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Replay of episode 98. Farmer’s Market Food Sales Regulations | Cottage Foods Bill | Ed Evanson | Helena, MT

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Ed Evanson  gave a great speech on Cottage Foods when I was at the AERO EXPO conference. These are the rules for Montana. My husband and I are just starting out and I am excited to learn we could sell some baked products without a certified kitchen. Today he is here to talk about HB478 and how people can create new income and expand their production year by creating products that are non-potentially hazardous foods like chocolate chip cookies, breads and more!

 

Full Show notes Coming soon! Sorry Everyone :~)

Tell us a little about yourself.

Grew up in

Western Washington U in Bellingham got a degree in Biology.

I started working on a farm for a while.

Like a year or a month?

I wanna say just over a year. Blueberry farm in Lindon Washington. Blueberries raspberries, and we grew, they were testing blackberries. They were like these big pine cone size blackberries. They were huge.

IDK if it was a species. Blackberries aren’t usually grown with fertilizers and pesticides and all those things they were massive, I thought of them as sort of mutated blackberries.  We grew all those things and it was an interesting experience. So that got me interested in this concept of environmental health. Right now I work for the food and consumer safety for the State of Montana. I’m the section food advisers

we are the enforcers of regulations

intended to protect the public from environmental health hazards. On the farm I saw a number of things, chemicals being used by workers to clean things up, that’s an environmental health hazard, but I was also working with food safety there sampling for wisteria other bacteria that we were producing was safe, and that the food coming off that farm was safe

Then I went and worked at Scaget health dept. I

worked in hazardous, my background before coming to Montana in hazardous and solid waste

small business pollution prevention. I wen tout wand worked with small businesses like dry cleaners, or small auto body shops

places that like that don’t have a lot of resources but are still dealing with the same dangerous chemicals the bigger companies  do. The bigger companies will hire professionals to handle worker safety So we try to help smaller companies who didn’t have those resources

and help people limit

minimize their exposure to live a healthier life

from there. I went to U Wash and got a masters in science at the school of public health. I focused again on environmental and occupational health and I studied specifically carcinogenic compounds that are found in drinking water. Then I worked for King County department of natural resources and gain did small business pollution. My wife and I decided to move to Montana. I worked for two years for the body art program

pool program,

then I was hired as supervisor and probably the month after I was hired the Cottage Food legislation went into effect so I spent the next couple of months studying and reading as much as I could about food all over the country.

co, Washington, cal, Oregon, all theses states have cottage food laws. There are some other great resources tat summarizes the cottage food always around the country

Harvard did an interesting study cottage food laws and makes recommendations for expanded health and safety recommendations but then they also make recommendation for the economic impact and improving the ability of small producers to go from small scale farmers markets up to what we call a second tier in this state we call cottage food, if they’re successful there taking it up to the next step of  retail and wholesale food. That got me here. I started at the AERO congruence and now I’m on the Organic Gardener Podcast.

spoke at the

I think it’s very timely with the Chipotle scare.

And we always wonder about what do we do with lightbulbs and batteries and thins. Maybe you’ll tell us. Do you want to tell us about the Cottage Food Bill?

If you think back to

School house rock?! 

So it started out as HB 478. HB478  did a lot of things to affect food laws in Montana. One of the biggest thing that it did, it took what was considered an illegal practice which was producing all sorts of things, but generally we’ll call them cottage foods in your home kitchen and then selling them … I have a specific definition in what my mind what retail sales is.  Selling them in retail sales.

Retail sales at our level the direct sale to an individual. If I make it and I sell it to you it’s a retail sale.  That has a legal definition.

In the past you could sell a lot of these things at Farmer’s Market, but if you wanted to go to a bazaar or a christmas bazar or fair, etc any public event you would have had to get a license to sell the same thing. So if I were to bake an apple pie, for example before HB478 I could sell that apple pie at a farmer’s market and didn’t need a license, there was no oversight at all.

Now that what HB478 has done, it has allowed people to take that apple pie that they could just sell at a farmers market in the past, and now they can take that apple pie and sell it under this cottage food umbrella, outside of farmers markets at fairs, Christmas Bazaars. They just have to register that product at their local health anywhere in Montana as long s it’s in a face to face sale. 

You as the individual

you register that apple pie with the health department. You sell it to me and I give you five bucks or $10

Or $20. I was just at a store and thought $20. Is that like the going rate? It seemed high. IDK, I was thinking the Marie Calendar ones in the supermarket She was a  restaurant and maybe thinking of selling by the slice.

