Cottage Food Operations and Meringue Powder

Hi!  I am hoping/trying to set up a Cottage Food Operation (CFO) in California for my cookies. I thought I had everything lined up, and have just been told that California doesn't allow meringue powder (or similar) in icing. I have truly cried, it makes me so sad! And I have heard this is not unique to California. It makes absolutely no sense to me that it is allowed in a professional kitchen and not in a home kitchen. Professional kitchen rental is just too expensive for a startup ($400+/mo).

I'm sure that many of you have knowledge of what has been argued/tried before with various state health organizations to try to change this -- I'd love to get your input. Maybe some of you in California can join me in trying to see what we can do to influence this? I mean if one lined up a brownie, muffin, and royal iced cookie, we all know the cookie would last the longest!

Thanks for any input!!

Original Post

Doesn't make much sense to me - maybe they are only restricting the use of raw eggs in royal icing? Meringue powder shouldn't pose much, if any, health risk. Anyway, the good news about CA is that they seem to have more incubator kitchens than most other areas of the country. Perhaps you can find such a shared space arrangement that would be less costly than $400/month? Though, to be honest, my lease starting out was a lot higher than that - and I managed okay, though it was a full-time business for me.

Thanks for the responses.   The cottage law and the California Dept of Public Health only allow "flat" icing (powdered sugar, water), and a "buttercream" sans butter and milk (no joke).  I submitted the required food labels (for cookie and icing), and ended up "educated".  So if we are a CFO and use Meringue Powder or eggs, our Liability Insurance will not cover us as we are not following the laws.  
My understanding is this is true in all states with Cottage Food Laws.
However, I have submitted a request to have MP added in CA, and have offered to bring samples, or whatever would help them allay their fears.   We'll see.  
The reason I was posting is that I assumed there were a lot of members who run CFO and had run into this, and maybe had already tried getting MP approved.
If you haven't heard this and run a CFO, DO CHECK your local laws, as you could be at risk and not know it    I'll keep you posted if we make progress!

If some of you go together and have your meringue powder recipes tested in a California approved food testing lab and it comes back as NPH then you should be able to present that info to your agency for review. 

In Texas many items were tested and the info passed on with great results.  The tests ran under $100 per recipe tested.

In speaking to the manufacturer of our brand (Genies Dream) he was surprised at the California ruling on mp as well.  

 

Good luck to you all. Cottage Law is sometimes not totally thought out and is some cases meets lots of resistance from the health dept. 

Here is the info on testing in Texas as a resource for you to use in your research 

Foods sold under the Texas Cottage Food Law must be non-potentially hazardous.

The definition of a non-potentially hazardous food is on pages 11-13 of the Texas Food Establishment Rules. There is a chart that you can read to determine whether the combination of pH and water activity (aW) makes that item potentially hazardous or not.

If you have a food that you would like to have tested, there is a company in Texas called Food Safety Net Services which will test a sample of your food for pH and aW for around $36.00, plus a setup fee of $100. (Setup fee waived if lab services total more than $1000, as of Feb. 2014). They have offices in Dallas and San Antonio, and you can either bring in your sample or overnight it on ice.

This is a great resource for Texas home bakers who are wondering if their recipe is allowed under the law.

In Australia we do not have pasturised eggs, and the only merigue powder is for a pavlova mix, but fortunately at the local cake supply shop I was able to purchase egg white powder. My daughter is several months pregnant and the one thing the doctors insist here, is to avoid anything with raw egg e.g. mayonaise, royal icing etc. but the egg powder is considered safe. Cookie decorating is very new to me, so I need lots of practice, but am enjoying myself. I love reading all the information that's given here.

Sounds strange, but if you deal with authorities - don't expect them to make much sense. They'll probably argue that once you add water to meringue powder / dried egg white, it will be just like egg whites again (totally ignoring that dehydrating kills all salmonella which might have been in there at the start...)

I keep my fingers crossed that you will get them to include meringue powder, but if the authorities in the States are anything like they are here in Germany, this might easily take a decade

So, how about trying a vegan icing instead? There are a lot of recipes for that and they seem to work just fine. This way you might get your business started even if there is no chance to work with meringue powder.

