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Florida Cottage Food Act Update

post #1 of 220
Thread Starter 
I received the email below from the Florida Dept of Agriculture. It appears that the Commissioner will be making some recommedations at the end of this month regarding allowing baked goods from home. I think it would be a good idea to send a letter to the commissioner expressing our needs for this act and how it will benefit Florida. The commissioner for the Dept of Agriculture is Charles Bronson and you can email him at

http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/about/index.html click on his name and send your email.

Thank you,
Barbara


Dear Ms. Schmal:

Thank you for your recent email requesting support for legislative language regarding cottage foods. As I am sure you are aware, there are multiple agencies in Florida with food regulatory responsibilities. Along with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Department of Health (DOH) have food regulatory functions.

Traditionally, DACS has authority for grocery stores, supermarkets, delis, bakeries, processors, seafood markets, warehouses, etc. DBPR has authority for restaurants, temporary events, mobile food dispensing vehicles, etc. DOH has responsibility for hospitals, educational facilities (school food operations), bars and lounges, and certain other institutional food service operations. DACS is the lead food agency for Florida and the authorizing statute is Chapter 500, F.S., with the corresponding food rules in Chapter 5K-4, F.A.C. Major portions of the 2001 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code, which is model language for food regulatory jurisdictions, have been adopted by reference in Chapter 5K-4 (similar to both DBPR and DOH rules). To my knowledge, none of these three agencies have any authority in statute to permit or regulate a private residence at this time.

Section 6-202.111, FDA Food Code, provides the following language regarding use of a private home for preparing food for the public: 6-202.111 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 language or a variation of such has been in place for many years and is adopted by all three primary food agencies.

Obviously there are bake sales operating around the state all the time and, for many non-profit type groups particularly, is a viable way of earning money. The operation of traditional bake sales or other temporary events such as at churches or schools generally fall under the jurisdiction of DBPR or DOH, depending on at what type of facility the bake sale was operated. Individuals who wish to prepare and sell baked goods as a business operation would fall under the DACS umbrella. As stated above, we currently have no authority in law for permitting a private residence. There was a bill this past session that included home prepared goods also known as cottage foods. This bill failed however, as a charge from the Florida Legislature in the 2010 Regular Session, this agency was charged with the following:

In accordance with section 500.033, F.S., the Florida Food Safety and Food Defense Advisory Council shall assess the food safety requirements for food permits that govern small farm facilities permitted as food establishments. The council will complete the assessment and report its finding to the Commissioner of Agriculture by December 1, 2010. The department shall submit recommendations to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 31, 2010, focusing on the most efficient and effective ways to ensure food safety while minimizing the cost to small farmers. The report is due to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 31, 2010.

The above subcommittee has reviewed and discussed home baked goods as a part of the total issue and a report from the Florida Food Safety and Food Defense Advisory Council has gone to the Commissioner of Agriculture for review and response. The Commissioner will review this report and provide recommendations for potential legislation to the Florida Legislature by December 31, 2010.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you need any further information.


Regards,


Lee M. Cornman

FL Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Division of Food Safety

Phone: 850.245.5595

Fax: 850.488.7946

cornmal@doacs.state.fl.us
post #2 of 220
Thank you so much for the update. I will do my part to help.
post #3 of 220
Well, sorry to be a buzz killer here but I am one of the people who spent hundreds of thousands to start a bonafide business in Florida: signed a 5 year lease; did the construction; got the food safety classes and licenses for myself, my bakery assistant, and my husband; invested in all of the required equipment including an $18,000 oven. We pay over a thousand a month just in advertising. Then there are the business permits, regular DACS inspections, the DACS food permit for which I just sent in the yearly $500, insurance, etc. We have to charge at least a certain price per serving to not lose money on a cake and we are under intense scrutiny even if we basically give it away. In fact, in the beginning, we were not allowed to even give away samples until we had our first inspection.

There are people who advertise on Craigs list who charge $75 to $100 for a wedding cake that I know is made from a mix and is not as pretty as our cakes and they are getting away with not only doing this illegally but they often times have not even gone through the food safety class.

Ok, let's digress on the food safety class for a bit. I have been cooking and baking safely for about 40 years. When I took the class last year, I was shocked at how much I did not know beforehand. That said, I was also shocked when I saw several culinary grads come through my bakery who had taken the class in school, and passed the test, and they still exhibited poor food handling techniques. Needless to say they do not work here any longer. But people who haven't taken the class for the most part won't know what to do, or not to do, and why, and they aren't held accountable if someone gets sick.

