Cottage food measures passes in House
DENVER — A bill to legalize the sale of homemade food cleared its last hurdle in the Colorado General Assembly on Monday and now awaits Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature to become law….
DENVER — A bill to legalize the sale of homemade food cleared its last hurdle in the Colorado General Assembly on Monday and now awaits Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature to become law.
Before passing SB48 on a 53-12 vote, the House reinstated a $5,000 per-product cap that had been stripped out by a House committee.
“The cap was critical,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose. “I know there are differing opinions about that, but it really fits with the spirit of the bill.”
Current law requires food to be prepared in a commercial kitchen and vendors must have a retail food license. Under SB48, foods prepared in home kitchens may be sold, provided the producer takes a class on the safe handling of food, no single product generates more than $5,000 and the products are not acidic and do not contain meat or dairy or need refrigeration.
That rules out the homemade burritos often sold by wandering vendors carrying coolers around Pueblo and elsewhere throughout the state, unless they are prepared in commercial kitchens and licensed to sell retail foods, Schwartz said.
Items that could be sold under SB48 include canning (except for acidic foods such as pickles), baked goods, jams and jellies. Farmers favored the bill as a way to turn a profit on produce that isn’t fit for direct sale.
One contentious aspect of the bill was the limit on earnings for each product. Those who favored eliminating it said selling some food items, such as wedding cakes, quickly puts them at the $5,000.
Schwartz said the cap was necessary to keep stakeholder groups on board with the bill and to maintain its spirit as a means for small operations to get a foot in the door of the food business at farmers’ markets and the like.
Last year, a similar proposal that Schwartz sponsored died amid opposition from health departments that did not want to regulate private kitchens, large farming constituencies and the restaurant lobby that represents brick-and-mortar bakeries, among others.
This year’s proposal spoke to each of those concerns. It does not require registration with health departments, but instead requires explicit labeling so consumers are aware that the food they are buying was made in an uninspected home kitchen.
“I’ve been invested in this for a long time,” Schwartz said. “I’m a canner. Hundreds of producers have developed this bill with me over the past two years. Let’s start this concept and gain the public’s confidence.”
Another piece of legislation making its way through the Legislature, HB1027 sponsored by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Colbrann, would legalize the sale of homemade baked goods, but it would require producers to register with health departments and it has no cap on how much producers can earn.
The House already has passed HB1027. Next it faces a hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee chaired by Schwartz.
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