Honey added to the list of cottage foods that can be sold without licensing

Urban beekeepers ready to profit

TAMPA - For years in Florida, anyone wanting to make a little extra money baking up goodies in their kitchen for sale were usually breaking the law. Food for sale has to be prepared in a state-inspected kitchen.

But a new law has carved out an exemption for certain foods, including one treat that has locals buzzing -- honey.

Rebecca Conroy is an urban beekeeper in Pinellas County who just found out that honey was added to the list of foods that can be prepared and sold in home kitchens.

"It's great news. We don't make honey. The bees make the honey.  All we do is put it in a jar to hand it to someone.  That was the issue," said Conroy who points out that honey is uniquely resistant to spoiling.

Conroy doesn't want to compete with commercial beekeepers - just cover her expenses and promote the health and environmental benefits of local honey.

"To be able to share it with your neighbors without breaking some law is really nice," said Conroy.

Effective this year, the Florida Cottage Food Act allows home cooks to prepare and sell cakes, pies, cereals, breads, jellies, jams and now honey. All such products must carry a cottage food label that lists ingredients and the home address of the producer.

Paula Deen's food empire started as a cottage industry in her Georgia home. Deen whipped up cookies and sandwiches for her sons to sell to local restaurants.

Home chefs in Florida are limited to no more than $15,000 in sales per year and the products can only be sold person to person - not through stores or the internet.

Many products still require permits and state inspections including canned fruits and vegetables and meat products.

Rebecca Conroy feels honey will be the safest product of all.

"Honey doesn't go bad and it's a natural disinfectant, so any problem putting it in a jar sort of takes care of itself."

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