So aside form the food safety issues, the home baker is not required to pay any taxes, we are. They are not held up to scrutiny and given reviews online, and they bring the market down by charging really low prices which are basically just cost of materials. I don't think it helps the industry at all and allows people to think that all of the cakes out there are cheap, or should be cheap. If we put 20 hours of work into a cake, making flowers or other intricate decorations, there is no way we can charge $200 for that cake. We'd go out of business. But people want us to give them a cake for practically nothing. Not to mention the people who come to us regularly for freebies for whatever function saying it will bring us business and will cost us nothing. Well, it costs plenty and we've never seen any business from those events.

So my point is that if they change the law to accommodate the hobbyist, it will just further degrade the industry. You can pretend you are in business but you aren't really in business until you man up and do it the right way. Just my opinion.
post #4 of 220
I'm in Michigan and extremely thankful for our new Cottage Food Law for home based cake business. The law states I cannot sell over a certain dollar amount per year otherwise I would have to start utilizing a commercial kitchen. I have a fair amount of business that gives me a little bit of extra income for our family. I do not feel as though my business degrades the industry in anyway as my product is competitively priced compared to the local commercially licensed bakeries in the area. I offer a product that many feel is superior to these bakeries. I constantly hear how dry their cakes are....how greasy or gritty or tasteless their frosting is... the comments go on. I offer the alternative.

The powers that be in Michigan recognized that in this bad economy, the little person who could not afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars should be able to earn a little bit of money. Again... I am very thankful.
Gayle
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
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Gayle
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
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post #5 of 220
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nellical

Well, sorry to be a buzz killer here but I am one of the people who spent hundreds of thousands to start a bonafide business in Florida: signed a 5 year lease; did the construction; got the food safety classes and licenses for myself, my bakery assistant, and my husband; invested in all of the required equipment including an $18,000 oven. We pay over a thousand a month just in advertising. Then there are the business permits, regular DACS inspections, the DACS food permit for which I just sent in the yearly $500, insurance, etc. We have to charge at least a certain price per serving to not lose money on a cake and we are under intense scrutiny even if we basically give it away. In fact, in the beginning, we were not allowed to even give away samples until we had our first inspection.

There are people who advertise on Craigs list who charge $75 to $100 for a wedding cake that I know is made from a mix and is not as pretty as our cakes and they are getting away with not only doing this illegally but they often times have not even gone through the food safety class.

Ok, let's digress on the food safety class for a bit. I have been cooking and baking safely for about 40 years. When I took the class last year, I was shocked at how much I did not know beforehand. That said, I was also shocked when I saw several culinary grads come through my bakery who had taken the class in school, and passed the test, and they still exhibited poor food handling techniques. Needless to say they do not work here any longer. But people who haven't taken the class for the most part won't know what to do, or not to do, and why, and they aren't held accountable if someone gets sick.

So aside form the food safety issues, the home baker is not required to pay any taxes, we are. They are not held up to scrutiny and given reviews online, and they bring the market down by charging really low prices which are basically just cost of materials. I don't think it helps the industry at all and allows people to think that all of the cakes out there are cheap, or should be cheap. If we put 20 hours of work into a cake, making flowers or other intricate decorations, there is no way we can charge $200 for that cake. We'd go out of business. But people want us to give them a cake for practically nothing. Not to mention the people who come to us regularly for freebies for whatever function saying it will bring us business and will cost us nothing. Well, it costs plenty and we've never seen any business from those events.

So my point is that if they change the law to accommodate the hobbyist, it will just further degrade the industry. You can pretend you are in business but you aren't really in business until you man up and do it the right way. Just my opinion.



Legally licensed businesses also have a voice in this. You too can write to the Commissioner voicing your opposition to a Food Cottage Law.
post #6 of 220
I've been thinking about this for the last few days since I first posted. My feelings are really not as harsh as they probably appeared in my first post. Yes, there are many good reasons for wanting to operate out of one's home, the bad economy being one. But think about it on the other side of the situation.

The consumer is not the only one suffering from the economy. I too am a consumer, wife, mother, and grandmother. I have bills to pay at home as well as the several thousands it takes just keep the bakery open each month. I understand. I also know that the cakes coming out of some bakeries is awful. But not all.

We have people coming to our bakery quite often who want the same price as the grocery store bakery, in our area it is Publix. I was told by someone who had worked there that they have a time limit on their cakes. 18 minutes. Although I think it was 30 minutes for a wedding cake. What? Try 18 hours!

I tell people that we cannot and will not try to compete with Publix on any level. Their cakes are shipped in frozen, made from commercial mixes, and their BC is all shortening. We just don't do any of that.

