Here is my letter. Anyone is free to take it and modify it as they need to, as my experiences do not apply to everyone.
Go to this page http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
and type your address in the box at the right that says 'Who Represents Me'. That is who you should send your letter to.
I feel really strongly about this. A cake cooked in my kitchen in Texas is not less safe than a cake cooked in a kitchen in Ohio or North Carolina. We may not change the law, but we can at least make a lot of people start thinking about it. Speak from your heart -- they will pay more attention to a heartfelt letter than a letter that looks copied, or a form letter.
The legislature is only in session every other year. This is our last chance until 2009.
I am writing about an issue that is very important to me. I am a cake decorator and I take pride in the cakes I make (attach some pictures of your home-prepared cakes). I have invested time and money in learning my craft. What you may not know, is that in Texas it is illegal to sell a cake made in a residential kitchen.
Most people are not aware of this law. It is the Texas Administrative Code, Food Establishment Rules, Rule §229.167 (E)(10) which states Private homes and living or sleeping quarters, use prohibition. A private home, a room used as living or sleeping quarters, or an area directly opening into a room used as living or sleeping quarters may not be used for conducting food establishment operations.
This law is in place to protect the public from unsafe foods. However, cake and other baked goods such as cookies, pies and brownies are considered low-risk for spoilage and contamination due to their high sugar content. There are at least 8 other states that have mechanisms in place for allowing bakers and cake decorators to sell foods made in residential kitchen, including:
North Carolina http://www.agr.state.nc.us/fooddrug/homebiz.htm
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (717) 787-4737
Virginia Department of Agriculture (804) 786-3520
I currently have a food purveyors permit and rent a licensed kitchen at a rate of $10/hour. If it takes me 3 hours to bake and decorate a birthday cake that I will sell for $50, and my ingredients cost $10, my hourly wage to myself ends up being about $3/hr. I have never had a single customer ask me if I have a license or I bake from home. In fact, most assume that I do bake from my home. They consider this a benefit. The word homemade conveys quality. The words prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen do not have the same effect! Everyone eats foods made in residential kitchens every day. There are bake sales at schools and churches, parents sending cupcakes to schools for their childs birthdays, people bake cookies and bring them into the office. There is nothing to fear from these items.
I would like to request a change in the law. Turn the regulation of home or cottage bakeries over to the Department of Agriculture, as other states have done. Inspect our homes and charge an annual inspection fee. There are many safety regulations that can be put in place to serve the public good while allowing hundreds or even thousands of home bakers to legally provide a service to the community while earning extra money for their families. There are many people out there who sell cakes and other food items from their homes already wouldnt it be safer to have a way to regulate this already-existing industry?
I briefly tried using the kitchen of a legal, licensed restaurant. It was the dirtiest place I have ever worked. But it is legal to sell food prepared there. Somewhere along the way, in our effort to protect the public, we have gone too far. Homemade cakes are not a public health threat. Regulating these home businesses would serve the public good.
Thank you very much for your time.