Gay Jones & Kuhn Small Business Series
SMALL BUSINESS INSIGHTS: COTTAGE FOOD LAWS IN MISSISSIPPI
February 25, 2020
Do you know that Mississippi law restricts what you can cook and sell from your home? Mississippians selling food made in their homes are hitting roadblocks because of state cottage food laws. Many Mississippians have no idea that there are laws restricting what you can cook and sell from your home and how you advertise that business. What do these laws say? Put simply, these laws state you cannot sell food prepared in your home on social media or the internet. Additionally, your income from this type of business cannot exceed $20,000.00 in gross revenue, and you are subject to inspection by the Mississippi Department of Health at any time. Detailed labeling is also covered by the law. For more information on cottage food laws in Mississippi click here.
While this law is frustrating for those who may be trying to run a food business from their home, restaurants and bakeries following the law are equally frustrated from trying to compete with unregulated, home-based businesses. Most of the lawful businesses don’t mind the competition, but when that competition is able to provide a much lower price point because they aren’t following the law, it is frustrating.
A 2018 Report on Cottage Food Laws in the United States by the Food and Law Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School points to a number of ways cottage food laws can benefit a state. “First, it promotes more spending in the local economy, and increases the amount of money circulated within it. Second, it supports local farmers, who can generate more revenue by supplementing fresh produce sales with prepared products that they can sell year-round and at a higher profit margin. Third, it encourages local business development, which in turn creates a stronger sense of community and increases quality of life for residents. Finally, it can serve as a launching pad for successful business creation and economic development.”
So why do states have these laws? Cottage food laws were put in place to protect the public. With food allergies on the rise in young children and the potential risk of food poisoning/contamination, it is important to know what is in your food and where it came from. Buying food advertised on social media from people you don’t know can be dangerous. Even the most well-meaning friends don’t always know how to safely prepare food.
So, what’s the answer? For now, small businesses have no choice but to follow and enforce the law. We work daily to help businesses navigate these laws and find solutions to the challenges of those competing with a home-based business. There are no exemptions from the Mississippi Cottage Food Law requirements, including those for social media advertisements and marketing. Moving forward, it is possible to change the law. A recent publication by the Mississippi State University Extension Office “Cottage Food Laws in Mississippi: Key Guidelines and Policy Implications,” notes the challenges the limits and restrictions place on cottage food entrepreneurs and the need for change.
Cottage food entrepreneurs in Mississippi could benefit from legislation that eliminates or increases the sales limit and allows them to sell and/or promote all or some of their products at non-direct-to-consumer outlets while protecting the safety of consumers.
Working together to come up with solutions that benefit our state and help grow our economy is key. If you are interested in staying connected on this issue or being part of a group to discuss change, please reach out to GJK to be included in our updates.