A Law Pickle

clear glass jars on white table

In general, Florida’s Cottage Food Law has been a great thing. The law excuses business with gross sales less than $50,000 from permitting requirements, so long as the business produces “cottage food products” only, meaning “food that is not a potentially hazardous food” as defined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. And now is a great time to start pickling fruits and vegetables to have a strong showing for the Summer. Pickling gives growers the opportunity to stock up their produce, and prepare for unproductive seasons. Pickling is not just for cucumbers. Beets, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, radishes, turnips, zuchinni, and summer squash can all be pickled. Pickles, as Josh McFadden notes, “stop time.”

But pickles do not stop regulations. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says that “canned fruits and vegetables, chutneys, vegetable butters and jellies, flavored oils, hummus, garlic dip and salsas” do not fall within the Cottage Food Law. But “flavored vinegar” does. This is because the FDA makes the distinction between “acid foods” and “acidified foods.” The FDA defines acid foods as foods with a “natural pH of 4.6 or below,” and acidified foods as “low-acid foods to which acid(s) or acid food(s) are added.” So flavored vinegar is an “acid food,” and acid food “is not a potentially hazardous food.” Therefore, flavored vinegar producers get the benefit of the Cottage Food Law.

But flavored oil and pickles do not get the benefit of the Cottage Food Law. As “acidified foods,” the government sees them as “potentially hazardous.” Accordingly, they are subject to state regulations, and these state regulations incorporate federal regulations. Under these federal regulations the pH level must be brought down to 4.6 or lower. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services requires this application to pickle.

So pickle away, but be sure the paperwork is in order. If you need assistance, contact me for a complimentary consultation.

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