As long as it’s the face to face sale you can do it anywhere in Montana. The other question we get is about internet sales. You can advertise on the internet. You can go on Facebook and say I registered my apple pie and I’m  gonna be selling it at the county fair.

Or I’m gonna meet you at the grocery store. I’m gonna be… a lot of the classified Facebook groups would be a place people might want to start out. 

What the law says, this is a Montana specific law, it’s limited to that face-to-face sale.

Think of it as a Pyramid,in the past we had  farmers markets

you could sell a specific set of food listed in the farmer’s market laws. These non potentially hazardous foods. You could go to the Farmer’s Market and sell those foods. There is still no oversight. You can make it in your home kitchen and there is still no regulatory oversight

if you want to sell outside of the FM

need to register, we are looking at that food to see if it’s a non potentially hazardous food.

low risk, its not

Do you want to tell us the list?

middle tier is a little bit more regulatory oversight. because you have an expanded market,

get it out to more people, we want to have a little more

higher risk a little more oversight

retail and wholesale sales,

most oversight  can sell more stuff, you can sell potentially hazardous foods. Impact the most people.

Wasn’t’ there something about when you register, you wanted to register all your recipes at one time because otherwise you had to pay the fee every time.

What it says, is when you register your products you pay a $40 fee, so you could hypothetically register as many products as you want in one registration packet, there’s no limit. The thing I would say is to be a little bit careful of, a lot of these local health departments are doing the review.

since this law went into effect on Oct, 1st. Most people are submitting 1-10 products. But we have gotten a couple in, where people have identified that loop hole, I heard about two who submitted 90-150 products at once. Technically it’s legal you can do that for $40, but it puts a strain on the resources on your local health department. It makes it tough, for the local health department

they have to look at all those recipes

Imagine how tough it would be to submit $40 for all of those recipes.

When this was written it was intended People would reviewing maybe 30 recipes at a time.

If your doing 90 it’s a strain on resources. I get that if you really are gonna produce 150 products? It’s totally legal. I’m not saying don’t do it.

I’m just saying that a lot of theses smaller jurisdictions have one 1 environmental health specialist, doing doing septic permits retail food reviews and pool reviews and body art inspections and doing the cottage food stuff. I guess I would say not necessarily don’t do it. if you are submitting 150 at a time it might delay how quickly they can get that approval back to you.

I was thinking they could add up quick, my husband makes [probably a dozen different cookies at christmas and breads and pickles IDK that still seems like a lot.

Specialized in breads or baked goods.

Something to consider, if you are gonna submit like 150 it’s gonna take time.

Especially in a rural or small county where they have limited resources it’s gonna take that person to get that review done

I got the list up we can go through the list.

Non perishable

not a great way to read through these

the thing to consider hear

The thing to consider is all thee products are what we conducer not  non potentially hazardous foods.

Technical definition a low water activity and or a low ph

if you test these foods over time they don’t grow pathogenic bacteria well. that’s why these are approved

First category is Baked good products

  • loaf breads
  • cakes,
  • pastries
  • quick breads
  • scones
  • crackers
  • cereals
  • granola
  • nut and mixes
  • snack mixes and pies
  • except custard-style pies and then pies
  • this has been a little confusing.
  • pies with fresh fruit that is unbaked, or pies that require refrigerated after baking.

People read that and think pies with fresh fruit aren’t allowed, thing I tell them, you can put fresh fruit into your pie and bake it, what we don’t want a baked pie with fresh fruit afterwards that hasn’t got cooked

  • Dried fruits
  • jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters. The next category is
  • recombining and packaging of dry herbs, seasoning
  • coffee
  • spice seasonings, great seasoning mix or something like that.
  • popcorn
  • cotton candy fudge
  • candy or  confections that do not require refrigeration after cooking.
  • molded chocolates
  • honey

Last category:

  • other products maybe be approved on a case by case product by the Health Department in consultation with the local department.

say you guys are the really creative ones that come up with the great new recipes

if you come up with something new, that’s a non-potentially hazardous food

we have a mechanism to approve that product

look at the state instead at the

case by case basis. WE look at whether or not that is non-potential hazardous

What about eggs?

Eggs are allowed you could always and still sell eggs at farmers markets.

Thats on the exempt list at farmers markets. So you can take that down to your Farmer’s Market  on Saturday I know a lot of localities used to be just on Saturday but now on Tuesday nights, etc

Exempt for sale at Farmer’s markets but they are not exempt for cottage food.