Hi there! I just stumbled across your site after desperately searching for answers on how to get this royal icing with meringue powder approved. I like you have just gotten the information about it and seriously cried when I found out after just starting a small business doing cookies realizing I can't sell them. Have you gotten any information? I too filled out a request to have it added but was wondering about having it tested in a lab?? I would love to chat with you and maybe we could come up with some more ideas!!

Hi!   Thanks to Creative Cookier, I researched the law... which I'll post a pertinent section of below.   Has ANYONE ANYWHERE had Royal Icing with Meringue Powder tested for pH and aw (water activity) in a lab?

If not, I suggest we look into labs which can do the testing and their cost (one is posted above), and maybe we can get donations to help CFO's pay for this from around the country?   There is one in LA and these others in CA.

From FDA:

(c) "Potentially hazardous food" does not include:

  1. (i) An air-cooled hard-boiled egg with shell intact;
  2. (ii) A food with an aw value of 0.85 or less;
  3. (iii) A food with a pH level of 4.6 or below when measured at 24 °C (75 °F);
  4. (iv) A food, in an unopened hermetically sealed container, that is commercially processed to achieve and maintain commercial sterility under conditions of nonrefrigerated storage and distribution; and
  5. (v) A food for which laboratory evidence demonstrates that the rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms or the growth of S. Enteritidis in eggs or C. botulinum can not occur, such as a food that has an aw and a pH that are above the levels specified under Subparagraphs (c)(ii) and (iii) of this definition and that may contain a preservative, other barrier to the growth of microorganisms, or a combination of barriers that inhibit the growth of microorganisms.
  6. (vi) A food that does not support the growth of microorganisms as specified under Subparagraph (a) of this definition even though the food may contain an infectious or toxigenic microorganism or chemical or physical contaminant at a level sufficient to cause illness.

I'm unfortunately operating at a significant loss at the moment due to business start-up costs, so can't afford to fund a significant portion of this on my own   (Please send San Jose area business my way .... )

Gayle (PlayingWithDough Cookies) posted:

Julia and others -- while you are at Cookie Con, might you ask around to see if anyone has had a US lab do testing of Royal Icing? If so, if they can share the results/report, that would be amazing!!
Thank you!!

I'm not at CookieCon. I'm at home prepping for a video shoot in a week and then a trip to China. I'm sorry, I can't help with this other than to share this forum post into my social media channels, to get more to see it and possibly come to help you out. I'll try to do this in the next couple of days, though I'm swamped right at the moment. You too can also share out this post using the social media links underneath it - please feel free to do that.

I'm late to join this conversation, but I too was told that my California CFO (San Diego) was approved...I only had to substitute for meringue powder.  I didn't actually cry, but I almost did!  I looked around online and was tempted to try a gelatin substitution or even one using liquid drained from a can of chick peas, but I haven't had the heart yet!  Has anyone tried these to do things like transfers or roses with substitutions?  Any progress in having meringue powder shown to be non potentially hazardous?  I'm ready to help!

@Gayle (PlayingWithDough Cookies) thank you for starting this thread. I'm new to this site and just stumbled upon this as I was researching on CFOs since I want to start one. I make royal icing for my cookies also using meringue powder. I use Wilton's which can be bought anywhere.  I would imagine that item has been tested and approved since it's out in shelves for public purchase. Can you please share any outcome that's resulted in you either getting it approved through the county or did you end up finding another substitution to use for the meringue powder? 

@Sarah J  I have not yet heard the results from California's latest review of proposed additions to the Safe Food List (the review is/was this month), however no Meringue Powder is on the list, not even Wilton's.    A note, this is California law, not my county.... although the approval for a CFO and our ingredients used comes through the county.

It could be a great idea to ask MP manufacturers/sellers to get together to fund a test in one state that could help it be on "safe" lists starting with the USDA (as although their exact formula is not the same, their ingredients tend to be).

I'll see if I can find any updates next week, however I'm not optimistic.

Gayle (PlayingWithDough Cookies) posted:

@Sarah J  I have not yet heard the results from California's latest review of proposed additions to the Safe Food List (the review is/was this month), however no Meringue Powder is on the list, not even Wilton's.    A note, this is California law, not my county.... although the approval for a CFO and our ingredients used comes through the county.

