you can have people pay you in-person, but you can’t sell at craft fairs (or any privately sponsored event).

    Before you start, you should make sure you have the proper licenses for starting a business (you don’t have to get approval from the health dept, though). http://forrager.com/faq/#starting

What about products produced out of state? I have a small berry farm in Minnesota and would like to sell my fruit leathers in Texas during the winter. Is this legal if I complete an accredited food handling course for Texas? Thanks :)

    Texas won’t let you sell out-of-state homemade food. If you produce your fruit leathers in a commercially licensed facility in MN, there should be a way to sell them in TX, but it’s probably complicated. You will have to communicate a lot with the health dept.

    Yes — only traditional cucumber pickles (most of which are not actually fermented foods) are allowed. However, a new bill is in the works which aims to amend the cottage food law to allow fermented foods. If the bill passes, it probably wouldn’t go into effect until September.

    With my interpretation, it would be fine to ask for a credit card and use PayPal Here in-person, or even do a payment manually with PayPal in-person. But collecting payment online, especially with an online storefront, is not permitted in the law. From what I can see, Square Pickup is an online storefront. It’s also very likely that other CFOs are bending or breaking the law.

Am I allowed to take orders and deposit online? Then deliver the food in person or have it picked up? What ways are you allowed to take orders? Phone? Text?

    From my interpretation, you cannot collect any money, including a deposit, over the internet. All of the money you collect should be done in-person, but you could still have an order form online. However, Kelley Masters, who helped start the cottage food law and runs texascottagefoodlaw.com, does indicate in her FAQs that under her interpretation, taking a small online deposit would be okay. So there’s no fixed answer… I’d recommend you read the law and determine what interpretation you feel comfortable with.

As a food vendor working a different festivals each week around the state of Texas, I have a food handlers certificate do I need a Cottage Law certificate also to seal my products

    You do not need any license from the health dept to sell your products. You only need to make sure that you’re legally setup with everything else, such as a business license, if it’s required in your area.

Is it legal to order cookies from a bakery using my recipe (so they’re made in a commercial kitchen) and then package them with my business logo and sell them? If so, which food laws would I need to follow? Cottage Food Laws?

    No — to use the cottage food law, you must produce the items in your home kitchen.

    Recipes aren’t really copyrightable or proprietary, so I think technically you would be reselling the bakery’s product, even though they’re using your recipe. In order to package (or repackage) and resell a food establishment’s product, you’d need a commercial kitchen to do that in, with the proper food license, which defeats your whole goal.

    It sounds like you really want to treat the bakery like your copacker. They need to prepare and package your product, and then you slap the brand on it without repackaging it. There are many companies that do copacking, but they usually require a certain volume order… not ideal for a small business. I’m not familiar enough with the intricacies of copacking to know what an establishment like the bakery would need to do to be licensed as a copacker, or if you could do the branding from home.

    If you’re sure you don’t want to start by producing the item yourself in your home kitchen, then you should contact the health dept for more guidance.

http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/html/HB00970F.htm leaves some need of interpretation of the prohibition of internet sales. Does it simply mean that no actual commerce can be transacted on the site, but that one can still advertise goods?
As an example: I make a set of rubs and brines, and each is detailed and use is demonstrated on a website, but there is a phone number to contact for a direct sale, versus through a transaction on the website (via cc and cc wallets).
Another example is that I take payments via something like Square or Google Wallet, and this allows me to collect payment without necessarily using a credit card directly. Would a returning customer, whom I have previously met and have sold to directly, be allowed to purchase some more items from me on an off day, by simple e-mail transaction, which services like square allow and have me follow up by sending the product via courier?
Would either of these two scenarios fall under “Section 437.001(2-b)(A): (1) through the Internet”?

    I’d like to clarify that I just read about the advertising of goods as fine, but I would still like some clarification on the selling to a returning customer via email, wether I’m standing in front of them or a few blocks away.

    First of all, assuming your brines are a combination of salt and water, those wouldn’t be allowed under this law. However, a dry rub of spices and seasonings would be allowed.

    My interpretation of it is that sales are supposed to be directly made to the consumer, and as long as the transaction is in-person, you should be fine. For instance, you could take a payment via the Square app if the customer was standing in front of you at a market.

    It’s when the customer isn’t in front of you that things aren’t as clear. What is clear is that you can’t take payment over the internet, so you shouldn’t have any sort of online shopping cart where customers can buy your product. Technically, the law nor the health dept’s FAQs prevent you from taking someone’s credit card number over the phone, so I suppose it’s up to you to determine whether or not you should be taking orders in that way. Whatever the case, I don’t think that a customer’s previous transactions or interactions with you would have any bearing on what you would be allowed to do.

