After several years of debate over voluntary versus mandatory GMO labeling, Congress passed legislation yesterday to create a unified national standard requiring disclosure of information for bioengineered foods. Read this post on our new blog site, here.
Category Archives: Food
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has revised regulations that implement Ohio’s Cottage Food Law, which addresses the production and sale of certain “non-potentially hazardous” foods. An operation producing a “cottage food” may do so without licensing and inspection by ODA, but must follow labeling requirements and is subject to potential food sampling by ODA.
Changes to Ohio’s cottage food regulations include the following:
New cottage food products
Several new food items have joined the list of cottage food products that an operator may produce without licensing or inspection by ODA:
- Flavored honey produced by a beekeeper, if a minimum of 75% of the honey is from the beekeeper’s own hives;
- Fruit chutneys;
- Maple sugar produced by a maple syrup processor, if at least 75% of the sap used to make the maple syrup is collected directly from trees by the processor;
- Waffle cones dipped in candy;
- Dry soup mixes containing commercially dried vegetables, beans, grains, and seasonings.
Foods that are not cottage food products
Two revisions clarify foods that do not fall under the cottage food law:
- Fresh fruit that is dipped, covered, or otherwise incorporated with candy;
- Popping corn.
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.
The new regulations became effective January 22, 2016. View the cottage food regulations at http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/901%3A3-20. Read our other posts on Ohio’s Cottage Food Law at http://aglaw.osu.edu/blog-categories/food.
So far in a series of posts, we’ve discussed how to sell your baked goods at farmer’s markets (here), what’s required for a home bakery license (here), and how to label and package your home-based food products (here). These posts have all discussed the requirements for producing and selling food products as a cottage food producer and under a home bakery license in Ohio. We continue the series with a description of how food sampling is conducted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) for these home-based food products.
One of the benefits of being a cottage food producer or obtaining a home bakery license is how few conditions there are to meet in order to sell your food product in Ohio because these foods have lower food safety risks than other food products. For example, if you want to sell cottage food products, you are not required to have your home kitchen inspected and you do not have to pay any type of licensing fee (since no license is required). If you want to sell food products under a home bakery license, your home kitchen must be inspected by the ODA and you will have to pay a $10 license fee every year. For a more in depth explanation of cottage food products and home bakery licenses, see the posts mentioned above.
Even though there are lower risks and few requirements for selling home-based food products, you still have an obligation to ensure a safe food product. Compared to a restaurant, which could be inspected multiple times over the year, there is very little oversight when it comes to producing cottage food products and food products produced under a home bakery license. However, ODA does maintain some oversight in the form of food sampling.
What is food sampling?
Food sampling is conducted to determine if a food product has been misbranded or adulterated.
Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3715.60, a food product is considered misbranded if:
- Its labeling is false or misleading
- It is offered for sale under the name of another food
- Its container is made, formed, or filled to be misleading
- It is an imitation of another food, unless its label contains, in type of uniform size and prominence, the word “imitation,” and immediately thereafter the name of the food imitated
- When it is in package form, it does not bear a label containing:
- The name and place of the business of the producer
- An accurate statement of the quantity of the contents in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count (reasonable variations are permitted)
- For cottage food products – if the label fails to contain any of the information required for a cottage food label (see Labeling post mentioned above)
- Any word, statement, or other information required to appear on the label or labeling is not prominently placed with conspicuousness as compared with other words, statements, designs, or devices, in the labeling, and in such terms to render it likely to be read and understood by the ordinary individual under customary conditions of purchase and use
- It claims to be, or is represented as, a food for which a definition and standard of identity have been prescribed by statute or rule, unless:
- It conforms to such definition and standard
- Its label bears the name of the food specified in the definition and standard, and, insofar as may be required by such statute or rules, the common names of optional ingredients, other than spices, flavoring, and coloring, present in such food.
- It claims to be or is represented as:
- A food for which a standard of quality has been prescribed by rule in Section 3715.02 of the Revised Code and its quality falls below the standard unless its label bears, in the manner and form the rules specify, a statement that it falls below the standard;
- A food for which a standard or standards of fill of container have been prescribed by rule in Section 3715.02 of the Revised Code, and it falls below the standard of fill of container applicable, unless its label bears, in the manner and form the rules specify, a statement that it falls below the standard.
- It is not subject to the provisions described above in section 7, unless it bears labeling clearly giving:
- The common or usual name of the food, if any
- In case it is fabricated from two or more ingredients, the common or usual name of each ingredient; except that spices, flavorings, and colorings, other than those sold as such, may be designated as spices, flavorings, and colorings, without naming each. However, if providing the common or usual name of each ingredient is impractical or results in deception or unfair competition, exemptions will be established by the Director of Agriculture.
