By Kristin Woods, ACES Regional Extension Agent
Locally grown and produced food is becoming more and more popular across Alabama. Farmers markets have provided small food producers and home processors greater economic opportunity. Because of the costs of meeting food regulations, in many cases the markets have provided the only venue available to a small producer. They provide an outlet for products and assistance with infrastructure and advertising.
In the last 10 years, the number of farmers markets nationwide has more than doubled. The demand has led many processors to wish to expand operations by starting a business out of their home, a cottage food business. According to a recent survey conducted by ATKearney, 30% of shoppers will switch stores to find more local food products. In an at- tempt to capture some of the locavore market, even the mega retailer, Wal-Mart, has plans to in- crease local produce offerings to 9% by the year 2015.
While some may be disappointed that the new Alabama law does not allow for the sale of more items, or more sales venues, setting standards that preserve public health while allowing for economic prosperity is a difficult task for our legislators and public health officials. Alabama’s Cottage Food Law (SB 159) opens the door for small food business expansion without compromising public health. Before the passage of the SB 159, non-hazardous foods could only be sold at state sanctioned farmers markets, as well as, special events such as charitable, religious, civic, or a not-for-profit organization’s food sale. SB 159 goes into effect June 1 and allows for the sale of non- hazardous foods from a person’s home. Some of the items that may be sold include:
* Baked goods, such as cakes and pies that do not need refrigeration. This includes wedding cakes and character cakes for birthdays and holidays.
* Canned jam and jelly. With fancy packaging, these make fabulous gifts.
* Dried herb mixes. This is a great thing to also have for sale at a farmers market that sells meat.
* Candy. Easy to make, store, and great for holidays.
The law stipulates that only non -hazardous foods may be sold out of the home, so no meat, fish, low acid, or acidified foods. The law also does not allow internet sales. A small business owner wishing to operate under this new rule must take a food safety course, such as ServSafe, and register with the county Department of Public Health. There is no fee for registration.
For more information about operating under the new law, contact Regional Extension Agent, Kristin Woods, at (251) 753-1164 or [email protected] or your county Extension office. If you would like to read the bill for yourself, the specifics can be found at http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/searchableinstruments/2014rs/bills/sb159.htm.