Are you a Florida Beekeeper interested in selling your honey under Florida’s cottage food exemption but uncertain of the rules and regulations?
As of July 2021, Section 500.80, Florida Statutes, now referred to as the “Home Sweet Home Act,” reformed the rules to Florida’s cottage food exemption that allows individuals to manufacture, sell, and store certain types of “cottage foods” (including honey) in an unlicensed kitchen (primary home kitchen). “Cottage food operations” do not require a food permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and are not inspected by any state government entity.
Beekeepers qualify for this exemption provided they:
- Do not exceed $250,000 in annual gross sales;
- Upon request, provide the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with written documentation to verify their operations’ annual gross sales;
- Store all cottage food honey on the premises of the cottage food operation;
- Do not sell, offer for sale, or deliver cottage food products for consignment or “wholesale”;
- Properly label their cottage food products;
- Comply with any state or federal tax law; and
- Comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating traffic, parking, noise, signage, and hours of home retail operations.
ACTIVITIES NOW PERMITTED UNDER THE “HOME SWEET HOME ACT”
Beekeepers may continue to sell honey directly to the consumer from the home, a roadside stand, a farmers’ market, or a flea market. In addition, honey processors may now advertise for sale, offer, and accept payment for cottage food products over the internet or by mail. Products may be sold and delivered directly to the consumer, to a specific event venue, or shipped interstate by United States Postal Service or commercial mail delivery service.
REQUIREMENTS FOR COTTAGE FOOD LABELS
Cottage food products must be labeled with the requirements as outlined in Section 500.80 (3)
The honey must be pre-packaged (bottled or cut comb in containers) with a label affixed that contains the following information (printed in English):
- The name and address of the cottage food operation. The beekeeper must list his/her name or business entity that produces or packages cottage food products at the residence on the label. No fictitious names are permitted under the cottage food operation legislation.
- The complete street address of the cottage food operation, including zip code (post office box address does not qualify).
- The name of the product. The single word “honey” is acceptable. Honey, as defined by the Florida Standard of Identity for Honey (Rule: 5K-4.027), means “the natural food product resulting from the harvest of nectar by honey bees and the natural activities of the honey bees in processing nectar. It consists essentially of different sugars, predominately fructose and glucose, and other substances such as organic acids, enzymes, and solid particles derived from honey collection. The color of honey can vary from nearly colorless to dark brown. The consistency can be fluid, viscous, or partially to completely crystallized. The flavor and aroma vary but are derived from the plant’s origin” (https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?id=5K-4.027).
- The ingredients of the cottage food product in descending order of predominance by weight. If honey contains any flavoring, spice, or other added ingredient, those additives must also appear on the label. For example, “lime essence honey.” See Rule 5K-4.027 (4) Standard Identity – Honey.
- The net weight or net volume of the cottage food product. The product’s content should be expressed in net weight or net volume. The statement must be displayed in the bottom 30% of the label. The words “net weight” may be abbreviated to “Net.Wt.”.
- Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires food labels to identify in plain English if the product contains any of the eight major food allergens—milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soybeans. The Act does not include honey, and honey is not listed as an allergen. However, honey has been associated with infant botulism and is considered a dietary risk for infants less than one year of age. It is recommended beekeepers display on their labels, “Do not feed to infants less than one-year-old.” See the following document for more information: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa142.
- The following statement must be in at least 10-point type in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background of the label: “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”
ADDITIONAL COTTAGE FOOD LABELING INFORMATION
Words to avoid: Avoid any nutritional claims or health-related statements on the label (for example “healthy,” “packed with energy,” “low in fat,” “good for allergies”) because such statements would also require the cottage food to display a nutritional content label. There is no official standard for “raw” honey; however, it generally means that the honey has not been filtered or heated. When customers ask for raw honey, they want honey that has only been strained, so avoid labeling or selling honey as “raw” unless it will meet the customer’s expectations. Never use the words “certified,” “registered,” or “inspected” on your honey label unless your product has been certified, registered, or inspected by an authorized entity. The word “organic” is not just an adjective, nor is it synonymous with “natural.” If you wish to produce or handle agricultural products that can be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” “made with organic ingredients,” or “USDA Organic,” you must be certified by an accredited certifying agent. More information on becoming certified can be found on the National Organic Program website (https://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program).
Optional words you may use: Words preceding the comment “honey,” such as “pure,” “natural,” or “all natural” are acceptable and reinforce the quality and purity of the product. Honey may also be designated according to floral or plant source (for instance, “orange blossom honey”) if it comes predominately from that source and has the scientific properties corresponding with that origin. Beekeepers should avoid preceding the floral source with the word “pure” because bees do not exclusively use one floral source.
ADDITIONAL COTTAGE FOOD REGULATIONS
Gross sales of cottage foods are for all foods produced and sold, not just honey. For example, if you sell honey and jam under the cottage food exemption, the combined gross sales of these products cannot exceed $250,000 annually.
A local law, ordinance, or regulation may not prohibit a cottage food operation or regulate the preparation, processing, storage, and sale of cottage food products by a cottage food operation or from a person’s residence. A cottage food operation must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and ordinances regulating traffic, parking, noise, signage, and hours of the home-based retail operation. Check with your county, local municipality, and farmers’ markets before selling to the public.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may investigate any complaint that alleges that a cottage food operation has violated an applicable provision of this chapter or rule adopted under this chapter (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0500/Sections/0500.80.html)
Only upon receipt of a complaint may an officer or employee of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspect the premises of a cottage food operation to determine compliance with applicable state law and departmental rules. You may advertise and accept orders and payments online or by mail order. You may deliver the cottage food product directly to the consumer or a specific event venue or ship the product interstate by United States Postal Service or commercial mail delivery service.
Still, have questions? Please refer to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Cottage Food Guidance Document or contact Lee County Extension Office’s Family and Consumer Science Agent, Jennifer Hagen, at 239-533-7510 or email Jennifer for more information.