- It purports to be or is represented to be for special dietary uses, unless its label contains the information concerning its vitamin, mineral, and other dietary properties to fully inform purchasers as to its value for such uses
- It bears or contains any artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, or chemical preservatives, unless the label states that fact
Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3715.59, food is considered adulterated if any of the following apply to the food product:
- It bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance that may render it injurious to health
- It bears or contains any added poisonous or added deleterious substance that is unsafe
- It consists in whole or in part of a diseased, contaminated, filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance, or if it is otherwise unfit for food
- It has been produced, processed, prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions where it may have become contaminated with filth, or where it may have been rendered diseased, unwholesome, or injurious to health
- It is the product of a diseased animal or an animal that has died otherwise than by slaughter, or an animal that has been fed upon the uncooked offal from a slaughterhouse
- Its container is composed, in whole or in part, of any poisonous or deleterious substance that may render the contents injurious to health
- Any valuable constituent has been, in whole or in part, omitted or abstracted from the food
- Any substance has been substituted wholly or in part for the food
- Damage or inferiority has been concealed in any manner
- Any substance has been added to, mixed, or packed with the food to increase its bulk or weight, reduce its quality or strength, or make it appear better or of greater value than it is
- It is confectionery and it bears or contains any alcohol or nonnutritive article or substance other than harmless coloring, harmless flavoring, harmless resinous glaze not in excess of four-tenths of one per cent, harmless natural wax not in excess of four-tenths of one per cent, harmless natural gum, or pectin, except this does not apply to any confectionery by reason of its containing less than one-half of one per cent by volume of alcohol derived solely from the use of flavoring extracts, or to any chewing gum by reason of its containing harmless nonnutritive masticatory substances
- It bears or contains a coal-tar color other than one from a batch certified under authority of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
- It has been processed or produced in violation of the cottage food rules
When are home-based food products subject to sampling?
Food sampling is usually conducted either randomly or under specific circumstances.
You likely won’t even know if your food product has been randomly sampled, unless the food product comes back from testing with an issue. The Director, or someone the Director authorizes, will purchase home-based food products that have been placed in the marketplace. The most common scenario for when your home-based food product could be subject to random food sampling is if you sell it to a retail food establishment or food service operation, such as a restaurant or grocery store. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, random sampling does not usually occur at farmer’s markets. Random food sampling also does not usually occur when you are selling your food product directly to the customer from your home, where the product is produced.
Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3715.02(B), home-based food products are specifically subject to food sampling when:
- A food, food additive, or food packaging material is the subject of a consumer complaint;
- A consumer requests the sampling after a physician has isolated an organism from the consumer as the physician’s patient;
- A food, food additive, or food packaging material is suspected of having caused an illness;
- A food, food additive, or food packaging material is suspected of being adulterated or misbranded;
- A food, food additive, or food packaging material is subject to verification of food labeling and standards of identity; and
- At any other time the director considers a sample analysis necessary.
What happens if there was an issue with your food product?
If your food product has been subject to food sampling and an issue is found with your product, then you will be contacted by ODA. They will make you aware of what the issue was, such as your product tested positive for a pathogen like E.coli or maybe you forgot to list an ingredient that was found in your product. ODA will then likely inspect your home kitchen. If a pathogen was found, the inspection will likely be focused on figuring out how the problem occurred and how you can remedy it. If your food product is in the marketplace, then a recall may need to be issued.
Home-produced food products typically are not a common source of consumer complaints. But just because there are not as many complaints associated with these types of food products doesn’t mean you should be lax in the way you prepare your food products. Preparing safe food products for your customers is essential. Food sampling is a way ODA helps to ensure your business is doing just that.
Update: See our blog post that explains revisions to Ohio’s Cottage Food Laws made in February, 2016. The post is available here.
In Ohio, thanks to our cottage food law, there are certain types of low risk food products you may produce and sell right out of your home kitchen with no inspection or licensing requirements. This is perfect for anyone who wants to test the market for their food product without the risk of investing a lot of money in a storefront. We have already discussed the requirements for a cottage food production operation here. As promised, we are now going to turn to the specific food products that Ohio law defines as “cottage foods.”
