Earlier this year, Robb Walsh profiled so-called "pirate bakers" in his feature "Come and Bake It," which chronicled the efforts of these home bakers, canners and tamale-makers as they strove to get their products legalized.
"Bake sales and homemade tamales are only two of a long list of beloved Texas food traditions that health authorities are stamping out," Walsh wrote.
"Your tax dollars are also helping eradicate the dewberry jam, mayhaw and muscadine jellies, and other preserves that were once sold at farm stands. To the disappointment of many budding local food entrepreneurs, homemade food products may not be sold at farmers' markets either."
The solution? The Texas Cottage Food Bill, also known as the Bake Sale Bill. HB 1139 sought to allow licensing of baked goods, jams, jellies, spice mixtures and many other "non-potentially hazardous" foodstuffs for sale.
On Friday, June 17, Governor Rick Perry finally signed that bill into law.
Lest eager bakers and canners head straight up to their local farmers' market this weekend, however, there are a few caveats to the finalized bill that had to be amended along the way.
"Foods are limited to non-potentially hazardous baked goods, canned jams, jellies, and dry spice mixes," according to an excellent summary provided by the Texas Cottage Food website. And those foods may only be sold directly to consumers, which means no farmers' markets and -- equally importantly -- no website sales.
The food must also be labeled correctly, containing the name and address of the creator as well as a "warning label" saying that the food hasn't been inspected by a health department. The language of that statement is still under construction, however: "We are waiting for the Department of State Health Services to develop the specific rules for labeling," says the Texas Cottage Food website.
There's plenty of time for the State to figure out the wording, though: The law doesn't go into effect until September 1, 2011.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.