So if someone puts a sign up on the bulletin board eggs for sale that’s not ok. 

There are exemptions through the department of live stock for small producers of eggs.

Requirement for sales of eggs, is pretty low, you have to become an egg grader. Kind of a cool thing I would recommend. DOL

The Department of Livestock has am Egg and Milk Bureau. Will license you to grade eggs

Like candling

The stuff I’ve seen on it is kind of neat.

Do you want to talk to us about milk at all?

Is there something specific?

Wasn’t there something about you couldn’t put milk from your own cow in your milk products. 

Milk Basically in the state of Montana, right now, raw milk is illegal, so if you gonna sell a product we ask that you use pasteurized milk and not raw milk.

What about cheeses? They’re probably potentially hazardous because the have to be refrigerated?

 

Cheeses,

this isn’t perfect.

Ferret things out.

If you have to refrigerate something for quality it’s probably a potentially hazardous food. It doesn’t work out 100% of the time, but if you’re sticking it in the fridge so it doesn’t spoil. Like milk or cheese will spoil if you leave it on the table, things like that is probably a potentially hazardous. That’s kind of a rule of thumb to use.

That’s interesting someone told me the other day, in other countries people don’t refrigerate their eggs. 

Ive heard the same thing. The official guidance from the FDA is to keep eggs below 45º F to prevent salmonella growth.

I heard from a friend, in Australia, the eggs aren’t white, they look dirty, and the claim that was made, is totally unscientific so IDK if this is backed up, the good bacteria keeps the bad bacteria at bay. IDK if that’s true or not, as a public health official I would stick to the FDA’s

That’s interesting someone asked me once, you’re not supposed to wash the eggs right? And I said why?

There’s things that we know. I believe that the number is 1 in 20k eggs that are sold commercially is contaminated with salmonella, and cook them as best as we can.

that’s why the FDA have that recommendation if its kept under refrigeration, the salmonella will be there, but it won’t be growing, if that makes sense it’s in the egg and it’s not growing

other FDA recommendation is we cook the eggs thoroughly which I know is hard.

Really, I like em cooked, fried!!!

I’ve been eating over easy eggs since I was really little, and I still love em. Last night for dinner we had quinoa with sautéed kale with an over-easy egg right on top, I love just breaking it open and eating it that way, but that’s not the FDA’s recommendation for safety, especially if you have young children or immune-compromised folks.

I thought someone told me is where the contamination comes from when you crack it it gets on the shell, and so you should really cook it. 

for a long time that’s what everyone said and thought, what they found between 5-7 years ago, if you have a chicken that is infected the salmonella can get into the embryo there.  So it can be either.

Did you want to talk at all about if people had a food truck? Or wanted to go from fair to fair?

I talked about kind of HB 478 how that became law and changed this food dynamic

HB478 changed a number of things about retail food

the other things that it changed

Mobile food regulations,

food truck what we call here is a mobile food operator. What we use to call a temporary food license is now a food permit. Sounds like a bureaucratic think. It’s two ways to expand what you want to sell.We talked about non-hazardous products. If you want to get into these things, cheeses, do more complicated menu items, then we ask you to get into retail or wholesale food. Two subsets of that are temporaries and mobile food establishment.

What HB478 did is it asked us to standardized how mobile food establishments are reviewed throughout the state. That has always been a statewide license. In the past what was reviewed in one county wasn’t accepted in another county because of local ordinances etc. SO HB478 made it if you’re approved to sell hamburgers in a mobile food truck you can drive anywhere in the state, and do that. There’s always little caveats to all these things but, in general that’s a true statement

Then what it did for temporary events, say in the past you could only get a temp event license that lasted 10 days. So lets’ say you wanted to sell.

I want to sell burritos.

Burritos you want to sell them every Sat all year long at at the farmers market, because people at the Farmer’s Market love your burritos! Before HB478 there was law that said if you’re gonna get a temporary event license that license is only good for 10 consecutive days. That problem is let’s say it is to start on a sat, that will take you through to the next sat but then the next sat you have to get another license. Maybe isn’t a huge deal, was depending on the size of your op between 85-150$ you want to do every Saturday even just for the summer, you’re looking at $1000 in licensing fees. Everybody agreed was unreasonable. That’s what the law said. This is what had to happen. If you were gonna follow the law, you paid exorbitant fees.

