Action Alert: Speak Up to Protect Cottage Food Producers

Thank you again to all of the people who sent comments to the agency and called their legislators to oppose the Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) proposed new regulations of farmers’ markets. The agency has withdrawn the proposed farmers’ market regulation. Your calls really do matter!

But our local food producers still face a problem due to another proposed regulation from DSHS. In the proposed regulation to implement the new cottage foods law, the agency seeks to impose extensive and unnecesary labeling requirements for low-risk home-made foods.

The deadline to submit comments is this Monday, February 27, 2012. Details for how to take action, including sample comments, are below.

The cottage foods provisions of SB 81 were very specific: the labels were to include the producer’s name, address, and a statement that the food was not inspected by the local or state authorities. DSHS’s proposed rule would require not only this information, but also:

  • “the common or usual name of the product and an adequately descriptive statement of identity;”
  • ” if made from two or more ingredients, a list of ingredients in descending order of predominance by net weight, including a declaration of artificial color or flavor and chemical preservatives, if contained in the food;”
  • “an accurate declaration of the net quantity of contents including metric measurements;”
  • ” allergen labeling in compliance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-282, Title II, 118. Stat. 905″

The agency proposes to regulate even the smallest details of the label, including the size, type of ink, and placement. These provisions will not protect the public health, but they will discourage people from operating legal home businesses under the cottage foods law.

In addition, the agency has included provisions in the proposed rule for cottage foods that are not even relevant to cottage foods — but which could cause serious problems for farmers’ markets and farmers. Specifically, the agency included two provisions that were in the farmers’ market proposed rule (now withdrawn) in the cottage foods rule:

  • classifying farmers’ markets as “food establishments”; and
  • classifying “cut tomatoes” and “cut leafy greens” as “potentially hazardous foods” that require special time and temperature controls.

Since the proposed farmers’ market rule has been withdrawn, logically, the agency should automatically delete these provisions from the proposed cottage foods rule. But we can’t afford to make assumptions. So we also need public comments to urge the agency to delete these provisions from the cottage foods rule, consistent with its decision to withdraw the farmers’ market proposed rule.

 

Take Action on Cottage Foods Rule

Please tell the agency to drop all of the unnecessary red tape and comply with the intention of SB 81! You can submit comments by mail or email.

MAIL: Cheryl Wilson, Food Establishments Group, PSQA Unit, Environmental & Consumer Safety Section, Department of State Health Services, Mail Code 1987, P. O. Box 149347, Austin, Texas 78714-9347

EMAIL: cheryl.wilson@dshs.state.tx.us

DEADLINE: Comments must be received by February 27, 2012.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Remember to personalize your letter for the greatest impact! This sample letter is just to give you talking points and some help in writing your own letter. Your letter can be just a few sentences long, and it will still help make a difference.

Dear Ms. Wilson,

I am writing to express my objections to the proposed rules for labeling for Cottage Food Operations. The legislative intent of these labels was to inform the consumer as to who made their food, where their food was made, and that the food was made in a kitchen that was not inspected by the health department.

DSHS has ignored the clear language and legislative intent of the bill to create a long list of unreasonable labeling requirements. Large retail bakeries don’t have to provide the weight information that DSHS seeks to impose on small home bakers and canners. And even the FDA recognizes that small businesses should not have to comply with the complicated allergen labeling requirements that DSHS seeks to impose here.

The requirements about the type of ink, font size, color, and placement of the words are unnecessary and merely make it more complicated and confusing for individuals trying to comply with the law.

The labels should contain what the statute requires: the name and address of the cottage food operator, and a statement that the food was not inspected by state or local authorities. The labels should be legible. That is all that is needed to enable consumers to make informed choices for themselves.

The agency should also delete the definitions for retail food establishments and hazardous foods in this proposed rule, except as they actually apply to cottage food operations. The proposed rule for cottage foods includes several new definitions, specifically: defining farmers markets as a “retail food establishment”; and defining cut leafy greens and cut tomatoes as potentially hazardous foods. These new definitions have nothing to do with cottage food operations, but they will have a significant impact on farmers across that State. These provisions should not be made through the back door in an unrelated rulemaking.

Thank you for your time and attention.
Name
Address

 

MORE INFORMATION

Read the full proposed rule at www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/archive/January272012/PROPOSED/25.HEALTH%20SERVICES.html#175

Read SB 81 at www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/pdf/SB00081F.pdf#navpanes=0
(the cottage food provision begins on page 3; the farmers market provisions begin on page 5 of the bill)