Will Massachusetts Make Life Sweeter for Home-Cook Entrepreneurs?
Massachusetts lawmakers may soon blow up what is currently one of the nation’s worst cottage food laws.
Uyterhoeven and other supporters have pitched the bill as a COVID-19 recovery measure, a way to help out-of-work chefs, immigrants, stay-at-home parents, and others get back on their feet, WHDH reports. It’s all that and a bag of chips!
As I detail in my book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable and elsewhere, cottage food laws are laws that allow home cooks to produce and sell certain homemade foods—typically low-risk foods such as many baked goods, spice blends, teas, and jams—from their homes, at farmers markets, online, and at other venues. As I’ve noted time and again, cases in which homemade foods sold to consumers have sickened people–even in states that allow more high-risk foods such as cheesecake or sauerkraut—are difficult or impossible to find.
Though every state now has a cottage food law, these laws vary dramatically in quality. That’s why—as I noted in a September column in which I detailed a host of recent improvements to several cottage food laws around the country—I’m currently working on a study for the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes Reason) comparing state cottage food laws (along with other, more expansive laws governing the sale of homemade foods) in all fifty states.
In Massachusetts, entrepreneurs who want to produce and sell food from their home kitchens first must navigate a host of procedural challenges. First, their local government must allow cottage food sales. In Massachusetts, many municipalities do not. In remarks earlier this month before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Uyterhoeven told fellow lawmakers that the lack of preemption has meant that “hundreds of municipalities” not only don’t have any cottage food producers within their borders, they “don’t even have a permitting process for cottage foods.”
Increasingly, lawmakers around the country have passed cottage food laws that have failed to fulfill their promise—often because they’ve been undermined by intransigent local health departments. These lawmakers are realizing the error
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