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Out of the Cookie Shadows, A Cottage Baking Industry Emerges

November 26, 2018

Emmy Stallings of Oakdale loves that she’s able to work from home and set her own schedule.

The mother of three young children is one of the first 37 home bakers to receive a license under Connecticut’s new Cottage Food Law, which went into effect on Oct. 1.

For a $50 annual licensing fee, Stallings and others are allowed to sell what they cook in their home kitchens directly to consumers at events such as farmers markets or local fairs and festivals.

Stallings, who owns The Cookie Nook, said aside from spreading the joy of decorated cookies, her kids are also proud to say their mom is “The Cookie Nook.”

The driving force behind Connecticut’s Cottage Food law was outgoing state Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, who saw it as a way for residents like Stallings to generate additional income doing something they love.

It wasn’t easy. Connecticut struggled for years to create a cottage food law.

After an unsuccessful attempt in 2013, it looked as if legislation in 2015 provided a path forward, but the rules were never finalized. Then earlier this year those Cottage Food industry rules became part of an omnibus consumer protection bill. The measure passed the Senate unanimously and the House 142-8.

“With this bill and the legislation we passed three years ago, we now have law on the books that sensibly lowers the barrier for home producers, in order that they may bring their products to market,” Ziobron said when the bill was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in June.

The process by which the law passed means there was little, if any debate about the legislation. It also means there will now need to be a push to educate the public about the industry.

There are several rules that cottage food producers must follow.

Cottage food products must be pre-packaged and labeled with the baker’s name and physical address. They also must include the name of the product, and the ingredients in descending order by weight along with any allergen information. Somewhere on the package it must say “Made in a Cottage Food Operation that is not Subject to Routine Government Food Safety Inspection.”

There are a number of items that are not allowed to be produced under a cottage food license because they are considered dangerous. No low acid canned foods, garlic in oil, fresh fruit or vegetable juices, dehydrated meat, fruit butters or beverages are allowed under the license.

Also, pets, infants, or children under age 12 are prohibited from being in the kitchen during the preparation, packaging, or handling of any cottage food products.

The Department of Consumer Protection is also able to come inspect a home kitchen to ensure compliance with the laws.

The two-page application asks cottage food producers to specify what types of products will be produced and the production method to ensure safety.

Meredith Newman of Meredith Lee Events was the 36th resident to get her Connecticut Cottage Food license.

She said baking has always been her passion and the new law made it easy for her to apply.

She said it’s too expensive to rent space in a commercial kitchen and she was never one for being a law breaker, so she was excited to be stepping “out of the cookie shadows.”

Under the new law, a cottage food operator must attend a food safety training program that includes training in food processing and packaging before obtaining a license.

Newman, who is now able to sell everything from cakes to tarts and experiments with vegan and gluten free options, said she paid $15 to take a course online.

She said she’s on public water in Hartford so the approval process for the license took less than a month.

Aside from the 37 licenses that have been granted there are 15 applications pending, according to the Department of Consumer Protection.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that 100 licenses will be issued in the first year and up to 500 licenses once the program is in full operation.

Under Connecticut’s law, cottage food producers are not allowed to have annual gross sales over $25,000 a year.

This story may have been modified from its original version. See the original at ctnewsjunkie.com.

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