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

Cottage Food Conference, January 18, 2019-Plan to Attend! 

Mark your calendar for the  Cottage Food Conference , River's Edge Convention Center, St. Cloud on January 18, 2019. This daylong conference will focus on current topics of labeling, tax laws, insurance, as well as educational sessions, trade show and more. The details are under-construction and will be shared soon. This is Day 2 of the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Minnesota Farmers' Market Association Conferences, January 17 and 18, 2019.

Double Dog Kombucha - What? 

Lee Vang, food entrepreneur and registered cottage food producer who participated in University of Minnesota Extension food safety training, shares how he assures that the product he makes, Double Dog Kombucha, is safe. See the story  here .


Labeling ingredients 

Your ingredient list is an important communication tool for your customers to inform them what is in your product. Labeling can be confusing as evidenced by over 250 posts about labeling on the MN Registered Cottage Food Producers Group Facebook page. Let's look at some common questions about labeling cottage food products.

Packaged vs. unpackaged items
All packaged foods must include an ingredient list on the label. Examples include but not limited to: wrapped caramels, jar of jelly, bag of dried herbs, bread wrapped in plastic wrap, cupcakes in a box or plastic cavity container, etc. If you sell individual, unwrapped items from a display case, for example, the ingredient list needs to be available for your customers. You do not have to provide the label to the customer for unpackaged items but have it available to give to them upon request.
Multiple flavors
If you sell variety packs of products with different flavors, list each flavor and its ingredients separately in descending order of predominance (from most to least by weight). Yes, you may be listing flour a dozen times but flavors differ for each product you make.
Example of MN Cottage Food label provided by Karen K Peterson

Multiple layers
Here's a way you can list ingredients
in multi layere d items like cakes and cupcakes:
Frosting: XXXXXXXXX 
Decorations: XXXXXXXXX
For each item, list in order from most to least.
Order of ingredients
List ingredients in descending order by weight. List the ingredient you use the most of first, the least last. For example, if you use more flour by weight than butter, then flour would go first.
Though not specified in the law as a requirement to be included, it is recommended that sub-ingredients be listed so customers know what they are getting. When sub-ingredients contain food allergens, they are required to be listed because of the food allergen labeling law. The requirements for food allergen labeling appear at the end of this section.
To label sub-ingredients, list all ingredients containing two or more items. For example, list ingredients in unsalted butter as Karen has in her label; unsalted butter (pasteurized cream, natural flavorings). You are copying the ingredient label from the ingredient(s) you used in your product(s) onto your ingredient label. Be sure to list the function of any chemical preservative such as "preservative" "to retard spoilage" "to promote color retention."
Spices, natural flavors and artificial flavors may be declared as "spices," "flavor" or "natural flavor" and "artificial flavor." However, paprika, turmeric and saffron are color as well as spices and must be declared as "spice and coloring." Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried or dehydrated onions and garlic are not considered spices and need to be listed by name in the ingredient list.
In current FDA regulation, you can put 36 different ingredients in a product and call it "spices". These spices include:

Bay Leave
Caraway Seed
Celery Seed
Coriander Seed
Cumin Seed
Dill Seed
Fennel Seed
Mustard Seed
Mustard Flour
Parsley Leaves
Pepper, Black
Pepper, Red
Pepper, White
Star Aniseed

While it is legal to include a blanket statement "spices," consider someone who is allergic to cinnamon or another spice in your product. For full disclosure, why not list each spice ingredient, "spices (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg)." 

Listing of ingredients 2% or less
The descending order of predominance requirements does not apply to ingredients present in amounts of 2% or less by weight. List these ingredients at the end of the ingredient statement, e.g., "Contains __ percent or less of _" or "Less than _ percent of __." Fill in the percentage with a threshold level of 2 percent, or, if desired, 1.5 percent, 1.0 percent, or 0.5 percent, as appropriate. No ingredient may be present in an amount greater than the stated threshold.

