SandyES00 Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 12:44am
post #1 of

Hi everyone. I am currently starting up an at home cake decorating business under the VA cottage law. I will not be licensed and inspected, but still legal under the law, so long as I follow certain restrictions (I would love to be licensed but have two dogs and the layout of my house makes inspection impossible). Among the restrictions is that I cannot use anything that requires "time or temperature control after preparation." I am a little confused about this and what it may include. I mean buttercream is pretty shelf stable with all the sugar, but at what point is it not? Sugar stabilizes so many things, I'm just not sure what I'm allowed to do and not allowed to do, like cream cheese frosting. Any thoughts on absolute no-no's and what people think are a go?

29 replies
FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 1:06am
post #2 of

I'm a little confused by not being licensed but still being legal? How are you able to to one without the other? I only ask because you included it in your post.

I highly recommend that you take a manager's food handling course as offered by your county health inspector to learn about safe food preparation if it is not a requirement (although I'm astounded if it's not a requirement). Not only will it tell you the correct way to prepare food, but it will also help weed thru the advice you will probably receive here to get a firm answer on what you can and cannot do in your state.

To quickly answer your question, non-perishable is any food that has either water activity under .85 or a pH of 4.5 or below. These are the conditions bacteria like e. coli needs to thrive and grow. Time/temp principal refers more to savory food, meaning, for example, soup must be cooked to 165, kept hot at 135 or above, and properly rapidly cooled from 135 to 70 within 2 hours, then 70 to 41 in 4 hours.

These are national guidelines.

On a scientific level, cream cheese icing. cooked bacon and lemon curd is non-perishable because they either have a water content under .85 or they have a pH under 4.5. But your health department may have different guidelines, as I have read many people on here say their local HDs will not let them use lemon curd or cream cheese icing at their cottage business.

lorieleann Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 3:04am
post #3 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

I'm a little confused by not being licensed but still being legal? How are you able to to one without the other? I only ask because you included it in your post.




i don't know how it is in her neck of the woods, but in AZ the new cottage food law basically makes it *not* illegal and now permissible to produce baked and confectionary items in a home kitchen when following the department's rules: food handler card, following safe practices (gloves, bleach, separate storage of supplies), labeling as from a home-based kitchen, registration with the agency, and non-perishable goods.

It is not as strict as other states that require a home inspection and then issued licenses. So you aren't licensed, but you aren't illegal as it was categorized before.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 3:41am
post #4 of

Ah thanks!

vgcea Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 4:12am
post #5 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by SandyES00

Hi everyone. I am currently starting up an at home cake decorating business under the VA cottage law. I will not be licensed and inspected, but still legal under the law, so long as I follow certain restrictions (I would love to be licensed but have two dogs and the layout of my house makes inspection impossible). Among the restrictions is that I cannot use anything that requires "time or temperature control after preparation." I am a little confused about this and what it may include. I mean buttercream is pretty shelf stable with all the sugar, but at what point is it not? Sugar stabilizes so many things, I'm just not sure what I'm allowed to do and not allowed to do, like cream cheese frosting. Any thoughts on absolute no-no's and what people think are a go?




#Foodsafetyeducationisyourbestfriend.com I believe there are online as well as in-person classes for real cheap. Here we have ServSafe. Not sure what's in your area. Take the class and so many things would become clearer.

3D-Sweets Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 11:53am
post #6 of

I'd double-check & have tested any product - like cream cheese frosting - that you have concerns about. Here in NC we can get stuff tested through NC State and they check the moisture level. It varies with the recipe.

matthewkyrankelly Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 12:29pm
post #7 of

What they said /\\/\\/\\/\\/\\/\\

A simple food safety course will answer questions you don't even know you have. It is quick and easy, but informative.

