In recent years consumers have become increasingly interested in buying locally grown food. This trend has been driven by various reasons including the perception that local foods are more nutritious and taste better, the desire to support the local economy, or because they feel that buying locally is better for the planet. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), local food sales, including farmers markets and cottage-food sales, nationally have grown from $5 billion annually in 2009 to a projected $20 billion by 2019. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reported a 42% increase in Farmers Markets from 2010 to 2017. Farmers Markets are popular venues for selling Cottage foods.
Cottage food products are made in home kitchens, rather than in commercial kitchens, and are an economical avenue for entrepreneurs to start a food business on a small scale. Cottage food operators must abide by applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations. Cottage food laws and regulations do vary by state.
During the 2020 session, the Mississippi Legislature amended the law pertaining to cottage food operations “To increase the maximum annual gross sales for a cottage food operation from twenty thousand dollars to thirty-five thousand dollars to be exempt from food establishment permit fees; to authorize a cottage food operation to advertise cottage food products over the internet, including through social media; and for related purposes.” These amendments took effect on July 1, 2020. Other requirements in the law which were not amended during the 2020 legislative session, remain the same.
As a general rule, the regulatory agency responsible for enforcing laws writes the regulations and guidelines for laws passed by the legislature. In Mississippi, the Mississippi State Department of Health is the regulatory agency responsible for providing regulations and guidelines for cottage food products. These regulations and guidelines are based on current laws and are very specific. Although the new law and regulations for Mississippi allow cottage food operators to advertise their products on the internet, the actual sale of the product must be directly from the producer to the consumer. Not all food products may be sold as cottage food products. Foods allowed must be non-potentially hazardous foods that do not require time or temperature controls for safety and that do not require refrigeration, even after opening. Cottage food products must be prepackaged with a label containing the following information:
- Name and address of the cottage food operation
- Name of the cottage food product
- Ingredients and sub-ingredients listed in descending order or predominance by weight
- Allergen information required by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) federal labeling requirements
- The net weight or net volume of the cottage food product
- The following statement in at least a 10-point font: “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Mississippi’s food safety regulations.”
If any claims are made such as nutritional claims or claims to be organic, then additional federal label requirements may apply as well.
In conclusion, the consumer desire to purchase and eat more locally and regionally grown foods has boosted the cottage food industry, given more options to consumers, and provided a boost to local agriculture. Cottage food owners must be informed and follow all local, state, and federal regulations related to their business in order to protect themselves and their customers.
For regulatory questions related to cottage foods, contact the Mississippi State Board of Health or your local health department. MSU Extension has a newly revised publication, Food as a Business – Mississippi Cottage Food Operations: Regulations and Guidance (Publication 3286), that provides detailed information regarding approved and unapproved foods for cottage foods as well as information on personal hygiene, food safety, food labels, and record keeping. Additional resources and references are provided below.
For Questions or For More Information:
Mississippi State Department of Health, Food Protection Division, Jackson, MS. (Phone: 866-458-4948 or on the Web at https://MSDH.ms.gov)
Pontotoc County Health Department, Pontotoc, MS (Phone: 662-489-1241)
References and Resources:
Mississippi State Department of Health. (2020). Cottage Food Operation: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/5375.pdf
MSU Extension Food as a Business YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcsMfvZcatRBzXXr9jFSOmA?view_as=subscriber
MSU Extension (2020). Food as a Business – Mississippi Cottage Food Operations: Regulations and Guidance (Publication 3286). Retrieved from: http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/mississippi-cottage-food-operations-regulations-and-guidance
Mississippi Legislature Senate Bill No. 326. (2020). Cottage food operation; increase maximum annual gross sales to $35,000.00 and authorize to advertise over the Internet. Retrieved from: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2020/pdf/HB/0300-0399/HB0326SG.pdf
National Center for Home Food Preservation (https://ncpfp.uga.edu)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Food and Drug Administration. (2018). Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-allergensgluten-free-guidance-documents-regulatory-information/food-allergen-labeling-and-consumer-protection-act-2004-questions-and-answers
US Food & Drug Administration (2006) Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding Food Allergens (Edition 4). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/allergens/ucm059116.htm