Labeling Requirements for Food Allergens
A food allergy occurs when the body mistakenly reacts to a certain food or ingredient as if it is harmful. The food that causes the reaction is called a food allergen. Food allergy reactions can be mild to severe and can cause death.
The most common foods that cause allergic reactions are referred to as the "major food allergens." These eight categories of food are required to be included on all food labels. The major food allergens include milk, wheat, egg, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and Crustacean shellfish. For tree nuts, fish and Crustacean shellfish, the specific type of nut or fish must be listed. Tree nut examples could include almond, Brazil nut, cashew, macadamia nut, pecan, pine nut, pistachio, and walnut, to name a few. Be sure to know the major food allergen ingredients in your products and list them on the label.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004, requires all food labels that contain any of the major food allergens appear in plain language on the product label. The food ingredient MUST be in the ingredient list or listed after the ingredient list by stating product "Contains" the particular allergen.

1. Parenthetical statement in the list of ingredients
Example: "all-purpose flour (Wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid)"

2. "Contains" followed by the name
Example: "Contains: wheat, soy, walnuts, egg" 
The Confections by Karen label for Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes includes both methods. She listed sub-ingredients in parenthesis that show allergens. Additionally, Karen chose to use the word "Allergens" followed by listing the major allergens found in the cupcakes rather than the word "Contains." This is an acceptable way to call out the major allergens.

Dawn Olson-Wallerus
Sugar & Spice Custom Cakery 

An awesome baker and decorator describes Dawn Olson-Wallerus, owner of  Sugar and Spice Custom Cakery of Maple Grove. Dawn specializes in customized cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and decorated sugar cookies, all made from scratch in her home-based cottage food business. Meticulous attention to detail allows her to create unique, one-of-a-kind, edible pieces of art. Specialty techniques include hand painting, hand sculpting and custom designed keepsake toppers. 
Seeing the look on customers faces when going from a concept drawing of the cake to the actual completed cake is the most rewarding part for Dawn. Their eyes are in a state of amazement and joyful customers exclaim, "I really can't believe you were able to capture my vision." Hearing customer feedback after the event melts Dawn's heart and inspires her to keep going. Feedback like: "not only did it look outstanding, it tasted even better!" One customer wrote, "I had a custom cake made for my mom's retirement party. It was delicious! It looked very cute. I would definitely use Dawn again." Dawn takes great pride in her work; to have customers validate that means the world to her. 

With almos t 20 years' experience in the industry, Dawn worked at several local bakeries, custom cake shops and did freelancing. Not seeing the opportunity to grow and exce l within those environments, she knew deep down that owning her own business was her ultimate goal. Starting small and establishing a home-based business seemed like the best place to start. That's what got her interested in cottage food. She is building a st rong clientele base, getting solid reviews and saving some money before jumping into a more risky brick-n-mortar business.
Dawn has implemented many safe food-handling practices in her business such as storing ingredients (flour, sugar) in labeled, sealed air-tight containers, using designated baking and decorating tools for business-use only, cleaning and sanitizing her work areas and washing her hands more than what the industry standard requires. She sells her products from her home or delivers for a fee.
Check out Dawn's website for more details about Sugar and Spice Custom Cakery
As a cottage food producer, how often do I need training?

All individuals must take a Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) approved training before registering and selling food; and must retrain every three years. If you took your first training in 2015, then you will need to re-train before registering in 2019. MDA and the University of Minnesota Extension food safety team collaborate to offer in-person and online food safety training.  

Here are the approved training options:

1) Only Tier 1 producers, take the MDA online course 

2) For Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers, take the in-person class through University of Minnesota Extension food safety program

3) For Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers, take the online course through University of Minnesota Extension food safety program

Remember, all individuals must register with MDA befo re se lling cottage foods. This includes all vendors in Minnesota who sell these non-potentially hazardous (NPH) foods at farmers' markets, community events, and from home. The registration is valid for one calendar year, January 1 - December 31.

Since I am a MN Certified Food Manager, do I need to take the Cottage Food Producer Food Safety Training?

Yes you do. The certified food manager course is not accepted by MDA because it does not cover the specifics of the Cottage Food Law.

Safe Food Sampling for Farmers Market Vendors 

Offering samples of your cottage foods is a great way to promote your products. The 2014 Safe Food Sampling Law (Minnesota Statute 28A.151) allows farmers' market and
community event vendors to offer samples. You do not need a food license, however, you must follow Minnesota food code requirements for Special Event Food Stands (4626.1855, B- o and Q and R).
If you are interested in learning more about food sampling, check out this free training resource.

Home Baking Association 

The Home Baking Association promotes home baking by providing tools and knowledge to carry on generations of home bakers. There are many valuable resources for you to use in your home and cottage food business. Check it out here.


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

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