CSU Routt County Extension: Colorado cottage foods — upcoming training for food producers
Have you ever wondered if you could turn your hobby for making jellies, jams or cakes into a business? While most food items sold in Colorado must be prepared in a commercial kitchen with a food manufactures license, a number of home chefs are selling their creations under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act. The Colorado Cottage Foods Act allows limited types of non-potentially hazardous food products to be sold directly to consumers in Colorado without licensing or inspection.
Many local cottage food producers sell their products on the Community Ag Market at caamarket.org. As Michele Meyer, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, said, “The Cottage Foods Act has been an entry point for a number of micro-producers. It has allowed them to build and grow slowly. Those businesses would never have happened without the Cottage Foods Act.”
The Colorado Cottage Foods Act was enacted in March 2012. Under it, producers can sell pickled fruits and vegetables with a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below, spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seeds, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, flour and baked goods, including candies, fruit empanadas, tortillas and other similar products that do not require refrigeration for safety.
In addition, producers can sell up to 250 dozen whole eggs per month. Other items that must be refrigerated — salsas, barbecue sauces, cheeses, cream pies and pastries stuffed with cream cheese or custard — are not considered cottage foods and must be prepared in commercial kitchens. So must products containing any meat, including jerky. To produce these non-eligible food products requires registration with the County Health Department as a food manufacturer and site inspection.
One vendor who sells her product at the Steamboat Springs Farmers Market said, “The Cottage Foods Act allows me to do what I love and share it with my community.”
If you would like to create an eligible food item in your home or a commercial kitchen to share with your community, the state requires food safety training. Local food vendors — and those that just want to learn more about food safety — can meet the three-year food safety certificate training requirement through a course provided by Colorado State University Extension.
The course has been completed by more than 1,500 cottage food producers in Colorado and will be offered in Steamboat Springs on May 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse. The cost of the course is $30. To register or for more information contact Routt County Extension 970-879-0825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The training includes the following specifics of the Colorado Cottage Food Act.
- Basic food safety, including proper hygiene; preventing cross contamination and cross contact of food allergens; temperature control for safe food preparation, storage, transport and sales.
- Foods permissible in updated Colorado’s Cottage Food Act, including pickled fruits and vegetables.
- Ingredient labeling and disclaimer requirements.
- Special considerations for food preparation at altitude.
- Safe food sampling best practices.
If you are interested in selling your or purchasing cottage foods check out the Community Ag Market or one of Routt County’s farmers’ markets, including the Steamboat farmers market open on Saturdays starting June 9 through Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Yampa Farmers’ Market held the last Sunday of the month in May, June, July and August from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..
Libby Christensen is a family consumer science agent with Colorado State University Routt County Extension office.
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