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RSMO Ch. 196 makes me think the answer is yes. In particular:

  1. A cottage food production operation is not a food service establishment and shall not be subject to any health or food code laws or regulations of the state or department other than this section and rules promulgated thereunder for a cottage food production operation.

  2. (1) A local health department shall not regulate the production of food at a cottage food production operation.

However, health.mo.gov says

The caller should contact their local health agency to determine specific requirements, including licensing, facility requirements, etc. In general, an individual may not use their home kitchen to prepare food to be sold or distributed.

I can't tell if I am allowed to sell 'non-hazardous' foods from my kitchen so long as they are appropriately labelled, sold in-person, netting me < $50k a year, etc and I'm nervous about calling the health department because the statutes make it sound like I don't need an inspection but I have reason to believe the health department may be telling local cottage food production operations they have to have inspections, licenses, etc unfairly.

Is it reasonable for me to believe, based on the information above (and the rest of Ch 196) that I can sell non hazardous foods from my kitchen as long as I meet the requirements laid out in the statutes?

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The clarity of the statute is surprising. Assuming that the operation is out of your home, the product is a baked good, a canned jam or jelly, or a dried herb or herb mix and that it is sold directly to consumers at your house, and furthermore generates $50K or less gross income, then the business is not subject to any of Missouri's laws or regulations outside of that one section. It does require labeling the food with name and address of the operation and a warning that the food is not inspected by the state or local authorities. That also precludes internet sales.

The food regulations refer to hazardous, potentially hazardous, and non-potentially hazardous foods. Under their Food Establishment regulation, they state that "The department shall have the final authority in determining whether a food is non-potentially hazardous". They have apparently determined that honey, sorghum, cracked nuts, packaged spices and spice mixes, and dry cookie, cake, bread and soup mixes are non-potentially hazardous. Under the statute, these are not goods that a legally-defined "cottage food production operation" can produce and sell. So you cannot infer anything about legality based on "hazard", but you can conclude that baked goods are allowed, also dried herbs. Nuts and spices are not mentioned.

The one grey area is fruit butters. A fruit butter is not a jam or a jelly, but the state health department allows them through the loophole in the same way that cookies are. That could mean that Health has a broader set of "allowed" foods, but since they aren't all mandated by statute, some of them might be subject to other regulations, such as an inspection requirement.

If your operation satisfies the statutory requirements for a cottage industry, then you can still request verification that you are not subject to regulation. It would be illegal for a state agent to require you undergo an inspection without authority, and in fact the statute also allows them "to conduct an investigation of a food-borne disease or outbreak". Even without an actual outbreak, they could decide that they are interested in knowing if your cookies have E. Coli and thus subject you to an inspection. A license require is not prohibited by law. The statute specifically says:

A cottage food production operation is not a food service establishment and shall not be subject to any health or food code laws or regulations of the state or department other than this section and rules promulgated thereunder for a cottage food production operation.

Licenses are related to the conduct of business, not health or food code laws, so you probably do have good reason to think that you have to have a license to run any business.

  • Thanks! Excellent point about requiring a business license. I hadn't thought of that. – sirdank Jul 27 '16 at 18:19

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