Second, as others have said, look into a food testing lab in your state. You may not need it now, but you may have a recipe you want tested for water activity. It is usually inexpensive if you are in business for profit and don't want to inadvertently poison people.

letsgetcaking Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 1:23pm
post #8 of

On the Texas Cottage Food Law site, they have posted several recipes that have been tested and are "Non-Potentially Hazardous."

http://www.texascottagefoodlaw.com/Resources/Recipes.aspx

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 2:42pm
post #9 of

There is no need to pay and have a recipe tested. All you need are pH test strips and you can buy them for under $10. This is what my HD uses when they do their inspections. If you test and the pH is below 4.5, then it's non-perishable - period.

http://www.amazon.com/Micro-Essential-Lab-Polystyrene-Dispenser/dp/B0045I6GLK/ref=pd_sbs_indust_2

All bacteria - ALL of it, must have a water content of above .85 and a pH of below 4.5 to thrive while not being temperature controlled (meaning, un-refrigerated). You can still have something with a water content of above .85 but if the pH reads something like 2.3 it's non-potentially hazardous. Like salsa - cut tomatoes are considered a potentially hazardous food under federal guidelines and must be refrigerated - did you all know that? But add lemon or lime juice to make salsa and even though it has a high water content, it's now non-potentially hazardous because the acid in the lemons brings down the pH.

Now, your local HD may have their own set of guidelines that you must follow, the ONLY way you'll know is by calling them and submitting your menu, or taking a local HD approved class - not one online. The test is based on federal guidelines, but your local HD will teach you your state and your local guidelines.

BakingIrene Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 4:39pm

"Temperature control" refers to the foods that MUST be held below 4C (40F) or above 40C (160F).

Buttercream containing any milk, cream, cream cheese would fall into this category. Baked custard, bread pudding, rice pudding would also need to be kept either hot or cold.

Buttercream made with cooked egg white meringue and butter would not.

vgcea Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 5:08pm

https://www.servsafe.com/students

The basic food handlers' course can be done online or in-person. First find out if your HD recognizes this certification (ServSafe) and then go from there.

The Food Safety Manager certification is another, more advanced option. This one requires in-person participation (mine was one semester-long at the local college), and may in fact be what your HD requires. I recommend this one.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 5:36pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingIrene

"Temperature control" refers to the foods that MUST be held below 4C (40F) or above 40C (160F).

Buttercream containing any milk, cream, cream cheese would fall into this category. Baked custard, bread pudding, rice pudding would also need to be kept either hot or cold.

Buttercream made with cooked egg white meringue and butter would not.




Without arguing what may be your specific area's guidelines... the extremely high sugar content in icing lowers the water content regardless if it contains cream cheese or a little milk far under under .85, making it scientifically impossible for any bacteria to grow. If you are making an American Cream Cheese Icing recipe, it is NOT perishable. The same scientific principal applies to meringue buttercreams.

Again, your local HD may have it on a no-no list because they don't know better, want to prevent misuse or maybe they err on the side of caution, but it is not a universal no-no.

BakingIrene Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 5:52pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Without arguing what may be your specific area's guidelines... the extremely high sugar content in icing lowers the water content regardless if it contains cream cheese or a little milk far under under .85, making it scientifically impossible for any bacteria to grow.




really?

Refrigeration does more than just inhibit bacteria...
it protects against butterfat becoming rancid.
it inhibits the growth of yeast or mould.

And "inhibit" is the action NOT "prevent"

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 6:32pm

The question was not "will food go bad ever". The question was "what is non-perishable" and she specifically asked about the time/temp principal. Perishable or non-perishable refers to a food's ability to grow harmful bacteria like e.coli, salmonella or camphylobacter jejuni. I've stated the rule as it is in the US and I've stated the scientific conditions in which a food can or cannot grow bacteria like I've listed it above.

With the exception of McDonald's, all food gets moldy or goes rancid after a period of time.

inspiredbymom Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 7:25pm

The food law that I go by is the same way. I can bake from my kitchen without a lic. or insp. I have to inform every potential customer of this. I am not allowed to use icing that contains egg, (even cooked) cream cheese or whipped cream. They look at the water/sugar ratios as well. I never do anything new without passing it by them (in writing to cover myself) because I don't want to do something questionable with them. That is why I'm still on the fence about ganache! Some require immediate refrigeration and some do not.

AZCouture Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 8:01pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorieleann

Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

I'm a little confused by not being licensed but still being legal? How are you able to to one without the other? I only ask because you included it in your post.



i don't know how it is in her neck of the woods, but in AZ the new cottage food law basically makes it *not* illegal and now permissible to produce baked and confectionary items in a home kitchen when following the department's rules: food handler card, following safe practices (gloves, bleach, separate storage of supplies), labeling as from a home-based kitchen, registration with the agency, and non-perishable goods.

It is not as strict as other states that require a home inspection and then issued licenses. So you aren't licensed, but you aren't illegal as it was categorized before.