Only food products that are non-potentially hazardous fall into the cottage food category. Ohio Administrative Code Section 901:3-20-04 lists the food items approved as cottage food products. This list is very specific and includes the following food products:
- Non-potentially hazardous bakery products (such as cookies, breads, brownies, cakes, and fruit pies)
- Candy (including no-bake cookies, chocolate covered pretzels or similar chocolate covered non-perishable items)
- Fruit butters
- Granola, granola bars, granola bars dipped in candy
- Popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn (does not include un-popped popping corn)
- Unfilled, baked donuts
- Waffle cones
- Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings
- Roasted coffee, whole beans or ground
- Dry baking mixes in a jar (for making items like breads and cookies)
- Dry herbs and herb blends
- Dry seasoning blends (such as dry barbeque rubs and seafood boils)
- Dry tea blends
If there is a specific food product you want to produce in your home but it is not in the cottage food definition, you may need to obtain a home bakery license. For an explanation of home bakery products and requirements for home bakery licenses, see this post.
If the food item you want to produce is not in the cottage food or home bakery definitions, then you likely need to produce the product in a facility licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture or local county health department. For example, salsas, BBQ sauces, canned vegetables, frozen foods and homemade hummus must be produced in a licensed facility. Specifically, salsas, BBQ sauces, and canned vegetables must be produced in a licensed cannery facility. Licensing information for these types of food products is available on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website. If you’re not ready or able to obtain one of these licenses, you may be able to produce your food in a “food business incubator” facility that is already licensed. Several programs in Ohio provide their licensed facilities for use by food entrepreneurs, such as ACEnet’s Food Manufacturing and Commercial Kitchen Facility in Athens or CIFT’s Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green; these programs also provide additional support for developing food products.
If you want to produce a home-based food product, first review these questions:
- Is the food product in Ohio’s definition of “cottage foods?” If so, you do not need a license.
- If the food product is not a “cottage food,” is it a “home bakery” product? If so, you will need to obtain a home bakery license and pass a home kitchen inspection.
- If the food product is not a “cottage food” or “home bakery” product, is there another licensed facility where you can produce the product? You cannot produce the food in your home; unless you are able to use a facility that already has a license, you must obtain the appropriate license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture or your county health department.
Ohio’s cottage food regulations are here.
If you already produce and sell home-based food products, or are considering starting, it is very important to label your products correctly. All home-based food products, whether sold as a cottage food or sold under a home bakery license, must be properly labeled to sell legally. If you are not familiar with the difference between cottage foods and foods produced under a home bakery license, check out our recent post on the requirements for selling your home-based food products at farmer’s markets here. The food labeling and packaging requirements for both cottage foods and foods produced under a home bakery license are very similar with a few differences that will be highlighted below.
All cottage food products must contain a label that includes the following information:
- The name and address of the cottage food production operation.
- The name of the food product – Ex: “Chocolate Chip Cookies”
- The ingredients of the food product, in descending order of predominance by weight. This means your heaviest ingredient will be listed first and the least heavy ingredient listed last. Also, ingredients must be broken down completely if the ingredient itself contains two or more ingredients. For example, if unsalted butter is one of your ingredients, then you would list it as follows: Butter (Sweet Cream, Natural Flavor).
- The net quantity of contents in both the U.S. Customary System (inch/pound) and International System of Units (metric system). This must be placed within the bottom 30% of the label in a line parallel to the bottom of the package. An example of what this would look like in both the U.S. Customary System and International System is: Net Wt 8 oz (227 g)
- The following statement in ten-point type: “This product is home produced.” This statement is required because it gives notice to the purchaser of the food product that the product was produced in a private home that is not required to be inspected by a food regulatory authority.
- Allergen Statement. There are 8 foods considered a major food allergen under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that must be declared on your label if they are contained in your food product. They include:
- Fish – For fish, the specific species must be declared – Ex: Bass
- Crustacean Shellfish – For shellfish, the specific species must be declared – Ex: crab
- Tree Nuts – For tree nuts, the specific type of nut must be declared – Ex: Almond
If any of these major allergens are contained in your food product, then you may declare them in either of two different ways.
First, you can list the allergens in a “Contains” statement. The “Contains” statement would follow the ingredients list and look like this: “Contains: Wheat, Egg.”
The second way to declare an allergen is in your ingredients list. An example would be: “Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin monotrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Egg.” In this example, wheat and egg are specifically stated within the ingredients so you would not need to put an additional “Contains” statement.
Nutritional information is not required for cottage foods unless a nutrient content claim or health claim is made. An example of a nutrient content claim would be “low fat.” An example of a health claim would be “may reduce heart disease.” If either or both of these claims are made, then you are required to include a Nutrition Facts panel on your cottage food product. More information on the Nutrition Facts Panel can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.
