Cottage Industry and Food SafetyThursday, February 25, 2021
How often have you heard or have you said, “This is so tasty! You should make a business of it?” Many food businesses in the cottage industry have been born out of encouragement such as this. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a cottage industry is an industry whose labour force is made of family or individuals working from home with their own equipment. Since the food is being produced in the home kitchen and in small volume, it is most times thought that the rules and regulations only apply to the larger manufacturers. However, in regard to food safety, in this case, size does not matter.
As food business operators, regardless of size, there are rules and regulations that apply to ensure food produced is safe for consumption. Once the food is being produced for sale good manufacturing practices apply, meaning food must be produced under safe and sanitary conditions. That gizzarda/juice/grater cake/patty business is to be registered and inspected to ensure food safety standards are being met.
Due to the size of the businesses in a cottage industry, a simple approach is best. This means that a fancy computer software to maintain your records is not necessary. In fact, a well-kept notebook can suffice.
Key point: These businesses must maintain records, records of raw materials, items produced, items sold and supplier.
Here is another simple rule: Owner/operators and workers must have a valid food handler's permit and evidence of at least the basic level of food safety training applicable to the type of food being produced for sale. How many of those Christmas cake/sorrel/eggnog makers that you purchased from last December meet this rule?
Most cottage industry food businesses will not have the space or resources for a kitchen space dedicated to the business, and as such they will use the family kitchen; which is acceptable. What is not acceptable is the use of family utensils, pots and pans for the cottage industry's purposes. The cottage industry must have its own items that are kept separate and apart from those of the family. In addition, raw material and ingredients are to be kept separate. Again, using the simple approach, cupboards can be sectioned off to segregate supplies used in the cottage industry from that used for the family's purposes.
Upon inspection, the owner/operator will be required to provide evidence that the family's kitchen utensils and supplies are kept separate from the business. The use of labels to readily identify the separation is a good idea. Similarly to medium and large enterprises, the cottage industry must maintain its environment to reduce the likelihood of cross- contamination. One of the ways this can be done is through scheduling. The cottage industry product, for example, juice, must not be processed during the family's meal preparation time. It should be scheduled before or after these times.
We love that delicious food that you are producing in your cottage industry; return the love and support by ensuring that these foods are produced in a safe and sanitary environment in keeping with good manufacturing practices.
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