Cottage Food Connection
Enews for Minnesota Cottage Food Producers
June 2018
Food Safety Corner | Producer Spotlight | Just Curious  | Resources


Conduct a health check of all household members before you start to prevent foodborne illness

Minnesota experienced its first foodborne illness outbreak associated with cottage food products. The culprit was Norovirus. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illnesses and is responsible for more than 50% of all food-related outbreaks. Symptoms appear 12-48 after exposure and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, lasting 1-3 days.

Norovirus is highly contagious and found in stool or vomit of infected people. It can spread if feces or vomit from an infected person gets in your mouth. This can happen through person-to-person contact with an infected person, by touching infected surfaces such as doors, toilets and faucet handles or eating food handled by the infected person. 

Norovirus is a hardy virus and survives on contaminated surfaces for 2 weeks. Cleaning and decontaminating surfaces is critical to remove and destroy the virus. It is also very resistant to routine cleaning and sanitizers. 

Health and hygiene is the most important link to prevent a foodborne illness via hand-to-food contamination. Conduct a health check of everyone living in your household before you prepare, package or sell cottage foods. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture advises to wait 72 hours after you or a household member have recovered from vomiting or diarrhea to prepare, package or sell cottage foods. In foodservice facilities, employees ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea are excluded from the facility and sent home to recover. With cottage foods, your facility is your home and that is where you recover from illness.

If you or someone in your household does experience vomiting and/or diarrhea. Drops of vomit or feces can splatter many feet in all directions. So it is critical to clean up the vomit or poop and surrounding surfaces. 

Cleaning and decontaminating surfaces is critical to remove and destroy the virus. To stop the spread of Norovirus, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends using either chlorine unscented bleach or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
r egistered antimicrobial products effective against Norovirus
. Product label must specify it is effective against Norovirus. Examples include: Clorox© health care products and Comet Disinfecting Cleaner with Bleach, available online or at restaurant supply stores. For details, read our
Norovirus: step-by-step cleanup of vomit and diarrhea page.

It can take 2 weeks to rid norovirus completely from the body. When you resume cottage food production be sure to:
  • Wash hands well and often. 
  • Do not touch ready-to-eat food or food contact surfaces with bare hands. Use gloves, tongs or spatulas to create a barrier between your hands and the food. 

Remember, your health and hygiene is the most important link to prevent a foodborne illness via hand-to-food contamination. 
Why some food is considered potentially hazardous?

Potentially hazardous food (PHF) contains moisture and acidity levels that favor the growth of disease causing microorganisms. These foods must be kept cold or hot to keep microbes from growing to levels that can make someone sick.  The new term for PHF is TCS-time-temperature control for safety. Custard, pudding, cakes with custard filling, meringue, cheese cake, pumpkin, cream or custard pie are examples of TCS food requiring time-temperature for food safety. A food license and commercial kitchen is needed to make and sell these items. 

Non-potentially hazardous foods are those that control the moisture or acidity level so growth of disease causing microorganisms can't grow. These foods are usually shelf stable and don't need time and temperature control for food safety. Only non-potentially hazardous foods are allowed to be produced and sold under the Minnesota cottage food licensing e xemption. The finished product must meet the non-potentially hazardous parameters of: a pH less than or equal to 4.6 or water activity less than or equal to 0.85. These parameters control the growth of disease causing organisms. However, spoilage microorganisms like yeasts and mold can grow within these parameters. 


Thirteen-year-old Rasmus Bregendahl, The Danish Baker

Rasmus found a love for baking at an early age. He remembers helping his Mom bake as a toddler--serving as her taste tester and bread kneader. To satisfy his sweet tooth, his Mom encouraged him to make his own treats. So he started with cookies, then moved to brownies and then to cake. Friends and neighbors loved his desserts and offered to pay him to make them desserts. This was the start of The Danish Baker

The Danish Baker name comes from Ramus's Danish heritage. He has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Denmark and is relatively fluent in Danish. Most recipes he makes are Danish, shared by his grandmother. Whenever the family visits Denmark, they eat delicious traditional Danish meals and desserts made by his grandmother, Bedstemor. 
The Annandale community is very supportive of this teenage food entrepreneur, providing opportunities to showcase his baking skills. A local catering company asked Rasmus to bake and donate some cakes and pies for a school's All Night Grad Party fundraiser. The Annandale Advocate newspaper featured a story about the fundraiser and Ramus's
 cakes. Tom Westman,known for his Papa Tom's caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, and cookies, read the article and asked Rasmus take over his Farmers' Market business. Tom mentors Rasmus and has generously shared both his equipment, recipes, tips, and advice to help him be successful. In addition, Pastry chef, Sandy Holthaus and Rasmus baked enough desserts to feed 300 people at the Annandale's Field to Feast community meal featuring local foods in August 2018.

You will find Ramus at the Annandale Farmers' Market every Saturday from 8 to noon. He sells caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, traditional Danish rye bread (eaten by nearly every Dane every day) and traditional Danish rum balls. Get there early, his best sellers, Papa Tom's caramel rolls, sell fast. 

The Danish Baker has implemented safe food handling practices to keep his cottage food safe. Rasmus stores all ingredients in airtight tubs. He has implemented foodborne illnesses prevention practices taught at the University of Minnesota Extension cottage food training. He does not make any products with tree nuts as he doesn't want to risk cross-contamination for customers allergic to tree nuts. 
This young baker developed his business from designing the logo to procuring affordable equipment and ingredients to record keeping. All of this hard work is rewarded by seeing people enjoy the food he prepares. 

Just Curious explores topics cottage food producers wonder about.

pH testing: Why, when and how 

Acidified products like salsa, pickles and fermented products control the acidity lev el to prevent microbial growth. If you make these products, you must verify that that each batch--even if you used a research tested recipe-has a pH reading of ≤4.6. The lower the better. 

Use a pH meter and test 1 jar per batch 24 hours after canning or processing the product. Test the pH of fermented products when fermentation is completed. Document results using this form or another method.  

A batch is each mixture. For pickles, as an example, each pot of brine is considered a batch. Let's say, you make a brine and add the brine to 9 pints of cucumbers. You seal the jar and process them in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. This is one batch. Of the 9 pints, you would test the pH of 1 jar, 24 hours after canning it.

Learn more about pH testing:


Cottage Food Producer Food Safety Training
The University of Minnesota Extension offers online or in-person courses for cottage food producers. Both the online and in-person training satisfy the advanced tier 2 training requirement. However, it's a great course for anyone starting or considering cottage food production. Registration information here

Find cottage food questions asked and answered. 
  • Cottage Food Q & A blog. University of Minnesota Extension. View here
  • Cottage Food Guidance and FAQs. Minnesota Department of Agriculture. View here
Cottage Food Resource Hub
We've compiled a list of handy resources for cottage food producers. Find links and recommended resources to assist or grow your cottage food business. View here


Interested in being featured in the Producer Spotlight? Have a favorite resource to share? Curious about something? Let me know at .

© 2018 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Direct requests to 612-624-0772.