Selling a Brand Name Product at Farmers Markets/Co-ops
September 28, 2011 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to help a friend who wants to sell a self-made food product along with another name brand food product at farmers markets, co-ops, etc. What are the legal and /or regulatory questions they need to be ask themselves and where do they go for the answers. Hypothetical scenarios in the extended explanation.

Hypothetical setups:

#1) Imagine they wanted to add Tabasco to homemade sauerkraut. Do they need to credit Tabasco on the label or list the ingredients of Tabasco along with their ingredients, or can they get by with a generic "hot sauce"? Is there an issue with using Tabasco's name on the ingredients?

#2) Imagine they wanted to sell Tabasco not in, but alongside the sauerkraut in a single sealed package. Are there licensing issues to worry about?

And for the sake of this conversation, while the brand NAME is not crucial to the product, the ingredients of the branded product are.

What other issues should be considered?

I know legal advice ain't free but they're just looking to put together the right questions. Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by phoenixphoenix to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
Not in regards to the legal aspect, but ingredients are incredibly important to list for the sake of those with allergies, of make sure the customers can easily read the exact ingredients you include in the product. Even little things like cinnamon someone can be severely allergic to. If you don't listen them and a customer has a reaction to the product, you can be held liable due to lack of information.
posted by fuzzysoft at 6:37 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

First place I'd go would be your local Extension Office. If they don't know the answer (and odds are good they will), then they'll be able to get you to the right source.
posted by hms71 at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2011

Labeling issues re ingredients are covered by federal law. It's complicated but if you know where to look it's possible to at least become knowledgeable enough to know if your friend might be able to do it. Also, there are exemptions in both federal and state food related laws for small craft producers. If you PM me I'll PDF some things to you to get you started. If you enjoy geeking out on this kind of stuff, you can learn a lot that will save your friend quite a bit of anxiety.
posted by webhund at 6:59 PM on September 28, 2011

Do you think every hot dog cart has spoken to Heinz to make sure they can sell Heinz ketchup on their dogs? Or Guldens to make sure they can put Gulden's mustard on their dogs?

As to ingredients, list everything. Food allergies are serious business. I can't speak to the requirements of this, but someone who makes their living selling food should know all this stuff already.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:11 PM on September 28, 2011

In many states--foodstuffs like this must be prepared in an inspected, commercial kitchen, and seomtimes with the presence of someone with a food handlers' license--CA is one. Cooking up stuff at home can be problematic, to say the least.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:48 PM on September 28, 2011

The food handler's license is no big deal to get (might be called food service sanitation), but the kitchen is the problem.

Just off the top of my head, in order to get anywhere close to the regs, you would need:

- Freeze and refrigerator with calibrated thermometers. When I worked in a restaurant, there needed to be an external instant read thermometer, and also another one inside. That might just be a requirement for larger units.

- Food storage needs to meet HAACP standards. Things must be stored in NSF-approved containers with covers. Shelving needs to meet NSF standards, which mostly means it can be removed to be cleaned and has no dead space or voids that can collect nasties. You need to be able to demonstrate that sensitive products (meat, chicken) can be stored below less sensitive products (cheese, lettuce).

- Sink for dishes, separate sink for handwashing. In the kitchen. Dish sink needs to be two or three compartment, depending on rules. Hot water might have to meet certain temperatures. The sinks will need to have air gaps between the faucet and sprayer and the highest level the sink can be filled. There may be a requirement for an air gap between the drain of the sink and the sewer it goes into. (So any sewer backups cannot possibly get into the sink.)

- Cooking utensils meeting NSF standards.

- Working and calibrated food thermometers.

- The ability to hold working ingredients above 140 or below 40, unless they are going to be used within a certain amount of time. (The times vary.)

- Prep areas that meet NSF standards. This generally means that the thing can be cleaned and sanitized. No wood generally, no surface that can flake, no nooks and crannies.

In IL, there are lesser restrictions for the little purveyors, but only if they are making foods that don't have particularly sensitive ingredients. Like cakes, cookies, brownies.
posted by gjc at 10:51 PM on September 28, 2011

Advice for liability: keep your ingredient list as small as possible. If you are making a sandwich, go out and buy single serving packs of mayonnaise to include with them. This keeps the labeling requirements simpler.

Forgot another thing for the kitchen: the ceiling. Has to be in a condition where nothing can fall onto the food. Standard acoustical tile is no good. Has to be the kind with a solid barrier.
posted by gjc at 10:56 PM on September 28, 2011

This question is missing a key piece of information: what jurisdiction your friends plan to sell their products in. Every state in the US has different rules, and many municipalities have their own rules above and beyond that.
posted by ambrosia at 9:38 AM on September 29, 2011

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