Cottage foods may be sold in any packaging that is appropriate for the food product with one exception. Cottage foods may not be packaged using reduced oxygen packaging methods. Reduced oxygen packaging is defined as removing oxygen from a package, displacing and replacing oxygen with another gas or combination of gases, or controlling the oxygen content to a level that is below what is normally found in the surrounding atmosphere. Reduced oxygen packaging includes vacuum packaging and modified atmosphere packaging:
- Vacuum Packaging
When air is removed from a package of food and the package is hermetically sealed so that a vacuum remains inside the package.
- Modified Atmosphere Packaging
When the proportion of air in a package is reduced, the oxygen is totally replaced, or when the proportion of other gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen are increased.
Foods Produced Under a Home Bakery License
For foods produced under a home bakery license, you will follow the same guidelines for labeling as explained above with a few exceptions.
- The statement, “this product is home produced” is not required to be on your label. The statement is not required because your home kitchen must be inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to obtain a home bakery license.
- If your home bakery product requires refrigeration, then you must include the language “Keep Refrigerated,” or a similar statement, on your label.
The same guidelines also apply here.
There is no restriction against using reduced oxygen packing methods if you have a home bakery license. You may sell your baked goods in any package that is appropriate for the food product.
Why is labeling so important?
Properly labeling your food products will allow you to legally sell them. It is essential to make sure your labels are accurate or else you could be found guilty of a fourth degree misdemeanor for selling a misbranded food product. For additional resources, see the following:
An example label can be found on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website under the Food Safety Division at:
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website provides great resources for guidance on food labeling: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064880.htm
Peggy Hall, Asst. Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law Program
Bakers who want to produce and sell baked goods such as cheesecakes, cream pies, custard pies or pumpkin pies in Ohio must first obtain a “home bakery” license. These types of baked goods are considered “potentially hazardous” because they create food safety risks if not prepared and stored properly. To safeguard against a food safety incident, the State of Ohio requires the home bakery to be inspected and licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division.
What is a “home bakery”? The home bakery license is only available for those who produce potentially hazardous baked goods in kitchens that are in homes ordinarily used by the owner as a primary residence. A home bakery kitchen may contain only one single or double oven, which cannot be a commercial oven. The following situations are not home bakeries, and likely require a “bakery” license rather than a home bakery license: the kitchen is not in a home, the home is not used as a residence, the home is not occupied by its owner, the kitchen is a second kitchen, the kitchen has multiple separate stoves or ovens, or the kitchen has a commercial stove or oven.
What’s required for a home bakery license? The home bakery operator must apply for a license and pay a $10 license fee. The process begins by contacting the Food Safety Division at the Ohio Department of Agriculture at (614) 728-6250. The Division will supply an application and arrange for an inspection. Once licensed, the operator must pay a $10 annual renewal fee.
What happens in a home bakery inspection? An inspector from ODA will visit the home, meet with the applicant and inspect the home kitchen for the following:
- Walls, ceilings and floors are clean, easily cleanable and in good repair;
- Kitchen does not have carpeted floors;
- There are no pets or pests in the home;
- Kitchen, equipment and utensils are maintained in a sanitary condition;
- Kitchen has a mechanical refrigerator capable of maintaining 45 degrees and equipped with a thermometer;
- If the home has a private well, proof of a well test completed within the past year and showing a negative test result for coliform bacteria;
- Food product labels that meet labeling requirements.
What if the baker also produces foods that are not “potentially hazardous”? An operator with a home bakery license may also produce and sell any food defined by Ohio law as a “cottage food.” Cottage foods include non-hazardous baked goods such as cookies, cakes, fruit pies, brownies, breads, candies, jams, jellies, fruit butters, granola, popcorns, unfilled baked donuts, waffle cones, pizzelles, dry cereal, nut snack mixes with seasonings, roasted coffee, dry baking mixes, dry seasoning blends and dry tea blends. Those who produce only cottage foods do not need any type of license from ODA.
What if someone operates without a home bakery license? Failing to obtain the home bakery license can result in prosecution; the operator is subject to criminal misdemeanor charges. Additionally, those without a license may not be able to sell their baked goods in many situations, as it is common for farmer’s markets and others to require that a vendor have the proper license.
A license is one form of food safety insurance. Passing an ODA inspection for a home bakery license is one layer of insurance against the possibility of a food safety incident—those who satisfy ODA’s requirements have assurance that they’re using good practices. But home bakers shouldn’t use the license as the only form of insurance. Careful control of the home kitchen environment, continuous education on food safety practices, food product liability insurance coverage and formation of a business entity such as a Limited Liability Company are additional layers of liability protection. Because selling food products poses a high risk of legal liability, home bakers should consider the license as just one of several requirements for operating a home bakery business.