However, to conduct business in accordance with City/State/etc. law, one must obtain a business license. The cottage food law is only but part of the whole "legal" setup. I think many people assume that registering with the state is all they need to do.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 8:11pm

inspiredbymom, you are 1000% in what you are doing - no matter what you read online, it is everyone's responsibility to check with your local HD and if they say NO, then the answer is NO!

I was thinking about it in the car picking my daughter up from daycare on why a HD would not allow something on a cottage level that is deemed safe under federal commercial food production guidelines. Maybe because there is no chain of time/temperature control of the raw ingredients? For example, I buy in bulk from a restaurant supplier, they deliver in temperature controlled trucks and it goes in a commercial walk in. If I didn't have that and was just buying butter and cream cheese from my local grocery store, how does the HD know I didn't let it ride around in the trunk of my car all day? Once something is out of time/temperature, no cooking kills the bacteria. And maybe since they don't require inspections, don't require commercial equipment and don't require a food handler's course to make you learn about all these things, they just say no-no.

Anyway, as I said in my 1st post, call your HD to find out what they want! Don't rely on the internet icon_biggrin.gif

inspiredbymom Posted 24 Oct 2012 , 8:43pm

FromScratchSF: I don't know if this helps, and by no means do I know the ins and outs of other states, counties, etc. but in my county, in my state, there are so many rules that go to this. My HD goes by the minimum guidelines set forth by the state. The same HD when I was in the city limits had to enforce a different set of rules added on by the city. I could not bake there. The non perishable is really more like non potentially hazardous. That is probably better because all foods will perish eventually (except twinkies??) but as my HD put it, there is a list of things such as jams, fruit pies, jellies, bread, cakes. Things of that nature that can sit on your counter that does not need refrigeration (until it is opened it the jam/jelly example). One reason is that most residents do not have the adequate refrigeration. Even though I have 2 I have to stay within the guidelines. The water/sugar ratio is the key. However, they also said that not all recipes are created equal. Not all icings would work under my current situation. Even butter creams. I work hand in hand with my HD guy and I always suggest that. However, my past has something to do with it. I used to be a licensed childcare provider until I moved. I worked with State, Federal, Fire Marshals and local HD. I am used to safe food practices and all that but I agree that some do not realize what goes on with food. I watch things that other people do without even realizing that they could contaminate other people. Of course, I'm such a germaphobe that I don't even let my kids drink after me (or my husband and he doesn't drool! ) icon_smile.gif

SandyES00 Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 12:11am

Thank you so much for all of your responses. I guess the best idea is to just ask the Department of Agriculture (the department that seems to handle these things in VA) about what they consider to be permissable under the law. I certainly don't want to get into any trouble, but still want to be able to provide all the options I can to my customers.

I have also checked my locality, etc. regarding business licences etc., and because I will be doing a low enough volume of production, I am exempt. I am still thinking about setting up an LLC, however with the state and have already gotten quotes for insurance.

Thank you so much for all of your help and advice. The recipes on the Texas Cottage Law website were very helpful and it is so nice to have so many people ready to help out.

SandyES00 Posted 26 Oct 2012 , 7:32pm

So I'm back to square one. Called the office and the person didn't really know what I was talking about regarding the time and temperature restriction etc., so I explained it to her. She asked around the office and said that there was apparently a list of what was permissible and that she would forward it to me. Got the e-mail and it was literally just a copy of the legislation. Wrote back to ask for the list of items allowed to be produced, and she wrote back saying there was no list, but that things like cheesecakes, pies, puddings etc. and, her words, " basically any pie or cake" wasn't allowed; which I know is wrong according the legislation. Even more confused than before. Any advice? Anyone out there in VA with more info?

