Ok, I wrote my first post then went downstairs to throw a chicken in the oven for dinner. While I was down there I started thinking and thinking, and muttering to myself like a madwoman.
Jenwright, this is HUGE. He's listening to you, it sounds like he doesn't fundamentally disagree with our basic position (cakes from homes aren't unsafe) and he would like a way to make it work! Here's what I think you should do: call him back. Ask for an appointment. If it were possible, I would think it would be great if a number of us could also attend. (Bake him a homemade cake). We/you need to talk to him face-to-face and brainstorm about other ways to make this happen.
Most of us aren't looking to start a rip-roaring bakery from our homes. We just want to legally be able to make a cake for a co-worker, friend-of-a-friend, etc, and get paid for it.
Jen, what area of Texas are you in? It's a big (big) state, but if it were at all feasible, I would try to be there.
I'm in Lake Jackson, straight down Hwy 288 from Houston...about 50 miles.
I work with a guy whose wife also does cakes from home, maybe I can get her on board, too. I honestly don't know what I would say if I set up a meeting. I have really strong views, but this (bils, laws) is still new to me. I mean, I love doing this and my plan was to do as many cakes on the side as possible to build up a little money to start up a REAL bakery for this area in about 5 years. My DH and all my family members and friends are behind me on this 'dream'.
You're right, this is huge. I really couldn't believe that he was talking to me! I just don't know what to say back!!
re: not knowing what to say...that's why it would be better for there to be a group of us. Two heads are better than one! Talk to your co-worker's wife, see what she thinks. I reaaaaaally think a face to face meeting is the way to go. If you schedule it a couple weeks out, I could try to make arrangements to attend.
Any progress we make is a building block for the future.
I would also be interested in asking him WHY a bill like this would be slaughtered. Who is opposing it? Other lawmakers? The Dept. of Health? The Texas Restaurant Association?
Well, with my work schedule being what it is, I could try to set one up for March 2, 5, 6, 7, 23, 26, 27, 28 if his office is indeed in Angleton. I had to mail the letter to Austin, though. And if he were in Austin, my hubby and I have been trying to find a reason to go to 6th Street and eat some really good barbeque!
Wow...I feel pretty good about this now!
Obviously...if he wanted to meet in Austin that would make it extremely likely I would attend.
And then we could go to 6th Street, and I would take you guys to the wonderland that is the All in One Bake Shop.
Ok I have a friend that is really into politics and might be able to help! She loves stuff like this.
For four years in the 90's I worked for a state agency in the "state office", meaning the office that is responsible for implementing policy. I survived two Legislative Sessions ('95 and '97) and learned a lot watching my bosses work to get bills passed. I dealt with legislative aids and legislators on a daily basis during both those sessions. I'm not saying I'm an expert, but the whole process did become less mysterious to me. The first step is getting someone to listen, and you DID! That is so awesome!!
Just saw this post. Has there been any update?
What about a city ordinance? Would that trump a state law?
No, I never heard back from my State Senator or Rep (which I think is pretty rude, to be honest).
No city or municipality can make a law that trumps the state law.
Ok as of tonight I am writing at least one letter a week, more if I can find the free time. I already have my first one typed, printed and sealed in an envelope, I don't have the new stamps so I am putting two 39 cent stamps on, well worth it. The only way they are going to get me to stop sending letters is to listen to what I have to say. And I read in a thread that someone wanted to start a petition, I think that is a great idea, I would sign it! Now all I have to find out is ifa petition can be done online or if they require actual signatures to hold any signifigance. Let me know if anyone knows anything about that. We will be able to bake legally in our home one day!
We are talking about using our residential kitchens....the same kitchens we prepare our family's food, right? I'd like to see this happen, too..........but we all need to consider what this will mean. Do you really want an inspector coming into your private residence? Because our kitchens are part of a larger building (our homes) will law makers want to also include inspections of the whole house? What if you have an indoor pet? And what about the bakers that have already invested time and money in becoming legal per the current rules? Would they write letters opposing a new rule?
As far as I can tell, a totally separate garage/building is allowed if it meets certain standards. Maybe I am wrong about this..........have already emailed the State about it for clarificaiton. http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/foods/faq.shtm
See questions 14, 15 and 16
My fear is that lawmakers will read this to mean that 'home kitchens' are already allowed.
I am ready to march up the Capitol steps with my fellow home bakers but I also know that getting something like this passed would definitely be very difficult.....not impossible, just very difficult. But it would be interesting to see what would happen if we did march up those steps! There is strength in numbers, right!?!?!
I work for a non-profit organization that serves people with disabilities and trying to get policy changed at the legislative level is really hard.....especially when the opposition has tons of $$$$ to "lobby". As a non-profit organization that receives federal funding, our agency cannot lobby.
Yes, regulation of residential kitchens would entail inspection, but since it is currently 100% illegal to sell ANYTHING you make in your home kitchen, I'm willing to accept that. I will welcome anyone into my kitchen, any time. Yes, they may say no pets are allowed in the house, as some other states do. I don't think that's an unreasonable requirement and I would be willing to accept that as a consequence of being LEGALLY able to sell food from my kitchen.
