Bake sales appear to escape new Texas health department regulations

Nonprofit and charitable organizations take note . . . 

Preparers of home-baked goods who sell to the public are the subject of new regulations adopted by the Texas Department of State Health Services, effective June 22, 2012. But what about members of nonprofit organizations who voluntarily contribute their favorite “sweets” to a fundraiser involving a bake sale?

The home baking issue heated up considerably when Senate Bill 81 was debated in the 2011 legislative session. On its passage, the health department was authorized to propose specific safety rules to implement the legislation, which had stirred considerable notice late in the legislative session. All the time, there was concern that ordinary charitable bake sales by nonprofit organizations might become the subject of state food safety regulations, and farmers’ market organizers had the same questions.

In February, proposed rules issued by the health commission were again the subject of hearings and comments from persons affected. The result is a set of newly-adopted and simpler rules that now define and regulate “cottage food production operations”.

The new labeling requirements now apply to an individual who operates from home, produces a baked good (as defined in the rules), canned jam, jelly or dried herbs, has an annual gross income of $50,000 or less from the sale of goods, and sells the foods produced directly to consumers.   Sales on the Internet are forbidden under the cottage food production rules.

Compliance with the rules requires clear labeling of the product’s source (physical address), common name of the food, and a notice as to any contents that are common allergens, and a statement that the product is made in a home kitchen not inspected by the state or local health department. A complaint process is intended for health officials to locate and respond to food safety issues reported by consumers.

With these rules, cottage food production operations have escaped being classified as a “food service establishment”, which would require full inspection and licensing. The health agency’s announcement in the July 13, 2012 Texas Register also indicates that the rules are not intended to cover food that is prepared for infrequent sale or service at a function, such as a religious or charitable organization ‘s bake sale.

The full text of the rule is at 37 Texas Register, Page 5277 and also will appear in 25 Texas Administrative Code, Section 229.661.




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