FromScratchSF Posted 26 Oct 2012 , 8:10pm

Don't you have a local department of public health? Because I seriously question the safety of your state if caterers and restaurants are being inspected and regulated by someone that doesn't know what the time/temperature principal is! There has to be some other agency you should be calling.

inspiredbymom Posted 26 Oct 2012 , 10:33pm

In your posting, you listed the Department of Agriculture. They are part of it, but they may not know what is going on. Unfortunately, it sounds like the don't know where to send you. I answer to a local county department of health. They go by what the state department of health code standards are. Do you have a state department of health or a county health department? Is there a way to find out in the legislation who is monitoring this? There should be a reporting agency. Just have to do some more digging and not give up hope! Keep us posted! icon_smile.gif

SandyES00 Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 12:39am

Thank you for the advice to look up the Health Department info. Seems like the state and locality have adopted the Federal standard for Potentially Hazardous Food, so those recipes in the Texas link (thanks again) should work out well. Does plain buttercream work too?

costumeczar Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 1:22am
Quote:
Originally Posted by SandyES00

So I'm back to square one. Called the office and the person didn't really know what I was talking about regarding the time and temperature restriction etc., so I explained it to her. She asked around the office and said that there was apparently a list of what was permissible and that she would forward it to me. Got the e-mail and it was literally just a copy of the legislation. Wrote back to ask for the list of items allowed to be produced, and she wrote back saying there was no list, but that things like cheesecakes, pies, puddings etc. and, her words, " basically any pie or cake" wasn't allowed; which I know is wrong according the legislation. Even more confused than before. Any advice? Anyone out there in VA with more info?




I'm in Richmond. Email me at acaketoremember @ yahoo.com and I'll send you the inspector's name to call. I'm not going to post it because the poor guy would get buried.

Ignore everything that's been posted here about non-perishable or not and call the Dept of Agriculture. There are plenty of things that I know are non-perishable, but when I sent my recipes in they called me about some of them anyway and I had to argue with them about it. I've never had anyone question the pH of anything, they just say yes or no and I'm not sure why. You should ask them directly and not take advice from here, because they seem to have a strange set of standards here.

Definitely no cream cheese, ganache or meringue buttercreams, regardless of how shelf-stable people say those things are, unless you really want to try to argue with the Agr. Dept about it. I'd guess no fruit curds, custards or whipped creams either.

Where are you located? Licensing laws apparently vary from county to county, but you'll still have to file to collect sales tax regardless, so you should check into that. When I filed for sales tax I had to have a business license number to do it, but you can check at your county clerk's office for that info. You'll also need to see if you should file for estimated tax for the IRS, but if you're not making that much it probably won't be necessary. Don't ignore the sales tax, though, because if they catch you for not collecting that they will get you and get you good with fines etc. You need to collect at the 5% rate, not the food rate, because they consider decorated cakes to be food that's already prepared, so you have to collect at the higher rate. They might tell you something different, but that won't be right. This was a really complicated issue when they started changing the food tax rates, and they still give you different answers, but you're supposed to collect the higher rate.

Just so you know, the inspectors DO NOT LIKE the cottage law. They don't get to inspect people's kitchens, but they still have to respond to all of the complaints that come in, so they feel like they're being made to respond without the power to inform people first. They're very helpful, so they'll be glad to give you information about food safety, etc.

costumeczar Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 1:25am
Quote:
Originally Posted by inspiredbymom

In your posting, you listed the Department of Agriculture. They are part of it, but they may not know what is going on. Unfortunately, it sounds like the don't know where to send you. I answer to a local county department of health. They go by what the state department of health code standards are. Do you have a state department of health or a county health department? Is there a way to find out in the legislation who is monitoring this? There should be a reporting agency. Just have to do some more digging and not give up hope! Keep us posted! icon_smile.gif




The Department of Agriculture is the agency that has jurisdiction over food production in Virginia, not the Department of Health. They're the ones who regulate hospitals, etc.

Stitches Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 3:13am

I've been a professional chef for well over 20 years. I have my sanitation license and have taken multiple updated courses through out the years. I've tried over and over to get the health instructors to talk specificly about bakery items, because there are so many items that are questionable in bakerys.Truthfully, bakery items aren't really investigated by the health dept. like other items, mainly because of how few serious out breaks of food born illness from bakery items there have been.

I'm in IL, where they just passed the food cottage food law. The basic guidelines did single out specific bakery items we could not sell. Items that have had a history of food born illness connected to them, such as : custard pies, any home canned items, etc... SO, I think if you dig further online in your states cottage food law you might find some items specificly mentioned that you can not sell.

As far as a couple things posted already on this thread there's a couple thing's I'd take issue with. BUT that being said, I've been in the business long enough to know that: what's true in your town or state isn't in mine, you can get different answers from each inspector in your community, recipes differ greatly. For example: lemon curd is totally forbidden under the food cottage law, in IL because it's a cooked custard (containing cooked eggs). In an licensed kitchen lemon curd falls under the time and temp. guidelines.

