It makes sense to have rules regarding the sale of cottage foods. During the last legislative session the law was expanded to include direct-to-consumer sales of largely baked goods and canned items, including refrigerated foods such as kuchen and lemon meringue pie.
To the frustration of some producing cottage foods the rule-making process for the law continues. Julie Wagendorf, director of the state health department's Division of Food and Lodging, said a public comment period on draft rules will be scheduled soon.
"You don't necessarily always need administrative rules for every law, but in this case, it's necessary to further define those terms within the cottage food product definition," Wagendorf told reporter Jack Dura.
The law doesn’t require a license, specify labeling or mandate kitchen inspections. The state health department, however, can investigate complaints of illness. There have been cases in the past where people have become ill after eating catered food prepared in a private home and delivered to an event. So it’s possible problems could arise with cottage foods. The rules being considered aren’t intended to stop the preparation of cottage foods, but to ensure safety.
Some in the cottage food industry fear the rules that are developed will be too restrictive.
Sen. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden, who was on the committee that developed the Food Freedom Act, thinks all parties involved should be willing to sit down and discuss the administrative rules.
The majority of people involved in preparing cottage foods take sanitary precautions. The Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health offers a general food safety training about every quarter. There also are online safety courses available to those interested. Many cottage food producers get involved in these courses.
It just takes one person to make a mistake or get careless and then there can be problems. Unfortunately, if people become ill that’s what is remembered.
BisMarket, a farmers market in Bismarck, is developing a list of frequently asked questions for consumers so they can learn about cottage foods. The questions help them decide whether they want to purchase the products.
The cottage food industry provides some delightful choices to consumers that aren’t available in stores. There are some homemade foods that can’t be duplicated in stores. That’s what makes going to farmers markets and other places that offer cottage foods so much fun. It’s a chance to try new foods with different tastes.
The Tribune would like to see the cottage food industry grow. One way to help it expand is to make it as safe as possible. When people have faith in the product they will buy it. That’s why everyone should work together to develop the rules as quickly as possible.