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New Mexico cottage food law underwent significant changes in 2021, thanks to NM HB 177. Before that, many considered the state to have the most convoluted cottage food laws in the country. As of the passing of the new legislation, things are much simpler.
Home kitchens are allowed throughout the state, and they are largely unregulated. You do not need a specific cottage food license (with some exceptions), and the range of foods that can be made this way is larger than most states. New Mexico is one of the few states that allows cottage food facilities to make meat jerkies, for instance.
Overall, there are several important points that need to be covered in regards to New Mexico food regulations.
Food Handlers Card
The first thing to understand about New Mexico food permits is that they start with the food handler’s card. This is a necessity for anyone who prepares food that is sold. Whether you work at a restaurant or a home kitchen, this permit is an inescapable part of New Mexico food safety regulations.
There is a major exception. The city of Albuquerque and the county of Bernalillo both have their own food safety regulations that supersede those put in place by the state.
Health Department New Mexico
The New Mexico Health Department handles food regulations, but state legislation allows counties and local governments to set their own rules that may differ from state regulations. There are limitations to how counties can differ from or contradict state rules, and that is a whole other conversation.
In general, the counties follow the state rules, and New Mexico has clear guidelines for different types of food businesses.
Permit for Selling Food
The only universal food permit is the food handler’s card. The rest depend on the type of business. There are regulations for commercial kitchens, fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, homemade foods and more. Acquiring permits will vary from county to county.
The biggest thing to know is that commercial food production does not require a special permit. As long as everyone handling food has a handler’s license, it’s fine.
Commercial Kitchen License
If you want to run a commercial kitchen in New Mexico, the primary license needed is a food server’s permit. A commercial kitchen cannot be located in a home (or domestic premises). Additionally, the commercial kitchen will be subject to regular health inspections.
The full list of regulations is extensive, and restaurants and commercial kitchens can apply for everything they need through the New Mexico Environment Department.
New Mexico Food Safety Regulations
Food regulations are varied. A food establishment has to have licensed food handlers and a licensed manager or “Person in Charge” of the food operation. The state provides an extensive list of food codes that regulates storage temperatures and procedures, cooking requirements, food labels and just about everything else associated with food production and distribution.
Getting through the manager and handler certifications is enough to help one understand what is entailed in starting and running a commercial food operation in the state.
New Mexico Food Manager Certification
The food manager certification is necessary to run commercial food operations, but it is not required for a cottage kitchen. In commercial applications, every shift has to have a licensed food manager to oversee the operation.
The food manager certification is comparable to the food handler’s certification, but the course is significantly more detailed and restrictive. Ultimately, food managers bear responsibility and culpability for food safety in an establishment.
2021 Homemade Food Act NM
In 2021, New Mexico significantly changed cottage food laws. Before the bill passed, cottage food restrictions were more thorough and difficult to navigate. The new rule simplifies the regulations and how they are managed.
As of the new law, cottage foods in New Mexico include anything that does not require temperature-controlled storage. If it can sit on a shelf without spoiling, it counts as a cottage food.
New Mexico provides a list of approved foods, but the regulation clearly states that foods not on the list are still acceptable as long as they meet the primary requirement of dry storage.
New Mexico Cottage Food Law
Ultimately, cottage foods are easy to understand. New Mexico does not have annual sales limits. There is no specific set of approved foods. Even food handling is pretty simple.
There are three major requirements. First, everyone involved in making the cottage foods must have a food handler’s license, which can be attained through a vendor like the Servsafe food handlers permit. Second, the food must be sold person to person. A cottage food kitchen cannot distribute its food to restaurants, grocery stores or other third-party vendors. Lastly, the cottage food kitchen cannot make banned foods, which is any food that requires temperature-controlled storage. That’s it.
Exceptions can exist at the county and local levels.
Home-Based Food Business in New Mexico
If you want to sell food from home in New Mexico, you can. Go through the handler’s permit course, and you will understand the restrictions in place. As long as your food is not in violation of the cottage food limitations, you’re good to go. You can sell as much food as you want, anywhere you want, as long as you sell directly to the consumers.
Keep in mind that cottage laws in Albuquerque and Bernalillo create exceptions to all of this and require additional permitting and regulations.
When it comes to selling produce in New Mexico, things are pretty simple. If the produce is shelf-stable, anyone can sell it anywhere, as long as the transaction is done directly with the consumer.
This is in line with cottage food laws throughout the state. Non-refrigerated items are all fair game, and most produce fits this bill. This is in line with New Mexico's agriculture philosophy. New Mexico produces the most agricultural goods per capita in the entire country. With such a strong emphasis on agriculture, it’s not surprising to see limited regulations in this regard.
As for other cottage foods, they do not have to be found on a pre-approved list. Even meats and dairy products that can be safely stored at room temperature are approved for cottage food production. New Mexico is an outlier among states in this regard.
Overall, if you want to run a cottage food operation, New Mexico is one of the best states to try. With few restrictions and virtually no financial limitations, the potential for a cottage food business is genuinely unlimited, and as a result, cottage food production in New Mexico has skyrocketed.
The state had large cottage food participation before the rule change. Now that regulations have eased, some are expecting New Mexico to biome a national leader in home kitchen businesses.
With the new rules, New Mexico is arguably the least restricted state in the country when it comes to cottage foods. That becomes apparent when you compare New Mexico to nearby states. Even in low-regulation states like Oklahoma and Texas, the restrictions are considerably more severe.
In Colorado, cottage food rules have not changed since 2012. According to those regulations, home kitchens do not need licenses or inspections to operate. The list of approved cottage foods is extremely restrictive, and all sales must be direct to the consumer.
For the most part, cottage kitchens in Colorado can only produce baked goods and confectionaries. No cold-storage foods are permitted. No meat products are permitted. No low-acid canning is permitted.
In all, Colorado is significantly more restrictive in this area than New Mexico.
Oklahoma changed its regulations in 2021. As of the newest rules, cottage kitchens can produce anything that does not require temperature control and does not include meat products. There is no Oklahoma cottage food license. Annual sales cannot exceed $75,000.
This demonstrates that Oklahoma introduces restrictions you will not find in New Mexico, namely sales limits and meat products. Even with Oklahoma being relatively non-restrictive, it still falls well behind New Mexico in this regard.
Texas allows a wide range of cottage foods for home production. Every cottage kitchen has to go through food handler’s training, much like New Mexico. Additionally, Texas has specific food labeling regulations that must be met. Texas also caps cottage food sales at $50,000 annually.
Texas is one of the most liberal states you can find for cottage food production, and even these rules are noticeably more restrictive than what you will find in New Mexico.
Arizona only allows cottage food production of baked goods and some confectionaries. No license is needed, and there is no sales limit. The only foods that are eligible for home production are on a pre-approved list. Anything not on the list is expressly forbidden. While a license is not needed, cottage food businesses do need to register with the state. Registration is free.
Despite these regulations, Arizona has one of the highest per-capita rates of cottage food production. Over 10,000 businesses have registered with the state for home kitchen operations.
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