On the other hand, ganache does not require refridgeration at all. If it was, the candy and bonbons sold all over the world wouldn't exist as they do in our market place. They do have a shelf life, many/most food items have shelf lifes, but that is a seperate factor. (Unless, your adding eggs in your ganache which believe it or not, some people do).

I agree on low moisture content slows down bacteria growth, but it doesn't prevent it. Bacon is o.k. at room temp. if cooked/dried out. Lemon curd might be safe at room temp. if you have a recipe that doesn't contain real eggs.

Read everything regarding your states cottage food law. It's not that hard to understand and it's most likely online and easy to find.

Stitches Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 3:14am

I've been a professional chef for well over 20 years. I have my sanitation license and have taken multiple updated courses through out the years. I've tried over and over to get the health instructors to talk specificly about bakery items, because there are so many items that are questionable in bakerys.Truthfully, bakery items aren't really investigated by the health dept. like other items, mainly because of how few serious out breaks of food born illness from bakery items there have been.

I'm in IL, where they just passed the food cottage food law. The basic guidelines did single out specific bakery items we could not sell. Items that have had a history of food born illness connected to them, such as : custard pies, any home canned items, etc... SO, I think if you dig further online in your states cottage food law you might find some items specificly mentioned that you can not sell.

As far as a couple things posted already on this thread there's a couple thing's I'd take issue with. BUT that being said, I've been in the business long enough to know that: what's true in your town or state isn't in mine, you can get different answers from each inspector in your community, recipes differ greatly. For example: lemon curd is totally forbidden under the food cottage law, in IL because it's a cooked custard (containing cooked eggs). In an licensed kitchen lemon curd falls under the time and temp. guidelines.

On the other hand, ganache does not require refridgeration at all. If it was, the candy and bonbons sold all over the world wouldn't exist as they do in our market place. They do have a shelf life, many/most food items have shelf lifes, but that is a seperate factor. (Unless, your adding eggs in your ganache which believe it or not, some people do).

I agree on low moisture content slows down bacteria growth, but it doesn't prevent it. Bacon is o.k. at room temp. if cooked/dried out. Lemon curd might be safe at room temp. if you have a recipe that doesn't contain real eggs.

Read everything regarding your states cottage food law. It's not that hard to understand and it's most likely online and easy to find.

costumeczar Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 11:28am

The thing about the Virginia cottage food law is that it ISN'T online and easy to understand, though. Stitches, you're right about getting different answers from different people in the field, so you need to know the specific people who will be dealing with you and ask them directly how they do things. I've had different inspectors tell me different things, and I've even "educated" a couple of them after calling and talking to the head of the local Dept of Agricutlture inspections office, who I did a wedding cake for.

The VA cottage food law was written in response to some family farms in the western part of the state who wanted to have no inspections because they wanted to use organic methods that end up with cleaner products, but don't make sense to the FDA because they deal mostly with large factory farms. Once that original intent made its way through our mighty legislature (a bunch of dillweeds if ever there was one) it had turned into rules about selling canned goods at farmers markets. It mentions baked goods, but there's no specifics about what is and isn't allowed.

Based on my personal direct experience with the Va Dept of Agriculture, I'd say that you'll be fine if you use an all-shortening icing, and that custards, curds, whipped creams and meringues will all be totally out. The ones that are iffy would be ganaches, meringue buttercreams and icings that have part shortening/part butter. They tend to look at your recipes and if they have dairy in them they get the big no unless it's going to be refrigerated. They want you to refrigerate everything until delivery in a best-case scenario, so they don't bother to think about whether or not someone somewhere has decided that this or that is shelf-stable for two days or three days. They just say no unless you argue it. And it might depend on who you talk to, but since the inspectors are the ones who would be coming to your house for complaints, you should talk to them.

SandyES00 Posted 27 Oct 2012 , 1:13pm

Ugh, shortening only frostings. Anyone have any actually good recipes for those?

steveproxy Posted 30 Oct 2012 , 5:00pm

It's not milk.... but you can use Ghee.

Get a good quality butter from the store. Make Ghee out of it. (The internet is very helpful with this)

Use any standard 'canna-butter' recipe with the ghee instead of butter.

Shelf-stable and is extremely digestable... very good carrier for cannabis.

Stay Safe!
 

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