Saturday, August 20, 2011

Only at Farmer's Markets

The ONLY place, beginning in 2012, that home prepared, non-hazardous foods can be sold is at Farmer's Markets.

While this a great first step, I was hoping that the new law would allow for consumers to be able to sell their product at a variety of venues -- church bazaars, flea markets, craft fairs, etc.

Oh's a start and I should be happy.  Isn't that the way.  Give me an inch and I want a mile!!!

Until next time...


YEAH...Governor Quinn Signs Cottage Food Law

On August 16th, Governor Quinn finally signed SB 840 -- better known as the Cottage Food Law -- into law effective January 1, 2012.  I think it is ironic that I sent a message to Governor Quinn via his website on Monday, August 15th urging him to sign the bill and's done.  What power I have!!! of January 1st of next year, food entrepreneurs will be able to make non-potentially hazardous foods in their own home kitchen.  If you read my last blog posting of July 2nd (I know...I need to post more regularly) you can see a short listing of the rules of what foods are allowed and which ones can't be made in your own home kitchen.  For the complete text of the new law, please see:

I printed out the law and will, over the next several posts, highlight some of the areas that you'll need to take special note of if you decide to legally prepare food from your home and sell it to the public beginning in 2012.

The first thing you will need to do is become an Illinois certified food handler.  To do so you must take a 15 hour FSSMC course (that stands for Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification), pass the exam with a score of 75% or higher and pay a fee of $35 to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  I teach the 15 hour class, both at John A Logan College, and as private custom classes on demand.  So if you'd like me to teach the class for you, please email or call me.  You can get my contact information off of my website: 

You can go to, scroll down the page and click on the box "Food Sanitation Manager Certification Courses" to find courses in your area.  Simply click on the box and it will take you to a map of the state of Illinois.  Click on your county to find classes in your area.  If no classes show up in your county, click on a neighboring county.  Some counties, especially in deep Southern Illinois, do not have regular classes scheduled so if you are in need of a course and you live south of I70, give me a call and I'll put a class together for you.

Until next time...


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cottage Law on Governor's Desk

Illinois Senate Bill 804 passed both houses and has been sent to Governor Quinn on June 24th for his signature. The "Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act" would allow individuals to produce non-potentially hazardous foods in their own homes for direct sale to consumers and at Illinois farmer's markets.  If signed by the governor, this will mean that small food entrepreneurs will be able to produce non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, dry herb or tea blends intended for end-use only, in their own kitchen.

All I I can say is "YEAH -- it's about time!"

It's about time that Illinois join the 17 other states who have similar laws that allow foods not associated with food borne illness to be prepared in your own home kitchen for sale to the public. For individuals who want to start a small food business, this potential law would mean that you can start your dream in your own kitchen as opposed to having to rent a commercial kitchen.

However, there are limitations on the foods you can prepare in your own home. The law would allow the following jams, jellies and preserves:  Apple, apricot, grape, peach, plum, quince, orange, nectarine, tangerine, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, strawberry, red currants, or a combination of these fruits. You would not be allowed to sell rhubarb, tomato or pepper jellies or jams.

Any other jams, jellies or preserves not listed above may be produced by a cottage food operation provided that their recipe has been tested and documented by a commercial laboratory as being not potentially hazardous (ie. has a pH of less than 4.6).

The following fruit butters would be allowed: apple, apricot, grape, peach, plum, quince, and prune. Pumpkin, banana and pear butter are not allowed.  Again, if a cottage food operation wants to sell a fruit butter not listed on the allowed list, they would have to have their recipe tested and documented by a commercial laboratory as containing a pH of less than 4.6.

Baked goods such as breads, cookies, cakes, pies and pastries are allowed. Only high-acid fruit pies (apple, apricot, grape, peach, plum, quince, orange, nectarine, tangerine, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, strawberry, red currants or a combination of these fruits) is allowed. The same rule applies as above if you want to make a fruit pie from other fruits not listed -- the recipe must be tested and documented by a commercial laboratory as containing a pH of less than 4.6.

Pumpkin, sweet potato, cheesecake, custard and cream pies and pastries are prohibited from sale.

In addition, gross receipts from the sale of food produced from your home must not exceed $25,000 in a calendar year.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that Governor Quinn signs this bill.

Until next time,


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Selling at a Farmer's Market in Illinois

It's Farmer's Market time here in Illinois and many individuals have inquired as to how can they sell their home made foods at the market.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has guidelines for Farmer's Markets that are provided to give guidance to local health departments.  To view these guidelines, see:

In the Farmer's Market guidelines, it states, "Operators of stands and concessions who wish to sell products other than fresh, uncut, unprocessed produce must contact each local health department in which they will be operating to obtain specific requirements including necessary inspections, food permits or licenses."

What this means is that if you want to sell your cookies, cakes, jams, etc you must follow the requirements of the individual health departments.  Most Illinois health departments now require that all foods for sell be produced in an inspected kitchen and that the food handler be certified by IDPH.

