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Options for Selling Honey in Texas

Part Two By: Lynne Jones

When I became a beekeeper, I had no idea how much there was to learn about bees and honey, and I certainly didn’t expect to spend hours and hours looking up regulations on selling honey. I have sold pure honey as a Small Honey Production Operator, pure honey, and flavored honey as a Licensed Food Manufacturer, and I am now selling pure honey as a Beekeeper Honey Producer, and flavored honey as a Cottage Food Production Operator. And of course, each one has different labeling requirements – I should have bought stock in CCL Industries Inc, the parent company of Avery Labels!

COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCTION OPERATION

Anyone, including beekeepers, can sell flavored honey and infused honey as a Cottage Food Operator 2. In 2019, there were changes to the regulations on not only what can be sold, but how and where the food products can be sold. There are many food products that can be sold as Cottage Food, but for this article I am focusing on flavored and infused honey.

Location for Producing, Packaging, & Storing

  • You must operate and produce from your “Home” is defined as: a primary residence that contains a kitchen and appliances designed for common residential usage.
  • You can sell at other locations, like a farmers’ market, farm stand, or nonprofit event, but the producing, packaging, and storing must be done from your home.

Requirements for Licensing and Training

  • No license is required. You do not need to submit or inform any government entity.
  • You must have a current Food Handler certificate.3
  • Your employees must have a current Food Handler certificate or be directly supervised by you.
  • Members of your household can work without a certificate or direct supervision.

Requirements for Labeling

  • TX Ag Code Title 6, Ch. 13: labeling for honey 4:

-The label on a product that resembles honey cannot use a picture or drawing of a bee, hive, or comb.

-The product name "honey" cannot be in a larger size of type or print, or in a more prominent position than the other words in the product name.

-The product’s label must include a list of ingredients, listed in descending order of predominance by weight.

-The word "honey" must appear in the list of ingredients in the same size type of print as the other ingredients.

-Violating the labeling requirements above is a Class B misdemeanor.

  • Chapter 431 Sec. 431.082(f)(1) standard required labeling 5:

-name of the product

-net weight statement

-name and address of business/beekeeper

  • The following statement: "This food is made in a home

         kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State

         Health Services or a local health department.”

  • Labels must be legible.

Assuming there is a label on the back with the ingredients
  properly listed and the required "not inspected" statement;
   Which of these labels meets the requirements for Cottage
    Food labeling? Answer at the end of the article.

Requirements for Sales

  • Limited to sales within the State of Texas.
  • Sales must be direct to the consumer.
  • No wholesale sales are permitted. (Restaurants, grocery stores, other businesses)
  • At least one part of the transaction must be made in-person. If the sale is made in-person, the product can be shipped.If the sale is made on-line or by mail-order, the product must be delivered in-person.
  • If the sale is made on-line or by mail-order, before accepting payment, all labeling information must be provided to the consumer. This information can be provided by:

-posting a legible statement on the cottage food production operation's Internet website

-publishing the information in a catalog or order form

-otherwise communicating the information to the consumer

  • Annual gross income cannot exceed $50,000 from the sale of food.

Cottage Foods in Addition to Flavored/Infused Honey

The list of food products that can be sold under Cottage Food is quite extensive, and you may be interested in selling other food products in addition to flavored/infused honey. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has much helpful information on their Frequently Asked Questions about Cottage Food Production Operations 6 page. Additionally, there is a Request for Official Determination form 7 that can be used to submit for approval of a recipe. DSHS is required to respond to your Request within 30 days.

Food Manufacturing License

Now that the rules for selling pure, raw honey have drastically changed, the need for operating as a Licensed Food Manufacturer is also drastically reduced. Unless there is something I have not considered, the only reasons for having a License are to: sell outside of Texas; to sell flavored/infused honey in retail or wholesale; to sell a honey product that is not a TCS food, like a honey butter; or if your buyer requires it.

Location for Producing, Packaging, & Storing

If you need the Food Manufacturing License, the first step will be to determine a suitable building or room for your Inspected Facility. You may already have a building that can be adapted for the purpose; if not, you can build one from scratch or have a prefabricated storage building delivered. The facility requirements are pretty stringent, and if you do not at least already have a building or room available, it will probably cost quite a bit of money.