So my point is that there are other forces than the home baker that are bringing down the overall quality of the product and the market for cakes. Some of the home bakers' work I have seen on this site is absolutely phenominal and I want to make it clear that I respect a lot of you for your work and artistry.

It is a difficult issue in that I understand where the home baker is coming from. I started out that way and having been an artist in several media over the years, have seen many instances. What I am concerned with is the fact that having taken the plunge to invest in a bricks and mortar business, shelling out thousands each month to keep it alive, dealing with employees who don't want to work but do want to be paid premium wages, having to educate consumers on what quality cakes and ingredients is all about as well as the labor that goes into making one of those "Ace of Cakes" types of cakes is about, that opening up the market for cottage-based bakeries will put me out of business.

I think any one else in my shoes would feel the same way. It is scary and I don't have a ton of money to keep supporting it. We are using our retirement money to do so and would hate to lose it all. So I understand where you are coming from and hope you might be able to understand my position too.

Thanks,
Nel icon_smile.gif
post #7 of 220
I think a good middle ground would be encouraging the development of government-supported incubator kitchens and small business development centers at the state, county, and municipal levels. One of the biggest roadblocks to getting legal in many areas is the lack of commercial kitchen space, but if licensed facilities were available at a reasonable price, it would be easier for casual bakers to sell their products legally.

It will probably be easier to encourage this kind of development locally than change state laws, especially when you point out the incubator's revenue-generating potential.
post #8 of 220
I agree with jasonkraft - a middle ground would be wonderful. I'm in IL and there is no cottage law here and I think it used to be left up to the individual counties. I'm just a hobby baker, but our County outlawed home baking when the County health district was voted in by the city voters about 8-10 years ago (the city already had its own PHD). There was a huge outcry from the rural voters, which seems to have settled.

I also feel that just because cottage bakery laws exist in some states, it does not make the home baker an illegitimate business, because I don't think the volume of business out of a home bakery is anywhere near the volume of business conducted in a town/commercial setting. Everyone deserves to own their own business as long as they follow the state guidelines for whichever type of business they choose. So that being said, if I choose to open a cottage law bakery (if it were allowed in IL, which it is not), why should I be discounted by those who chose to start a storefront type business? That was their choice, but mine choice would be to be a home baker.
Ranae
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Ranae
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post #9 of 220
I agree with jasonkraft - a middle ground would be wonderful. I'm in IL and there is no cottage law here and I think it used to be left up to the individual counties. I'm just a hobby baker, but our County outlawed home baking when the County health district was voted in by the city voters about 8-10 years ago (the city already had its own PHD). There was a huge outcry from the rural voters, which seems to have settled.

I also feel that just because cottage bakery laws exist in some states, it does not make the home baker an illegitimate business, because I don't think the volume of business out of a home bakery is anywhere near the volume of business conducted in a town/commercial setting. Everyone deserves to own their own business as long as they follow the state guidelines for whichever type of business they choose. So that being said, if I choose to open a cottage law bakery (if it were allowed in IL, which it is not), why should I be discounted by those who chose to start a storefront type business? That was their choice, but mine choice would be to be a home baker.
Ranae
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Ranae
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post #10 of 220
This is wonderful news!!! We really can't stop until all states have some form of cottage food law... I'll be waiting to hear about his recommendation.
Denay
Email: denay@homebasedbaking.com
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Start Your Home-Based Bakery Today!!!
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Denay
Email: denay@homebasedbaking.com
Visit : http://homebasedbaking.com
Start Your Home-Based Bakery Today!!!
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post #11 of 220
Thread Starter 
WOW, I am very impressed by everyones opinions regarding Home Based Businesses. Hello everyone, I am Barbara Schmal who has been working on getting the Cottage Food Act passed in Florida.

I can understand the concerns of all of you who own a Commercial Retail Bakery. But, you also need to think of this Food Act as insurance for your business. It sounds like some of you cannot compete not because of the home bakers but, because of the Big Box Stores. Did you ever think what you would do if you had to close your business? If this were to happen having the Cottage Food Act would allow you to do what you love and give you time to regroup. Remember what happened to the Cake Girls in Chicago Illinois? If Illinois had this law they could still make their beautiful cakes from their homes and continue with their business.

I'm sure you all know who Paula Dean is, well she started from her home with $200 in her pocket. Look how she grew her empire. Will that happen to us well you never know.

There will always be competition with any business and competition is good it is just knowing how to make it work for you.

Florida has the highest unemployment rate and if this law can help families put food on their tables than I succeeded my mission. Plus it would also make Florida more attractive for trade shows, opening baking supply stores, classes which means people will be working.

I think everyone needs to look at the good that can become of this law when it passes. We are a baking family and need to support each and everyone in our industry.

