Texas Senate considering a law to change the way home bakers operate their businesses

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemBusinessPoliticsLois KolkhorstJane Nelson

Friends, relatives and customers of area bakers came together Saturday at the Frisco Chamber of Commerce to provide support and take in some tasty treats. DFW Sweets Owner, Debbie Viverito hosted the party. Debbie is a home baker who operates her business from her Frisco residence. Hers is a home-grown idea that fulfills Debbie's passion for baking, and provides income for her family thanks to the Texas Senate Bill 81 which made it legal in the state of Texas to have such a business. The law allows Texans to bake and sell items from home also known as the Texas Cottage Food Law, written by Senator Jane Nelson and sponsored by Representative Lois Kolkhorst. It became effective on September 1, 2011.
     However, this law is already being threatened by regulation under the Department of State Health Services. The bill is very specific in its list of items considered "non-potentially hazardous baked goods" which includes: cookies, cakes, breads, donuts, pastries, pies, and other items prepared by oven baking. It also includes canned jams, jellies, dry mixes such as dips and seasonings. Income limitations under Senate Bill 81, restricts home bakers to making under $50,000 per year.  Currently, the law requires that baked goods must be labeled with the name and address of origin and clearly communicate that these are home baked items allowing the consumer to know there was not a health department inspection.

Here are specific items outlined in the bill:

A home baker does not have to have a food handling certification.
A home baker is not required to carry insurance.
A home baker may bake in an environment where pets reside.
A home baker does not need a license and does not have to register their business.
A home baker is not subject to health department regulation and will not be scrutinized by an inspector.
A home baker may deliver items that are purchased from their home.

     But the new label law proposed by the DSHS would have more strict regulations and requirements including label changes. Home bakers would have to post labels that list in metric form, and from greatest amount to least, each ingredient and measurement.
   Debbie and several home bakers feel will threaten their businesses. "It's going to make it more difficult for people like myself to start a bakery under the current cottage law and bake from their homes. It's going to be a lot more difficult, because of the requirements that they're thinking about adding. It will be much harder and a lot more time consuming and time is money. You're usually a one person shop. So you have to take that into consideration. So it's going to make that a lot more difficult. It could persuade some other to drop out and that's not what the economy needs."
     Other bakers present like Kim Matthews owner of Scribble Cakes, say the new rules would put many out of business. "I started a business out of my home. My grandmother needed something new for her birthday. It's going to be a lot more expensive. If that law passes it's gonna hurt a lot of people. A lot of moms, that are supplementing their incomes. We hope it does not pass. It is gonna cause a lot of us to spend a lot more money that we don't have and I'm sure it's gonna put a lot of home based businesses out of work."
     The senate is currently listening to public opinion . Many Texans feel strongly that for safety and health reasons all food should contain labels. Michael Jones says without question the law should pass. Jones has a food allergy that could cause hospitalization. Jones says he disagrees and supports the bill.  He states, "All ingredients should be on the label, because there are some ingredients that some people are allergic to."
      The home bakers, many of whom are mothers like Mande Kalbfleisch, owner of Kupwiches and More, say the side business of baking is a supplement to their income that could be cut off by the bill.  Mande adds, "I would have to weigh each ingredient that I placed in my baked goods and write it on my label in metric weight. Also I would have to weigh each individual product.I hope this legislation does not pass."

    The Senate will address the bill on February 29, 2012 in the state capital of Austin.

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