Saturday, January 28, 2012

Help! Texas Cottage Food Bill Threatened

Texas bakers need our help.

The Texas Cottage Food Bill passed in 2011. This law permits home bakers to sell certain goods from their homes. Yaay! Now the Texas Department of State Health Services is adding regulations that are not only onerous but ludicrous.

Dallas Observer has the full scoop.
Now, however, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is proposing a new rules that specifically address the labeling aspect of this law. The original text in Senate Bill 81 required bakers to label packaging with their name, address and a statement that the product was baked in a home kitchen that was not inspected by a health department.

The proposed new rules by the DSHS requires more specific information be added to labels.

For example, every ingredient must be listed by weight in descending order, including food coloring and preservatives. They also pulled from FDA guidelines that "allergen labeling in compliance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004" must be added. The rules would also require the net weight of all products be listed on a separate label. Guidelines for the type of ink, font and size are also listed.

The type of ink, font and size? How very conservative. And when was the last time you saw such detailed labels served with a croissant from Sweetish Hill or a Starbuck's muffin?

It's got to be ... objectionable... when both advocates and lawmakers who proposed the new law are appalled:
"These proposed rules are burdensome, unnecessary," Kelly Masters said. "And really, if I didn't know better, I would say that they are intended to scare home bakers away from operating a home business."

Rep. Kolkhorst has similar concerns. "The regulations should only go as far as needed without smothering start-ups or throwing up new barriers for small businesses. There's a fine line between the agency protecting public health and going so unreasonably far as to prevent small home businesses from even competing in the marketplace. "

Here's what how we can help.
Comments on the proposed new rule may be submitted to Cheryl Wilson, Food Establishments Group, Policy, Standards and Quality Assurance Unit, Division of Regulatory Services, Environmental and Consumer Safety Section, Department of State Health Services, Mail Code 1987, P. O. Box 149347, Austin, Texas 78714-9347, (512) 834-6770, extension 2053, or by email to Comments will be accepted for 30 days following publication of the proposal in the Texas Register.

Advocates who fought their baking hearts out to get the bills passed  have written a sample letter to help us articulate the outrage. Email works as well as snail mail. Phone calls do not get counted.

Oh one more thing:
The Food Establishments Group is holding a public hearing for the proposed rules regarding Cottage Food Production Operations on February 2, 2012. The public hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Room K-100 on the DSHS main campus. This is an opportunity for the public to make comments on the rules prior to final adoption.

DSHS Central Campus
1100 West 49th Street
Lecture Hall K-100
Austin, Texas 78756

Need I say more?

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