If anyone is still writing letters, it is worth noting that Utah passed a Cottage Foods Act this year:
The state regulates home-based daycares (I used to work for that agency). The licensee has to make sure the home meets all the minimum standards for a Registered Family Home or Day Care Center (depending on number of children and staff). The licensee also prepares food for the children in the home. Some parents like the idea of their children being cared for in a home environment.
Can you imagine the outcry if the state suddenly said "sorry, no more home based child care! Children must be taken care of in a non-residential licensed commercial facility because there is no way you can keep your home clean or safe enough!" All hell would break loose. So many women rely on those day cares for their income or a second income.
I see a lot of parallels between operating a home-based daycare and a home-based bakery/cake business. Both baking and taking care of children are traditionally activities that take place in the home. Both require some measure of safety and cleanliness. And neither one should be required to take place in a commercial facility to be considered legal.
As I understand it we can not legally sell cakes made at home in Texas but we can give the cake away and accept a cash donation or present. I have not tried this or checked it out legally but if anyone knows if this is true let me know.
I know it's been a long time since I've been on here about this...
I had actually gotten a letter from my state Senator, Kyle Janek, maybe a month after my last post that stated he was going to be working on getting this issue into the house and see what could be done. After hearing Bonnen tell me that any kind of health department related concerns would basically get "slaughtered", this letter did not give me a false hope, it just kinda made me shake my head. I, for one, do not want to mess with the Texas Health Department. I'm accepting 'tips' for my cakes that I make for friends and family, in my home, and am waitnig ever so patiently to be able to open my own cakery. I don't do large cakes, I've only done 1 wedding cake and will not (if the opportunity ever arises) make a cake for an event that is catered by another person because I don't want to tick anyone off and have them turn me in.
I'm not saying I'm giving up, but I will continue to make cakes for friends and family...they're the most fun cakes anyway. I'm not trying to do cakes for money right now because I know that no one who doesn't know what goes into making/decorating a cake won't pay what cakes are actually worth. Plus, I don't have the money now that it would take to make my home 'legal' if home bakeries were allowed.
I live in Southeast Houston, in the Clear Lake area. I would love to be able to open my own bakery but I am a MOTHER first. Even if my husband weren't out of town so much, I would still not want to take the time and energy I would have to put into a bakery away from my children. They need me at home. I decorate cakes for friends and family all the time and only charge for the ingredients. They all always pay me extra and every one of them gripes at me about not charging enough and not passing out business cards at their parties. I keep trying to tell them about the law and that I can't legally do it at home and that that's the reason I only do it for people I know and only for the cost of the ingredients. They all keep introducing me to their friends and say now you know her so you can make cakes for her too. I sent four cakes for the cakewalk at my son's school last year and was asked for my card by all the women in the office when I delivered them and a bunch of people from the PTA. The PTA pres. asked if I would be willing to raffle a "cake of your choice" at next year's carnival. I told her I didn't think I could do that and I explained the law. There is a bakery nearby that everyone uses and every time someone new tries one of my cakes, they tell me I need to advertise because I would put the other bakery out of business. They all say my cakes look and taste better than the bakery's cakes. I don't know what to do. This is something that I'm pretty good at and getting better with every cake. I've never taken a class and have taught myself everything I know with a little help from you guys once in a while. I LOVE decorating cakes. And the impossible ideas are my favorite because I love figuring out a way to do something. I try to make everything on my cakes edible. I CANNOT open a bakery, especially not by myself. I want to be around for my kids and my husband. But now I'm afraid that I'm going to get in trouble because so many people know about me now. I would love for the law to be changed so that I could do this legally at home. I guess now I'm just going to have to stop making cakes for everyone but my family and closest friends. I don't have all of my pictures posted on here but I have a photo album that gets lots of oohs and aahs every time someone looks at it. I guess it's time to put it away or go ask for a job at the bakery. I really don't want to work for someone else though, with them selling my creations under their name. It doesn't seem quite fair!
Bump. The legislature will be in session again come January '09. Anyone want to write letters again?
Jodiedew's post in this thread inspired me and got me eager to get back on the horse and write another letter. Here it is, you are welcome to copy it, make changes to it, or add your personal story. These guys are more likely to pay attention to a heartfelt letter than something that looks like it was copied.
Go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ and put in your address to find out who your state senator and representative are.
January 10, 2009
Representative Dan Gattis
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
Dear Representative Gattis:
In 2007 I wrote to you regarding an issue that is very important to me the enacting of a Cottage Foods Act to legalize the sale of home baked cakes and cookies. I am writing again to ask you to sponsor a bill that would allow Texans to sell non-hazardous baked goods prepared in residential kitchens.
In Texas it is illegal to sell a cake made in a home kitchen. Most people are not aware of this law. It is the Texas Administrative Code, Food Establishment Rules, Rule §229.167 (E)(10) which states Private homes and living or sleeping quarters, use prohibition. A private home, a room used as living or sleeping quarters, or an area directly opening into a room used as living or sleeping quarters may not be used for conducting food establishment operations.
