Proposed North Dakota cottage food rules inch forward after failed bill

The 2017 Legislature passed a bill expanding direct-to-consumer sales of uninspected home-baked and canned items. Cottage food producers have since clashed with the state Department of Health over proposed rules essentially limiting what foods can be sold.

The rule-making process paused in 2018. The 2019 Legislature considered a bill to clarify legal definitions and intent, which some bill opponents saw as onerous in its food restrictions.

The much-amended bill — which ultimately failed in the House after arguments promoting “food freedom” and liberty in selling home-prepared foods like “Grandma’s apple butter” — centered on low-acid canned foods such as green beans.

Low-acid canned foods can pose a risk for botulism if not done correctly. The 2017 law does not require licensing, specify labeling or mandate kitchen inspections, but the state Health Department can investigate complaints of illness.

Now with the State Health Council’s unanimous OK, the public will have opportunity to comment on the proposed rules which mirror the original 2019 bill in prohibiting low-acid canned foods and requiring frozen transport for time- and temperature-controlled foods such as custard pies.

The proposed rules also outline labeling requirements and include 21 definitions for the law.

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