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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Illinois Cottage Food Operations Act of 2011

Posted by Sarah Navrotski -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

This topic is not exactly a typical one that you would expect to hear from me, yet involves foods we eat every day and many of us grow every year so it loosely fits. One of the many new laws in Illinois is the Cottage Food Operations Act that Governor Quinn signed last August at the State Fair and became law on January 1, 2012. This is a bill that will change the way homemade food is sold at the Farmers Markets in Illinois. This new law provides an opportunity to supplement household incomes by those families, who would like to sell their baked goods and jams, preserves and jellies at Farmers Markets. The Act has relaxed a lot of the paperwork, rules and regulations. The Act does limit the kinds of home prepared goods by limiting them to a list of lower risk foods. This list also included some of the fruit butters, but not all of them. Baked goods include breads, cookies, cakes and pastries. Fruit pies are included, but as noted already with fruit butters, not all fruit pies are allowed and there is a list of a variety of pies that cannot be sold at through this act. Dried foods like dried herbs, herb blends and dry tea blends and be sold as well.

Even though some rules have been relaxed, there are plenty of others that remain in place. Labels will need to be on all products, even if it is clear to the purchaser what the product is. That label will also need to contain all the ingredients and for all those with allergies, a statement that the product may contain allergens has to be there too. With all the food pathogens being discovered worldwide and the ease of spreading that food pathogen today, how products will be preserved, cooked, baked and canned will have to definitely be modified in order to ensure a wholesome safe product.

Other bits and pieces include being registered with the local health authority and perhaps the biggest rung on the ladder to climb is that the operator will need to complete an Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification. Before the Farmers Market season gets here, local health authorities will have all the necessary paperwork available. The University Extension Service will also have a web site up that will simply and clearly help anyone through the process by early / mid spring.

What if you have a great recipe for a food that does not fall into the allowed products and not on the not allowed list and you absolutely want to sell it? With appropriate food testing at an approved food laboratory, you still can "have your cake and eat it too"

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