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Selling Food That You Make In Your Kitchen

Over the holidays, a friend gave us nicely jarred strawberry jam that she made at home.  Another friend spent a Sunday in our kitchen pickling various vegetables, including cauliflower, golden beets, candy cane beets (that was the first I ever heard of those), and radishes.  I heard someone tell each of these people that they should sell their creations.  I bit my tongue each time.   I didn’t want to be the lawyer in the room saying, “Well, you know, you can’t really do that, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  Some retail food can legally be produced in a residential kitchen and some cannot.

There are numerous state and federal laws governing the production and distribution of food.  This article focuses on a small segment of food that can be legally prepared in a New Hampshire residential kitchen and sold to the public.  These foods are called “homestead food products,” and the relevant statute is RSA 143-A.  The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has promulgated administrative rules that flesh out RSA 143-A.

According to the administrative rules, the term “homestead food products” includes the following foods:  baked items; double-crusted fruit pies; candy and fudge; jams and jellies; packaged dry products; and acid foods such as vinegars and mustards.  I love when the law gets this specific.  Generally, these foods can be prepared in a residential kitchen and sold to the public, though if you make jam or jelly from a recipe that is not from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, there are additional requirements that you must meet.

Depending on where you sell the food and how much business you do in a year, you may need a license from DHHS to set up your business as a “homestead food operation.”  There are fifteen municipalities, including Keene, that have their own licensing requirements that are often similar to those of DHHS.

If you produce one or more “homestead food products” and your annual gross sales are less than $20,000 and the food products are sold from the homestead residence, the owner’s own farm stand, farmer’s markets, or retail food stores, then no license is required.

There are two circumstances under which you need a license.  One depends on the volume of sales, and the other depends on where the food is sold.  If your gross sales of homestead food products exceed $20,000, a license is required.  Period.  Next, even if your gross annual sales are less than $20,000, you need a license if you plan to sell your food to restaurants or other retail food establishments, over the Internet, by mail order, or to wholesalers, brokers, or other food distributors that will resell the food.  The license fee is $150 a year and the application is available at the DHHS website.

There are labeling requirements for packaged food that differ depending on whether the food operation is licensed.  Be aware that even homestead food operations that are not required to be licensed must follow the labeling requirements.  The exact wording that must be used is in the statute.  As a consumer of locally produced packaged foods, keep an eye out for labels.  You may see one of the following statements: “This product is made in a residential kitchen licensed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services”; or “This product is exempt from New Hampshire licensing and inspection.”

There are certain foods that cannot be produced by a homestead food operation.  These are called “potentially hazardous food,” and include cheesecakes, pumpkin pies, custards, soups, sandwiches, pickles, and relish.  This list is put out by DHHS and is not exhaustive.  When I was in law school, I got food poisoning from a homemade custard dessert, so I am happy to see that custards made the “hazardous” list.  Since then, I haven’t been tempted even by a licensed custard.

“Potentially hazardous foods” are foods that require temperature control to prevent such pathogens as botulism and also include low-acid canned foods.  If you want to produce these foods for sale to the public, you are not eligible to be a homestead food operation—licensed or not—and must comply with other food laws that are beyond the scope of this article.

For licensed homestead food operations, there are some requirements in the administrative regulations regarding kitchen set-up.  For example, if your bathroom opens into the kitchen, the bathroom must have self-closing doors and mechanical ventilation.  (And please wash your hands!)  And if you have a laundry machine in the kitchen, you are not allowed to run it during food production.  That seems reasonable.  You might as well wait to do the laundry until you are done making your double-crusted fruit pies so that you can include your amateur chef uniform in the wash.

Leadership New Hampshire 2016

Attorney Jed Callen recently participated in the Leadership New Hampshire Program. Attorney Callen spoke to the group as part of the Environment and Sustainability Program held on January 21, 2016 at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. Attorney Callen took part in the discussion of the topic: “Tying it all together: How New Hampshire’s Natural Environment Sustains our Economy and Social Fabric.”

Land Conserved in Loudon

Ladd photo

Attorney Jason Reimers is proud to have assisted Lucille A. Ladd in conserving 66 acres of her land in Loudon. In December, Mrs. Ladd granted a conservation easement to the Town of Loudon that will conserve the land in perpetuity and prevent future development. The beautiful property consists of farm land and forests. Selectman Roger A. Maxfield (left) and Conservation Commission Chair Julie Robinson (middle) attended the closing on behalf of the Town.

Attorney Amy Manzelli teaching at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School

Attorney Amy Manzelli’s newest role as a faculty member at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School was highlighted in the October newsletter for CAFS. Read up on the latest news for the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and get the details on the course   Attorney Manzelli will be teaching in the spring. Read the October newsletter or go to the website at www.vermontlaw.edu/academics/centers-and-programs/center-for-agriculture-and-food-systems.

Permits: Know the law before you work on your property

Attorney Jason Reimers writes a column for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. Read his article entitled “Permits: Know the law before you work on your property” published on October 27, 2015.

Pro Bono Honor Roll

Attorney Jason Reimers was honored to be recognized on the Pro Bono Honor Roll in the New Hampshire Bar News. In addition, BCM Environmental & Land Law was recognized for their pro bono work on the Third Quarter 2015 Law Firm Honor Roll.

Attorney Amy Manzelli Selected as Super Lawyers Rising Star

 

Attorney Amy Manzelli has been recognized as a Super Lawyers Rising Star. For the seventh straight year, Attorney Manzelli has been selected by her peers as a top rated Environmental Attorney. Attorney Manzelli has been selected as a Rising Star longer than any other environmental attorney in New Hampshire.

Operation Santa Claus

Operation Santa 2015

BCM Environmental and Land Law made a quick trip to Santa’s Workshop in December where we dropped off our contribution to this year’s Operation Santa Claus.  We were able to brighten this year’s holiday for four children with everything from Transformers and Tonka trucks to Ninja Turtles and nail polish, with a few Avengers thrown in for good measure!  

 

 

Vernon Family Farm Receives Site Plan Approval

The Newfields Planning Board gave unanimous approval to Vernon Family Farm to operate a roadside stand from an existing farm building on the property.   Attorney Amy Manzelli represented Vernon Family Farm in their application to operate the farm stand selling their farm produce at the farm. While specifying that at least 35% of the gross proceeds must be from products produced by the farm, the decision allows the Vernon family to operate the farm stand year round, from 8:00 am. to 6:00 pm.

Adopt-A-Spot

BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC is now a proud adopter of a wonderful piece of land in Concord! We have volunteered to manage a garden parcel at the intersections of Pleasant Street and Warren Street. Last week, we had many hands on deck weeding and investigating what is currently growing at the spot. We look forward to beautifying this area for walkers, cyclists and drivers to view as they pass through the area. In the photo are (from left to right) Janna, Nicole, Amy and Amy’s son, Henry, in front of our spot. Note the large pile of weeds we pulled on the left!