So they moved the permitting locally and expanded the time a permit lasts. So now you can have 45 non consecutive day, that will kind of get you through most of the year if you’re doing weekly markets. It’s a temporary event license. It’s not intended to be full scope or mobile food establishment. It can really expand the operation. That 45 days is still depending on what county your in, $115 maximum. A lot of counties are allowed to charge up to that $115. Need to talk to your local county to figure out what the fee is. A number have create these scaled fees. In Flathead if you want to do one farmers market want to do it for the season, would cost about $25 in Flathead County. So we went from possibly $1000 not getting you through 45 days to $25.

It’s gonna help create some jobs. Let people be innovative and start some businesses. What about businesses like lip balms, lotions etc. Wait those probably don’t come under food.

We do product recalls here in this office so if there was a recall of lip balm we would help coordinate those if there was a lip balm recall. To get that off store shelves.

I was gonna ask you about LABELING? Didn’t it have  to list the ingredients not the procedure and  say it was made by you in a homemade kitchen? 

You got it exactly right.

If you got these cottage food products.

Consumer awareness

what the state leg asked

it does have a label, lists the ingredients.

Cottage foods are small enough, there’s federal labeling requirements that require nutrition facts like that but Cottage foods are gonna be small enough they are not required to do the nutrition facts. They are required to have a statement made at home.

I’m gonna tell listeners about a great app called My Fitness Pal, you can enter a recipe and it will tell you how many calories and nutrition facts. It will help you lose weight if you follow what it says. 

My wife and I have both used Fitness Pal, I would just reiterate what you said it’s a great app.

What the label has to say is: made in a home kitchen that is not subject to retail food establishment regulation or inspections. And then it has to have a statement of what it is… chocolate chip cookies,

net weight,

ingredients in order of volume or weight. So like if the biggest ingredient you put in is flour, that would be the first ingredient and then down the line, and then if the smallest ingredient was walnuts, that would be last. The last part is your address at the bottom of the label.

That’s so if somebody does get sick, or have an allergic reaction they can get in touch with you.

You said that they might get in touch. They were out to help you to succeed. The whole thing with this cottage food thing that I liked is that they are trying to help, farmers get something to market maybe during those winter months, 

This woman Joyce Pinson from Kentucky talked about how the biggest way to sell at a Farmer’s Market is to cook right there at the market and she would cook zucchini, if you want to sell things at a farmer’s market, my husband wanted to have pickles there. People were worried that they were gonna put the procedure down and people would get grandma’s secret recipe.

It’s right in the law that it’s Illegal for the local or state health departments to reveal that information to the public. You have to put what’s in it onto your label. That’s for consumer safety or protection.

how you process it to health department

You’ve got some basic things in place to protect people’s health, but once you’ve submitted that you can be assured that it is illegal to share procedural information of how you combine those ingredients, how long you cook those ingredients. All of that is sort o trade secret information. Protected in the Cottage Food Law. Probably every day we get wholesale submittals. We have a locked cabinet here at the office. We keep all of those, bar-b-cue sauce recipes, keep recipes locked away so it’s not shared, all the things on the computer are kept in all encrypted files.

that’s how we do it at our office.

 

My podcasting partner his sister or friend or someone does what you do in California. 

It’s really interesting because all the states are handling this differently. It’s easier to hear it, sometimes it’s easier hear it. If I read California’s laws right I don’t think you register individual products, I think you are limited to certain products.

The one other thing I wanted to mention, is you submit your registration, once that is approved you will get a certificate from our office, it’s required in the law that you have that on you when you go to see your products to public. So you have that on you when you are going to sell your products.

The other thing I wanted to mention, is keep that certificate, there are no inspections, so you register your product, and the health department is not going to come to your house and  inspect your home kitchen. The only time anybody would possibly do an inspection is if there’s been an outbreak directly associated, evidence with an outbreak directly associated with something you produce.

That’s when you said…

that’s what would happen generally if something goes wrong the health department is going to come in and say hay you need to change this or here’s where the cross-contamination is happening, maybe because you have your egg bath, or egg mix is right here next to your wrapping the cookies up and putting the label on them. IDK, but they would work with you on your process and try to get that corrected. No inspections unless something really  goes wrong. First thing is try to correct the process.

 

its rare that any registration that a license or permit is revoked by our department or  local health departments. They usually try to work with people, unless it’s a really egregious violation.

