Cottage Food Connection
Cottage Food Connection
Enews for Minnesota Cottage Food Producers

Driessen and Brandt receive national food safety award
Suzanne Driessen, NEAFCS President Karen Munden, Kathy Brandt

Suzanne Driessen and Kathy Brandt, University of Minnesota Extension educators, recently were presented the First Place National Food Safety Award from the National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences. The award recognized the Cottage Food: Keep it Safe! Keep it Legal! program as outstanding, innovative programming showing significant impact on families and individuals involved in food preparation. The Cottage Food: Keep it Safe! Keep it Legal! program has educated 757 Minnesota cottage food producers (475 class participants and 282 online course participants). The success of the program has resulted in media interviews and invitations to speak at conferences and webinars. An additional 500 cottage food producers, farmers' market managers and regulators were trained at conferences and via webinars. A new and improved online version was just released on September 1, 2019. 

In-person cottage food producer training, Saturday, December 7, St. Cloud 
Do you want to take the Cottage Food Producer Food Safety Training in person? If so, register today for the upcoming class scheduled for Saturday, December 7, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., in St. Cloud. It's the last class of 2019 and will meet the renewal requirement for those who have been registered for three years, those moving to Tier 2 or those interested in learning more about cottage food. The 2020 schedule will be available early December.  

Save the date!
Put it on your calendar and attend the 2nd Annual Minnesota Cottage Food Producer Conference, Jan. 22, 2020, at the University of Minnesota Robert J. Jones Urban Resear ch and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC), Minneapolis. Watch for details on this opportunity to learn, grow and network with other cottage food producers. 

Follow up survey to be sent next week
Please keep an eye for a follow up survey to be sent next week for those of you who took the online or in-person classes in the last 2 years. Your responses are important to help us identify the longer term impact of the Cottage Food Producer course and to continue improving it. If you receive a request to complete the survey, we thank you in advance for your participation!


Canned cakes and breads in jars - are they safe?

It's a busy season for the cottage food producers who are bakers. Baking and gift giving go hand-in-hand. Bakers are often on the lookout for unique recipes and ideas to share with their customers. With social media and search engines there are unending sources of information - some good, some not. One to call to your attention is for cakes and quick breads 'canned' in a jar. It sounds easy. Mix up the batter, pour into jars, bake, seal with a lid and simply add a decorative bow. You have a yummy, unique gift. But is it safe? Is it an allowable cottage food?

The answer is no, this is not safe nor allowable as a MN cottage food. Canned breads and cakes are typically made by pouring batter into glass canning jars and baking them in the oven. Once the cake or bread is done, the steaming jars are taken out of the oven and then sealed with a lid and cooled to create a vacuum. Many recipes claim that they can be stored without refrigeration for about a year. Some say they will keep indefinitely.

Here's the reason for concern. Many cakes and quick bread recipes are high in moisture and have little to no acid resulting in a pH range above 4.6. (What's the allowable pH range under the MN Cottage Food Law?). The baking process is not canning since there is no further heat treatment or kill step to bring the product to a temperature that will destroy pathogenic microorganisms that cause foodborne illnesses. Low acid canned foods must be processed to 240°F or higher in a pressure canner to destroy heat resistant spores. In this case we're talking about the bacterium called Clostridium botulinum (botulism). If spores of this bacteria are allowed to germinate and grow, deadly botulism toxin is produced. Botulism can cause life-threatening illness or death. There are reported cases each year of individuals who encountered botulism poisoning through improper canning practices.

Bottom line - given the conditions of high moisture, pH above 4.6 (low acid) and no refrigeration, the growth of Clostridium botulinum toxin has ideal conditions for growth in the jars of cake and bread. According to research at Penn State University, there are no reliable or safe recipes for baking and sealing breads and cakes in canning jars, and storing them at room temperature for extended lengths of time.

Additionally, consider the fact that canning jars are intended for use in hot water baths or pressure canners not for the thermal stresses of dry oven heat. Broken glass from canning jars creates a risk for consumers to be injured.