 The requirements for an Inspected Facility:

  • The room used is completely separate or completely partitioned from living, eating, or sleeping quarters. (Not in your garage if it opens directly into your house, but you can partition a room within your garage with direct access to outside.)
  • The room used has an exterior entrance.
  • The room used meets all applicable requirements of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Warehousing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food.8 Some of the requirements:

-Floors, walls, and ceilings that are smooth, non-absorbent, and easily cleanable -A three-compartment sink with hot and cold running water

-A separate mop-sink

-A separate hand-washing sink, with soap, paper towels, and hot and cold running water (may be the home restroom if it is “convenient” to the room) -Adequate grey water disposal and access to a restroom (may be the home restroom if it is accessible)

-Tight-fitting closures on windows and doors

-Covered lighting fixtures

-If your water is from a well, monthly test with passing results of the water during all months the room is used.

An alternative to building your own, is to borrow or rent time in a facility that has already been inspected, for example, a restaurant kitchen. Some owners of small, independently owned restaurants are happy to work out an arrangement for you to use their kitchen during off-hours or on a day they are closed. There are also commercial kitchens available to rent by the hour. Some beekeepers already have an inspected and approved “Honey House,” and they also might be open to renting their space out for the day. Whatever location you choose, try to choose one that will work for you for a couple of years because that specific address will be on your license; if you decide to use a different location, you will need to submit a Minor Amendment Change form, a new License Application form, and a fee.

If you are not storing your bottled honey or packaged product at the same location as your Inspected Facility, you will also need a Warehouse Operator License.10,11 The license is rather expensive - $361 (for up to 6,000 sq/ft storage area). Or simply don’t bottle or package so much that you need to “store” it.

 

Desert Creek Honey Honey Extraction Facility - Blue Ridge, TX

Requirements for Licensing and Training

Once you have your room or building ready to be inspected by the Department of Health (or at least within a month of being ready), you’ll need to submit your Food Manufacturer License Application12 and the initial fee. The fee is based on gross annual sales, but assuming your annual sales will be less than $10,000, the fee is $103, and the license will be good for two years from the date your payment is received. The application says processing time takes about four to six weeks, but my personal experience three years ago was closer to ten weeks. When the State finally starts processing your application, if your facility needs to be inspected, they will contact you and come for the inspection. Any issues found will need to be corrected before your licensing can be completed. If you are using a facility that has already been inspected, like a restaurant kitchen, an additional inspection is not needed to get your license, though it is probable an inspector will pay a visit to the location at some point.

 

You will need to have successfully completed an accredited basic food safety education or training program for food handlers, and of course conduct your operation in accordance with the requirements for Retail Food.

Requirements for Labeling

The labeling requirements for pure honey are pretty straight-forward.

  • Common usual name of product
  • Name and Address of Manufacturer Net quantity of contents including metric measurements.
  • Net quantity of contents must be separated from other text on the label and must be located in the bottom third of the label.
  • An ingredient statement is not required for pure honey

When you start adding ingredients, it becomes more complicated; this article will not go into those requirements. Instead, I recommend you read and follow the requirements on the DSHS website, Labeling - Food Manufacturers, Wholesalers, and Warehouses 14 and the FDA’s Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products.15

Requirements for Sales

None other than for any other business.

In conclusion, selling honey is at a really sweet spot for Texas beekeepers. There are very few restrictions for selling pure honey as a Beekeeper Honey Producer. If you want to sell flavored honey, you can do that as well under the reasonable restrictions of Cottage Food Production Operation. If you absolutely must be licensed, the Food Manufacturing License isn’t expensive; and though initial costs of establishing your own facility might be prohibitive, there are other options. Happy beekeeping – may your supers be heavy and your stings few.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and my opinions should not be considered legal advice. Conduct your own research or consult an attorney. Article Citations listed below:

  

Lynne Jones is a 5-year beekeeper and owner of Brazos River Honey. She serves as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Fort Bend Beekeepers Association and is a member of the Harris County Beekeepers Association, and the Texas Beekeepers Association. She is an original member of the Real Texas Honey TM program and is currently at the Advanced level of the Texas Master Beekeeper program.

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