Washington legislator wants to expand cottage foods

A Washington legislator has proposed doubling to $50,000 a year the gross revenue makers of homemade foods can collect before they come under the state’s food processing law.

Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, said she introduced House Bill 2218 at the request of a constituent, who said she won’t be able to make her business work with the current $25,000 cap.

“We need to make it as easy as possible to make money, especially for those trying to raise children,” Eslick said.

The Legislature in 2011 authorized “cottage” food-makers to sell their homemade products directly to consumers. The state has about 300 licensed cottage food-makers, who are regulated by health officials and the state Department of Agriculture.

The food-makers prepare their products in home kitchens, pay fees and are subject to inspections. There are rules to follow, including one that bars infants, small children or pets from the kitchen during food preparation.

Lawmakers initially capped gross income at $15,000 a year. The limit was raised to $25,000 a year in 2015.

The Department of Agriculture is open to talking about raising the cap, an agency spokesman said.

A $50,000 cap on annual gross sales would match the limit for California’s cottage food-makers. In Oregon, the cap is $20,000.

In Idaho, homemade foods that don’t need refrigeration can be sold without a license directly to consumers.

Eslick also has introduced legislation to change labeling requirements on homemade foods.

House Bill 2217 would eliminate the requirement that food-makers put their home addresses on labels. Instead, the labels would have the number of the permit issued by the state Department of Agriculture.

“These are moms taking care of their children. They don’t want people coming to their home,” Eslick said.