Catharine Daniels, Attorney, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program
Soon, farmer’s markets all over Ohio will be full of vendors selling a variety of products–from fresh fruits and vegetables to home baked goods. For vendors selling home baked goods, it can be tricky to understand the legal landscape at a farmer’s market. What laws apply? What type of license is required? What do you need to do to be in compliance with the law?
The first step to answering these questions is to determine how your baked items are classified under state law. Ohio law has two categories of regulation that include baked goods: cottage food regulations and home bakery regulations. Knowing which category your baked goods fall under will determine which laws apply to you. The major difference between the two is whether or not the baked good is considered “potentially hazardous” for consumption if not prepared and managed properly.
A “cottage food operation” is an operation in a person’s home (i.e., in the cottage) where food items that are not potentially hazardous are produced for sale. Ohio Revised Code section 3715.01(A)(19). Ohio law provides a list of baked goods that are cottage foods because they are not potentially hazardous: cookies, breads, brownies, fruit pies, cakes, unfilled baked donuts, granola and pizelles. (There are other types of food products included as cottage foods, but we will discuss those further in future posts.) Because these cottage foods do not pose high food safety risks, they are not highly regulated. A few important questions illustrate Ohio’s cottage food laws:
- If I want to produce and sell a cottage food, do I need a license from ODA?
No; the Ohio Department of Agriculture does not require a license if you plan to sell non-potentially hazardous “cottage foods” such as cakes, brownies, breads, fruit pies and cookies. No additional license is needed from the local health department where the farmer’s market is located.
- Will my home kitchen where I produce the cottage food need to be inspected?
No inspection is required for a home kitchen producing “cottage foods.”
- What do I need to do to sell my cottage food at a registered farmer’s market?
You must properly label the baked good (see specific labeling requirements here). The label must contain the statement: “This Product is Home Produced.” This alerts potential buyers that the food was produced in a private home that is not subject to inspection.
- Can I sell my cottage food at any farmer’s market?
Under the Ohio cottage food law, you may only sell cottage foods within the state of Ohio.
If you plan to produce “potentially hazardous” baked goods, then you must abide by Ohio’s regulations for “home bakeries.” The food safety risks posed by potentially hazardous foods lead to a higher level of regulation over Ohio’s home bakeries.
- What foods are “potentially hazardous” foods?
Potentially hazardous foods are those that are in a form capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms–these are food products that require temperature control because they create risks for sickness if not prepared and handled property. Examples of potentially hazardous baked goods are cheesecakes, custard pies, filled donuts and cream pies – think of baked goods that typically need to be refrigerated.
- Do I need a license to operate a “home bakery”?
Yes, you are required to obtain a license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture to operate as a “home bakery.” There is an annual license fee of $10. Also, a local license will be required. Contact the local health department where the farmer’s market in which you will sell is located to obtain a license from them for selling the “home bakery” goods in their market. If you are selling cheesecake for example, not only do you need a home bakery license from ODA to produce the cheesecake in your home, but you will also need a license from the local health department to sell the product at the farmer’s market.
- Will my “home bakery” need to be inspected?
Yes. You will be subject to inspections by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. A few requirements a home bakery kitchen must meet include: being in good repair, being clean and easily cleanable, having no carpeted floors, being pest free, having no pets in the home, and having a mechanical refrigerator equipped with a thermometer.
- What foods may I produce in my “home bakery”?
In addition to being able to produce the potentially hazardous baked goods such as cheesecakes, custard pies and cream pies , you may also produce those baked goods that fall under the “cottage foods” definition–cakes, cookies, brownies, etc.
- What do I need to do to sell goods from my “home bakery” at a registered farmer’s market?
Just as with cottage foods, you must properly label all baked goods from a “home bakery” (see specific labeling requirements here).
- Can I sell my “home bakery” goods at any farmer’s market?
Maybe. Unlike cottage food products, a baked good produced under a home bakery license may be sold and distributed outside of Ohio. You may be able to sell your baked good at a farmer’s market outside of Ohio, but it is highly likely there would be additional requirements, such as obtaining a license from the local health department where the market is located.
The importance of good management practices
To make sure you’re in compliance with the law, it is best to check with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and your local health department when you are unsure about how your baked good is classified. It is also a good idea to check with the farmer’s market where you wish to sell your baked good for any additional rules or regulations they may impose for the venue. Also keep in mind the importance of using good production practices when creating your baked goods–a home bakery inspection helps ensure this. But if you’re not required to be inspected and licensed, utilize all information available to you to institute good management practices that will yield a safe food product.
For additional information on cottage food and home bakery regulation, visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Food Safety.