Food News

Texas Cottage Food Law Catches a Break

I love bakers. Not because they smell like brown sugar and cinnamon. Or even because they make superhero birthday cakes. Nope. I love bakers because they're scrappy.

Back in June, the state enacted the Cottage Food Law, allowing home bakers to sell their goods under a few guidelines. Within that law, however, was a stipulation that the Texas Department of State Health Services was to create parameters to more narrowly define the labeling of the baked goods. As in, "This was baked in a home kitchen that wasn't inspected by a health department."

In January a subcommittee of the DSHS commission submitted a draft that home bakers contend flew in the face of the law's intent.

The draft rules would have required that labels of home-prepared foods list all ingredients by weight in descending order, allergen information and net weight. They were a blow to bakers who typically lack the resources of commercial bakers (or Nabisco) to create detailed labels for every superhero cake they bake. (Imagine weighing and labeling a five-tier wedding cake.)

In January the DSHS filed the rules in the Texas Register and held a 30-day comment period. Texas bakers used this time to express their great displeasure, as did lawmakers who worked to pass the initial bill, such as state Representative Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham.

Looks like it just might have worked. Yesterday I spoke with Carrie Williams, press officer with the Texas Department of State Health Services about the status of the labeling rules. "We are working on rewrites to the rules, based on comments that we received, to be less prescriptive," Williams said. "After that, we'll send [them to] the Health and Human Services Commission for final adoption and from there, they're filed with the secretary of state. The revised rules should be ready in the next 30 days."

It's not in the bag, but the bakers' voices were heard and they are revisiting the rules. Let's celebrate with cake.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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