Heads up! Sesame allergen labeling may be required

Sesame seeds. We think of the tiny, pale seeds on top of a burger bun that add texture and flavor. Sesame is used as an ingredient in many foods and research indicates an increasing prevalence of sesame allergies. Since October 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested comments/input/research, about adding sesame to the required list of major food allergens. To date, nearly 5,000 responses have been received and indicate overwhelmingly in favor of the change.

FDA has not yet made a decision on sesame allergen labeling. We will
inform you once a decision is made. Depending on ingredients that you use in your cottage food products, you may need to update the product labels.

If interested in learning more about sesame and allergies, check these resources:

Prevalence and Severity of Sesame Allergy in the United States. Christopher M. Warren, PhD1; Avneet S. Chadha, BS1; Scott H. Sicherer, MD2; et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(8):e199144. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.9144.

How to read a label for a sesame-free diet. Food Allergy Researh and Education (FARE), 2015.
I have a current registration and want to re-register (renew) for next year. How do I do that? 

All cottage food producers are required to re-register/renew every year. If you have a 2018 registration you will receive a re-registration/renewal reminder from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in the mail towards the end of the year. You have two options: (1) complete a paper registration form or (2) re-register/renew online following the instructions and using the PIN provided in the re-registration notice. The online re-registration portal also accepts payment of any registration fees that are owed.
To review the registration process, training requirements and find links/info for both renewal options, refer to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Cottage Food Producer pages.

How do I check if someone is registered as a cottage food producer?  

All current cottage food registrations can be found on the MDA license lookup page. Fill in the desired search terms (registration number, name, city, or county) and select "COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCER REGISTRATION" in the License Type list.


Sarah Williams 
Sugar 'n Spice 'n Everything Nice 

Sarah Williams dreamed of having a baking business but didn't know if it was possible. After finding out about the Minnesota cottage food law, she realized she could make her dream come true by using her home kitchen for her business. That's when Sugar 'n Spice 'n Everything Nice bakery was born.

With a family to take care of, Sarah appreciates the flexibility of working at home. She bakes during the day but can finish up after her kids are sleeping in the evening.

Learning how to run a business is challenging. Sarah admits she's just starting to understand laws about sales tax and wishes she had learned more before she started. Thankfully, Sarah's husband is helping and they are learning together.

Sara h has found word of mouth to be the best marketing. Most of h er customers are friends and acquaintances who come to pick up their orders from her home. On pick-up, she has the orders packaged in cake boxes and cello bags that she buys. They are also labeled with the required information - cake ingredients, frosting ingredients, filling ingredients, business information and the date the food was produced. Sarah has found it easiest to use multiple labels.

Through cottage food training, Sarah learned a lot about food safety. She washes her hands often, wears gloves when handling finished, "ready to eat" products and makes sure to clean and sanitize her work surfaces often. If she has questions, she often uses the Minnesota cottage food producers Facebook page to get answers.

Customers love Sarah's cupcakes, cakes and custom decorated sugar cookies. She finds it rewarding when customers let her know that her cakes and cookies are beautiful and taste good. This praise keeps her going. Sarah's products really are Sugar 'n Spice 'n Everything Nice.


Are you in need of food safety training? The new and improved cottage food producer advanced food safety online course meets that need!

In the last newsletter we told you that the Cottage Food Producer Advanced Food Safety online course is new and improved! If you need food safety training to meet the every three year training requirement, this course satisfies that whether you're a Tier 1 or Tier 2 cottage food producer. Remember, training is required every 3 years for both tiers. University of Minnesota Extension food safety provides both online and in-person training. The in-person class schedule will be available early December on the website.
Do's and Don'ts of candy making

Are you a candy maker? Here are a couple of resources to check out before you make your first batch of deliciousness:

How to substitute honey for sugar in baked goods

Are you  thinking about substituting honey for sugar in baked products? Check this resource -

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

Written by Kathy Brandt, Extension Food Safety Educator; peer reviewed by Suzanne Driessen, Extension Food Safety Educator; designed and edited by Lisa Haro, Executive Office and Administrative Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension.

© 2019 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.