However, in these tough economic times, the Illinois House on May 23, 2011 approved a measure that would allow vendors to prepare foods in their home kitchens and it is now headed to Governor Pat Quinn for his consideration.

This new law, if passed, would limit the types of foods that could be prepared in a home kitchen for resale. Only foods designated as not potentially hazardous would quality to be cooked in a home kitchen.

In addition, the vendor must not gross over $25,000 a year. It would still require that the vendor have an IDPH sanitation certificate (see previous blog entries on how to become a certified food handler).

So stay tuned...if this bill passes it could be much, much easier for you to sell your home baked or prepared products to the public.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finding a Commercial Kitchen to Rent in Illinois

One of the hardest things for a new food entreprenuer to find is a commercial inspected kitchen in which to LEGALLY prepare their food product. While many people start out preparing foods in their own home kitchen, they don't realize that in Illinois this is illegal as a SEPARATE kitchen from your home kitchen is required for preparing foods for sale.

So where can you find a commercial inspected kitchen to rent in Illinois?

First, contact your local health department, environmental health services division, and ask to speak to a food sanitarian. They may have a listing of kitchens in their county that rent out their space to entrepreneurs.

If you live in the Taylorville area, University of Illinois Extension has recently renovated their kitchen into a rentable, inspected kitchen. You can reach the Christian County Extension Office at: 217-287-7246. Check out their website at:

In the Belleville area, a good friend of mine, Chef Cari, has recently opened a commercial kitchen for her business "Dinner at Your Door Personal Chef Service" and is willing to rent her kitchen to interested food entrepreneurs.  You can check out her website at:

Unfortunately, there aren't many advertised commercial kitchens for rent outside the Chicago area but many times churches, organizations and restaurants that are only open for limited hours will rent out their facilities.

Here's a website for commercial kitchens for rent in the Chicago area:

Until next time,


Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Way to Find FSSMC Courses in Illinois

If you are wanting to become a certified food handler in Illinois and are wondering where to find courses in your area, this task has now become much, much easier. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has recently launched an on-line course finder on the IDPH home page which makes is much easier for individuals to find courses for both the 5-hour Refresher Course and the 15-hour Cerification Course in their area.

Simply log on to the IDPH website ( and scroll down until you see on the right hand side the box that says "Food Sanitation Managers Certification Courses." Click on this box and you are now brought to a page with the map of Illinois counties. Now you can search by county, by IDPH Region (hit on the blue circle and you'll see all the courses offered in that part of the state) or by your favorite instructor. When you find the class that you'd like to take, simply call the instructor to find out more details.
In Illinois, there are three ways a person can be certified as a food service sanitation manager:
  1. Complete a Department approved 15-hour FSSMC course, successfully pass a state examination with a score of at least 75 percent and pay a $35 certificate fee to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  2. Obtain a written waiver from IDPH for a course you have taken elsewhere. Then, complete the Illinois FSSMC examination with a score of at least 75 percent and pay the $35 certificate fee to IDPH. A person may qualify for a course waiver if he/she has completed a course that was at least 15 hours in length and contained, at a minimum, the same material content as the Illinois course. The course must have been completed within the last five years.
  3. Qualify for a certificate through reciprocity. If a person holds a food service manager certificate issued by the Chicago Department of Public Health, submit a copy, along with a completed FSSMC request form, to IDPH and ask that an Illinois food service sanitation manager certificate be issued through reciprocity. Send no money with the FSSMC request form. After the Department verifies the authenticity of your certificate from the city of Chicago, you will be mailed a FSSMC application, which should be completed and returned to IDPH along with the $35 certificate fee.
Until next time...

Friday, October 8, 2010

How do I get started?

As a former nutrition and wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension and an expert on in the area of food safety, one of the most frequent questions that I receive is "I have a fabulous recipe for XYZ and would like to make and sell it to the public. How do I get started?"

I think a lot of people have watched the movie "Baby Boom" and think that it's a simple process -- just make a great product, market it and are suddenly a millionaire!! In the movie, Diane Keaton makes baby applesauce in her home kitchen and peddles the product to small stores in the New England area. Unfortunately, it's not exactly that simple.

First of all, in Illinois, to produce a product in your home requires that you do so in a kitchen separate from your home kitchen. This kitchen can be in the basement or other building on your property. You can not legally produce food for sale from your family kitchen.

Here's what you'll need in your separate kitchen:

  • 3-compartment sink
  • Backflow devises on your plumbing
  • Grease trap
  • Separate hand sink
  • Separate utility sink or curbed drain area.

In addition, all surfaces (floors, counters, walls, etc.) need need to be easy to clean and sanitize. 

Food items that can be made in a home environment include baked items (cookies, cakes, pies, etc). Foods that require processing (jams, jellies, salsa, etc) will require additional equipment and possibly additional FDA certification to be considered a food processor (more about this in future blog entries).

Before getting started, I strongly suggest you read the following book, "Sell Your Specialty Food" by Stephen F. Hall. This excellent resource answers many of the questions you may have about starting a food business and will walk you through the process.

Until next time.