    If you’re asking about selling meals of homemade food, then the answer is no. The only homemade food that can be sold are specific types of food (listed above) that have been packaged and properly labeled at home. Anything that requires refrigeration is not allowed. To sell meals, your friend would need to use a commercial kitchen. http://forrager.com/faq/#commercial

    Hi David,
    I’ve decided to go with muffins and cupcakes. My question is if im making cornbread muffins, can I add fresh corn off the cob incorporated with other ingredients before baking? CFL says zucchini bread is allowed, so u would think this is ok too? Same as if I wanted to make jalepeno cornbread, right? Or apple cinnamon muffins, carrot cake, pumpkin bread??? And also are cream cheese frostings allowed??? Thx :)

    Sherry, you can see my more generic answer in the forums, but the answer is yes, everything you mentioned is allowed except for cream cheese frostings, which the health dept says aren’t allowed. The fresh fruits and veggies must be incorporated into the batter and thoroughly baked, of course.

    I’m almost sure that these wouldn’t be allowed. If your product is canned and doesn’t require refrigeration, there may be a slight possibility that the health dept would allow it, but I still think they’d say no.

so I am clear do i have to list the ingredients or just the not inspected by health dept. and does it all have to be on one label. or can the ingredients and not inspected by on a separate label we have several labels already on so I don’t know if I have to relabel or if I can just add an additional

    You don’t need to put the ingredients on your labels, but you can if you want to. You do need to put the statement on your label… usually states allow ingredient info to be on a secondary label, but you might have to put the statement on the primary label. Call your health dept for clarification about that.

Does dehydrated, shelf stable chicken qualify? I’ve come up with a way to process it so it doesn’t need refrigeration and can be left out without spoiling. Thanks!

If online sales are not allowed in Texas how are all the sellers on etsy.com getting by? Are they just listing and taking their chances? Maybe I’m missing something here. TIA.

Hi David – Do you know what the deal is in TX with baked goods & alcohol? I’d be using it in cake frostings. Can’t find literature on this – let me know – thanks!

I am looking at making shagbark hickory syrup in my kitchen. I see that other states, such as Rhode Island and Indiana, (and I’m sure others), allow syrup as a cottage food. Why aren’t syrups permissable in Texas? They are shelf stable due to the high sugar content (like jams and jellies).

Just curious. Thanks!

    Oftentimes they’re listed separately, but I really don’t know what Texas’ take on them is. I assume that they’re not allowed, but you should call the health dept to confirm that.

I am considering starting a cottage food buisness but I do not have a food handlers card at this time. From what I have read you had to have one before January 2014. Do you just have to have one before you start the buisness?

    I’m not familiar with Traders Village, but you can only sell at events that are sponsored by the city, county, or a non-profit. This includes farmers markets, county fairs, etc., but would not include a craft fair.

I have been looking through several websites and still have been unable to find out if infused simple syrups are allowed. There are not mentioned in lists of either permissible or prohibited products. I mean, it’s just dissolving sugar into boiling water, and they do not need to be refrigerated, so it seems like they would be allowed, but I do not want to make that assumption and break the law.

    Because syrups are not in the list of allowed foods in the law, they are not allowed, even though they may be non-perishable.

    German pancakes can have a lot of egg in them and some could even be considered a custard. If your pancakes would classify as a “potentially hazardous” baked good (meaning they require refrigeration after a few hours), then they would not be allowed. Otherwise, it still might be borderline and you should contact the health dept to make sure you can make them.

What will I have to do to give my customers the opportunity to order appetizers (empanadas and arepas) and also smoothies online in Texas? This business will be ran (operated) at home?

Thanks much!

    Wait – that’s not necessarily true. As long as there is a face to face / personal interaction during the transaction then you should be ok. The way I interpret the law is that if you sell your appetizer online and then deliver it yourself or they come pick it up you should be ok – possibly the additional effort of collecting the money at delivery would be required – but you could still do it with paypal or swipe a credit card then with the right tools.

    Jason — the main issue with Bridget’s business is that none of her products are allowed under this law.

    However, the law states that a CFO “may not sell… through the internet”, and the interpretation the health dept has taken is that all transactions must happen in-person.

Are you required to follow all the laws of the Texas cottage food law if I’m operating. the business from my home but have established an actually business using a DBA and an EIN?

Either you are wrong, or texascottagefoodlaw.com is wrong. Which is it? You say it is impermissible to sell at farmers markets; they say it is permissible. You say the health department cannot inspect even if a consumer complains; they say “If DSHS or your local health department has reason to believe your operation poses an immediate and serious threat to human life or health, they may take action, including getting a warrant to enter your home, and shutting down your operation.” So, which is it? Thanks!

    The law is going to change in two days. That is when this page will change to reflect the amendment. Hope that clarifies things!

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