Generally that’s what would happen, I have all these “what ifs?” in my mind, but generally if something goes wrong the health department is going to come in and say hey you need to change this process, or here’s where the cross-contamination is happening, maybe because you have your egg bath, or egg mix is right here next to your wrapping the cookies up and putting the label on them and you have contaminated eggs or something. IDK, but they would work with you on your process and try to get that corrected. No inspections unless something really goes wrong and the first thing is try to correct the process. The health department is going to work with you to correct the process.  Its rare that any registration that a license or permit is revoked by our department or  local health departments. They usually try to work with people, unless it’s a really egregious violation,

That’s if you’re doing something really wrong. You’re not doing what you said you were gonna do, right?

I heard about this one the other day, where there was this is a retail establishment. I was just gonna say an example of a really egregious violation, there was one the other day, I got a phone call on the there was a rodent infestation, rodent droppings all over the kitchen. This is a licensed establishment so the local health department, closed that establishment temporarily until they could eradicate the infestation and clean up all the droppings. Even in that case, the restaurant isn’t getting closed for good, it’s just clean this stuff up and then we’ll open you back up. If there are egregious violation…

That reminds me of 2 things, the Bruce Almighty movie, IDK if you’ve seen that it starts out with the woman says we’re doing this good thing for the community because we got shut down for a rat dropping that was a raisin … And then when I first got out of high school, this friend of mine who worked at this insurance company who dealt with people who found, something in their candy bar, she was like you would not believe, there is not a food on the market, that hasn’t had a mouse or a bone or something in it, so it might sound gross, apparently this is very common place, and it happens a lot more then you think!

We have an anonymous complaint system, and If you get a sanitarian to sit down with you they’ve got some stories. The thing I will say 99% of places that we go out and inspect are doing a great job. They keep their facilities clean, they’re serving health safe food.  it’s just that 1% and probably less then 1% that we worry about.

As a teacher I would tell my students, and people when you walk into a bathroom and see that sign that says employees must wash their hands, that’s a huge perk of living in the US. a lot of countries don’t have that knowledge, we have procedures in our restaurants how to keep things clean.

We have safe food, we have clean water, on a day to day basis you don’t have to worry about those things, it raises the bar in the United States, so you are not worried about those things, so you can spend  your time innovating and working and leading a happy healthy life.

So the other thing, can’t mention about California without asking about the medical marijuana issue? 

It’s in the department of public health, we’re the public health and safety division and it’s the quality of assurance division looks at medicinal marijuana in Montana. I think they license and register all those stores. That’s who you need to talk to if you’re looking into medicinal marijuana in Montana.

Anything else you want to share?

If I had to summarize Cottage Food in general I do think you hit the nail on the head, I believe you were saying something along the lines of this really expands opportunities for people and that was the intent of the law so I hope it goes that way in practice.

I would just reiterate that rule of thumb if you need to refrigerate the product it’s probably a potentially hazardous food, and it wouldn’t fall under cottage food but there’s still ways to produce the food legally, you just need to go through retail food or wholesale i

So expanded job opportunities, and increase market and as long as we’re sticking to non-potentially hazardous foods, we should be good and everybody should be safe and happy and healthy.

 

I was gonna ask are you a member of AERO?

I am now. I’ve had my AERO license plates since 2010 when I bought my car, then I had a guest on in the Spring, Laura Behenna, who worked for them, and so then I looked and read Jennifer Hill-Heart’s blog. and fell in love with it and then she came on the show and talked about the Expo and I said I’m going!

They gave incredible input as we were drafting the bill, we were going one way with things, and so we corrected  and I think it’s a better bill because of it. They did a great job I think we’re in the future we’re looking forward to work with them. I think Jennifer is planning some cottage food trainings

to train and get people into the specifics of what you can produce, how you can produce it, hands on classes where you actually get to make some of the products. I don’t want to put words in Jennifer’s mouth, but she was thinking of some hands on and make a label and do some things and We’re gonna tray to work with them to get that stuff going and work and participate as much as we can!

Get that stuff.

I just love them, I think Jennifer’s a wonderful director and they will expand more. I was so in love at that meeting. How have I been in Montana all of this time and not known all of you? It was like being home, really nice really active really good people!

If you have any other questions. If after this airs, people have specific questions you can send them to me. I’d be happy to talk to you more

I was gonna say how do we connect with you?

Our website and we have a link to the cottage food in upper left hand corner, it will get you the registration info. The shortcut to our fcss.mt.gov and my email eevanson@mt.gov.

 

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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