This law is in place to protect the public from unsafe foods. However, cakes and other baked goods such as cookies, pies and brownies are considered low-risk for spoilage and contamination due to their high sugar content. There are at least 9 other states that have mechanisms in place for allowing bakers and cake decorators to sell non-hazardous foods made in residential kitchen, including:
Department of Agriculture (717) 787-4737
Utah (as of 200
Department of Agriculture (804) 786-3520
A quick search for cake on Craigslist already shows many people advertising cake businesses run from their homes. With the economy faltering and people looking for ways to earn extra income, more will naturally turn to selling home-baked goods, unaware of the legal ramifications. Because this activity is illegal in Texas, these people cannot obtain business liability insurance to protect themselves financially. Should they be sued, they could potentially lose everything, including their homes. It would serve the public interest to regulate this already-existing industry, and de-criminalize the act of selling low risk food prepared in a residential kitchen.
In Maryland, Delegate Mary Ann Love is currently bringing a bill to committee to create a cottage foods act. Would you consider doing the same? I would be glad to meet with you to discuss this further. I also have colleagues and contacts throughout the state of Texas who fervently hope the law will be changed, and they would also be glad to join our meeting.
America and indeed Texas were founded on the ideals of freedom and entrepreneurialism. Our founding fathers surely never envisioned a country where it would be illegal for a woman to sell a cake made in her own kitchen. I humbly ask for your help in this matter.
Thank you sincerely,
There was so little interest in the thread we started last month, I'm guessing no one really is. Which I don't get-how much easier would it be for all of us to be legal? To be insured, and protected? This would be a great thing for bakers.
When are they in session? Is it too late to send a letter?
From Jan. 13 to sometime in June. NOW is the time to send a letter.
They are only in session every other year, so if we don't get something done this time, we have to wait until 2011 to try again.
Awesome! I'll post a link to this thread in the Permian Basin/ West Texas Thread. THANK YOU FOR THIS INFORMATION!
kelleym. your letter is awesome! I just started doing cakes a couple of months ago and don't fall into the ready to start a biz out of my home category, but would like to do so in the next few years. I will definitely write a letter to support the issue. The last part where you wrote "America and indeed Texas were founded on the ideals of freedom and entrepreneurialism. Our founding fathers surely never envisioned a country where it would be illegal for a woman to sell a cake made in her own kitchen" really touched me, hopefully it will do the same for the rep's.
When you read about food icons like Sara Lee and Colonial Sanders, they all started selling out of their homes. It's really sad that our country is inhibiting the growth of any newborn idea from individuals. Especially when the economy is where it is right now.
Best of luck everyone!
Thanks for posting that letter, kelleym! I give my cakes and other baked goods as gifts for friends and family, but lately I've been getting more and more requests to do cakes or goody baskets (cookies, candies, breads, etc) for a fee. Not knowing Texas law for this, I googled it and this thread came up. Thanks again for the information. I will be sending my letter right away!
I started taking decorating classes at a bakery about 2 years ago to advance my skills. My instructor has been a home baker for decades. She has contracts with caterers and restaurants. She does cakes for churches. She runs a massive show from home. I asked one day about licensing and she said that cake decorators in Texas are technically illegal, but the only way anything would happen is if someone actually called and reported you, which she said she has never heard of happening to anyone. So, she fully encouraged me to start doing it on my own. Which I just started this month. Business cards and all... I hope I haven't done the wrong thing. I read the post from jjandascog and feel horrible because my instructor would say, GO FOR IT!
Sweet1122: One of my friends is the local health inspector's wife. She spoke with him about my whole situtation. She said that as long as I DO NOT ADVERTISE AND NO ONE REPORTS ME, it was ok with him. Kinda that he knows I am there but but I don't make myself into a pest.. ya know? What you are saying IS true. BUT (and it's a biggy) if you get reported, you WILL be fined. Everyone has to do what they feel is right.
Any idea on the fine range? I mean are we talking $10,000 or a couple thousand? Jail? I hope the laws change... I'll do my part. For now, I'm only doing cakes for friends and really charging very little. I fully intend to file everything on my taxes. I've already spoken to a tax accountant to make sure I have all my i's dotted and t's crossed when it comes to keeping track of everything. Thanks for your help.
According to someone in this thread, it can be $5700 and 12 months probation.
The CC members in Texas who have been "found out" by the health department have been ordered to cease and desist. The bigger problem is if someone claims they got sick from one of your cakes and sues you. Without a legal business you can't get liability insurance, therefore your personal assets are on the line.
It would be better for EVERYONE - cakers and customers alike, to have a cottage foods act.
Join us and write a letter
I WAS fined! It was $350 for the first offense. The second offense would have been $700 and a third offense would be $1500 and jail time/probation.
It does not just have to be REPORTED but if your product is at a PUBLIC event that is being monitored by the health department--TROUBLE!!!
I do not care if "everyone knows it", you can still get fined! On the other side--it did make me get off my butt and get legal. AND the HD actually goes out of their way to help and offer advice.
Mac, how did you "get Legal", if you're in East Texas? I thought you couldn't BE legal in Texas.
I will write my Rep too! I want to be allowed to sell cakes.