Tarrant County refunds illegal fees to cottage food producer

Published October 7, 2022

Tarrant County has refunded the permit fees it illegally charged to a cottage food operator!

Two weeks ago, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) and Homemade Texas wrote a joint letter to the Tarrant County Health Department outlining how the department had improperly required a cottage food operator to submit her recipes for approval, as well as illegally requiring her to obtain and pay for permits to sell those recipes at local events.

The permit fee refund is a tacit acknowledgement of the illegality of Tarrant County’s actions requiring cottage food operators to purchase “temporary food establishment” (TFE) permits.

Why is this so important? We fought for the passage and expansion of the cottage food law because it is a vital piece to rebuilding local food systems. The regulations for food manufacturing have been written by and for huge corporations, and they pose unfair burdens on small-scale food artisans – especially those who are just starting up or who are making some value-added foods as a side business to improve their farm’s profitability. The cottage food law allows people, from farmers to apartment dwellers, to make low-risk foods in their home kitchens and sell them directly to consumers within our state, without having to pay for permits or deal with scale-prejudicial regulations that aren’t needed or appropriate for them.

So, when Tarrant County Health Department told a cottage food producer that she couldn’t sell her cream cheese frostings even after she provided proof that they met the statutory requirements, and then charged her permit fees to sell at local events, we took action! We wrote to not only the health department, but the County Judge and Commissioners, because we know that the health departments have an unreasonable prejudice against cottage food operations (and are looking for more revenue sources).

We’re very pleased that Tarrant County did the right thing!

But the fight isn’t over yet, because Tarrant County isn’t the only local health department that is flouting the cottage food law. We know of at least half a dozen more that have started requiring permits, in an apparently coordinated campaign by health departments to impose unwarranted requirements and fees on these small food businesses.

Please help us keep up the fight, at both the local and state level, by joining or donating today.

And if you are a cottage food producer who has been told you need to get a permit, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org or home@homemadetexas.org with your name, the county/city that told you this, what you are selling, and, if you have it, copies of any emails or documentation. The more information we have about where this is happening, the more effectively we can fight it!