Florida will be the 26th state to implement the Cottage Food Act and we will know very soon.

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest Wealthiest New Year.

Barbara
post #12 of 220
Sorry, but I completely disagree with you, Barbara. I will refrain from posting my complete opinion on this, but I strongly disagree. Using unemployment as a justification doesn't hold water. Supporting small businesses so that they don't become unemployed should be an objective as well. I find it unbelievable and offensive that you think commercial cake businesses cannot compete. Sorry, but home based businesses are not my competition. It's a totally different ballgame when owning a commericial business. Next time, think before posting.
post #13 of 220
Thank you MCC. We started our business over a year ago with money out of our retirement account. I'm 56 and my husband is almost 65. We signed a 5 year lease and had to do a lot of demolition then construction to make the space ready. We tried to buy used equipment and found it was all crap so then we had to buy new equipment anyway. Then we found that we needed employees who ended up didn't want to work or said they could do things (like make a batch of cake without ruining it). We threw away hundreds of dollars worth of ingredients thanks to those people and then were told we are too picky. Excuse me? The customer does not want a gooey sunken crater in the middle of her wedding cake.

So now $300,000.00 dollars later (and counting), we are faced with not only the struggles of owning a business, having another 4 years on the lease, paying taxes, thousand dollar electric bills six months a year and people want to take our business away?

I'd love to find an employee who is honest, doesn't get pissed off when I ask her to stop texting and pay attention to the recipe, not waste expensive ingredients, really wipe something clean instead of leaving a sticky film, show up on time, and get the assigned work done so that I don't have to stay until 2 in the morning Friday night to get the cake finished because she goofed off for three days then left ten minutes early Friday to go to get ready for partying. Oh, and not miss Monday mornings because she is hungover or is resentful that she only gets $12 and hour, which btw is all I pay myself too. Keep in mind that the employee gets paid their after tax wage, but I pay double those taxes to the IRS every month. If I am late or even just fill out the return incorrectly, I pay a penatly. So for each $12 hour, it costs me at least $14. If an employee screws up a batch of dough, cake, frosting, it goes in the trash AND I've lost the money I have to pay her during the hours it took to make the mistake and then fix it.

Too many people think the employer is the bad guy but no one looks at the problems we have. Am I feeling confident? Heck no, with the money we have already invested (spent) and the rest of the lease, we are a half a million in the hole, with no optimism that we will make it back and afraid we might lose what's left. And you think I should be encouraging to the hobbyist who wants a piece of the pie and will drive our prices down? Sorry. Not feeling it.
post #14 of 220
Thread Starter 
You are entitled to your opinion and I respect that. Just an FYI, the state of Michigan used unemployment as their arguement to get the law passed.

I do this as a hobby I have a full time job and have always worked within manufacturing and the companies that I have worked for started either in their basement or garage of their home and today are multi million dollar businesses. Point being a lot of business start from home.

I'm not trying to put anyone out of business but, more like helping them to have a legal and successful business. This law will require rules and regulations, inspections, licensing insurance etc that will need to be met. The only difference is they will be scaled down for a mini business. Most of home bakers do not do the volume that a retail bakery would do so there isn't a need for all the regulations that are in place now. The laws in place were implemented hundreds of years ago and life has changed and laws need to change so they can meet the needs of the current times.

I didn't post to start arguements with anyone. I just wanted everyone that lives in Florida know the progress on getting the Cottage Law passed.
Barbara
post #15 of 220
Barbara wrote: "Most of home bakers do not do the volume that a retail bakery would do so there isn't a need for all the regulations that are in place now. "

Food safety is the same whether the business does one cake or fifteen. Duff does fifteen per week. He has the staff to do it. He has a minimum fee of $1000 per cake. He is famous and can do that. I do two or three a week because it is really slow. I do not get nearly anywhere near that as a minimum and do not have the staff at this moment in case I did get really busy. The economy is really hurting us. But we still have to adhere to food safety regulations even with one cake. Food borne illnesses do not discriminate and say that they will only affect cakes coming out of retail bakeries. And quite frankly, I take pride in the cleanliness we have in our little bakery.

Just because we are a retail bakery doesn't mean we are cranking out a huge volume. I think you are misinformed on that point.

And just because one bunch of lawyers used unemployment as an argument does not make it a good argument.

I would also question the statement that the laws were made hundreds of years ago and are no longer pertinent. Much of the regulations are based on research and scientific breakthroughs in foodborne illness that was made during the last 50 to 75 years. Hundreds of years ago they were still using leeches for illnesses and Typhoid Mary hadn't even been born.
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