It could be a great idea to ask MP manufacturers/sellers to get together to fund a test in one state that could help it be on "safe" lists starting with the USDA (as although their exact formula is not the same, their ingredients tend to be).

I'll see if I can find any updates next week, however I'm not optimistic.

Sounds like a cause you are passionate about - why not lead the charge yourself in contacting meringue powder suppliers on this topic? I bet if you demonstrated/estimated their lost sales in CA due the current regulations, you could pique their interest in working together to effect change.

Gayle (PlayingWithDough Cookies) posted:

@Sarah J  I have not yet heard the results from California's latest review of proposed additions to the Safe Food List (the review is/was this month), however no Meringue Powder is on the list, not even Wilton's.    A note, this is California law, not my county.... although the approval for a CFO and our ingredients used comes through the county.

It could be a great idea to ask MP manufacturers/sellers to get together to fund a test in one state that could help it be on "safe" lists starting with the USDA (as although their exact formula is not the same, their ingredients tend to be).

I'll see if I can find any updates next week, however I'm not optimistic.

Thank you for the quick response. Please keep us posted. Thank you for taking the time to research and report. It is very much appreciated!

Hi! I am new to cookie connection and hoping to jump into this conversation. I applied for my class A cottage food license in California (I'm in Sacramento county) and I just received a call saying my application was denied because of the royal icing. The inspector said that I have to find a new icing to use, and then listed off the approved icings. I use meringue powder, but he insisted that is no different than using eggs. I'm angry and devastated all at once. I continued to argue that none of the ingredients in the royal icing violated the cottage food laws, but he didn't care. He said, "I will approve it, but you have to change your icing. Do you want to tell me now what icing you will use? Or do you want to call me back once you've decided?" I don't want to be dishonest and tell him I'll use flat icing when I know I will not be changing my royal icing recipe. I want to go about this the right way. Has anyone been able to make progress on a solution? Would you like to team up and figure out how we can get royal icing on the approved list? I am a detail-oriented person, I researched the cottage food laws extensively before applying, and I was confident that royal icing wasn't violating the law in any way. I'm shocked and heartbroken, but I don't want to give up on this. 

Hi.   I did recently hear back from the California Dept of Public Health, and MP was again not approved  "Royal icing was not approved because it typically requires temperature control/refrigeration.  Foods on the CFO list must be approved as a category of food, so all royal icings must not need to be refrigerated. "

Of course we know this not to be true.   So I asked "Might you explain at least why it would be viewed as safe if I used a commercial kitchen?    It is not baked nor refrigerated.  Yet my local competitors using commercial kitchens can use it with no different processes or equipment than I use. "    No response.

California  CDPH is based upon USDA.    As MP manufacturers have something to gain with this, I contacted Wilton hoping they might be wiling to do a "US wide" food safety test of the product... no response.    

How upsetting. It really makes no sense to me. So just because some types of royal icing need to be refrigerated, ALL royal icing is forbidden? Now I'm wondering if the inspector was trying to tell me that if I just called it flat icing but kept my ingredient list the same he would have approved it. There was a slight language barrier between us so maybe I was misunderstanding him. I called him back to clarify but he didn't answer. Hopefully I will hear from him tomorrow! 

Gayle (PlayingWithDough Cookies) posted:

Hi.   I did recently hear back from the California Dept of Public Health, and MP was again not approved  "Royal icing was not approved because it typically requires temperature control/refrigeration.  Foods on the CFO list must be approved as a category of food, so all royal icings must not need to be refrigerated. "

Of course we know this not to be true.   So I asked "Might you explain at least why it would be viewed as safe if I used a commercial kitchen?    It is not baked nor refrigerated.  Yet my local competitors using commercial kitchens can use it with no different processes or equipment than I use. "    No response.

California  CDPH is based upon USDA.    As MP manufacturers have something to gain with this, I contacted Wilton hoping they might be wiling to do a "US wide" food safety test of the product... no response.    

I wonder what application would require that RI be temperature controled?  I thought that the CDPH might be objecting to the silicon dioxide used as an anti caking agent.  I'm mystifiyed.   Sorry that you're going through this.           Pip

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