legal Legal Sauce -vs- Hobby Sauce

salsalady

Business Member
Preamble- there are MANY new sauce and product makers trying to get their businesses off and running. Many use online forums to promote their products, whether it's through posted reviews, posted videos or other social forums. I believe, and have seen, that most people in the hot chile community support the exploration of new flavors and products. The chilehead community is helpful to a fault for a great product and new producer. I'm right on board for that. There are several new producers I'm trying to help and other producers I'm working with as a co-producer and possibly co-vendors at shows and conventions. It's a lot of CO-operation within the community.

I suppose one of the main reasons for posting this is to try to elevate awareness of what it means to be a licensed processor and to make a safely processed sauce/product and also about the market of said sauces.

For this discussion, I use the term "legal product" to mean any processed product OFFERED FOR SALE, made in an inspected facility (could be a home, could be a commercial place, as long as the producer is licensed and inspected) with proper local/state/fda licensing (whatever is required for the product)
-versus-
all the sauces/products OFFERED FOR SALE that are cooked up and sold to consumers... via any venue, (sold on the internet, sold out of the back of a truck...any place that can't check a health /food licence...)..without a license.

Some products, like dried herbs/spices require minimal licensing. For this discussion, I'd like to keep it to PROCESSED products. Giving away, bartering...that's a whole other topic and not going to talk about that.....we're talking about are "OFFERED FOR SALE" items.


This is my own personal view about LEGAL sauces and HOBBY sauces. Feel free to chime in with your own views, I'm sure this will be a LIVELY discussion!

Many sentiments about home made sauces being sold to consumers are heard over and over. Let's look at a couple.... And for this missive, when I say "you" I am not referring to any one particular person. It's generally directed to a "you, the consumer"... this is coming from my view as a legally licensed food processor.

Basic issues like Labeling-
I've seen many labels on hobby sauces that do not properly call out the ingredients. If someone doesn't know what tamari is, (and they have a soy or wheat allergy....) and they eat a sauce containing tamari....

"I've been cooking/canning/pickling this way for 40 years, never had a problem yet."
Things and ingredients change. Just one example- tomatoes used to have a much higher natural acid content and it used to be safe to hot water bath tomatoes when home canning. New hybred tomatoes have a much lower natural acid content, and it is no longer acceptable to hot water bath tomatoes from the garden. Now, it is recommended to pressure can tomatoes, the same as green beans and most other vegetables.

Now... if you have Granny's salsa recipe from 40 years ago that used heirloom tomatoes with a high acid content, yea, it was fine for the 40 years Granny made it. But if you try to make that sauce now and not pressure can it... with lower acid tomatoes, and fresh onions and garlic...that is a Nasty-Soup waiting to happen, and the botulism that can grow in that hot water bathed batch of home made salsa can kill someone! Not just make them sick....it can KILL THEM!

Do YOU want to take that risk? Did you realize the pH is different with different tomatoes? If you had sent Granny's Salsa in to a food lab for testing, you would know that the pH is not low enough to inhibit Nasties from growing and you would have known to pressure can the salsa.
Would a producer want to take that risk of killing someone because you don't know what the pH is? Do you as a consumer want to take that risk based on Granny's Recipe [sub](It's been made this way for 40years...[/sub]) but the pH might not be right?

"next thing you know the government will be regulating how I store food in my own home..."
Well, what you do in your own home to your own self is your own business, as long as it doesn't affect others!

When someone comes over for dinner at my house, they can make a judgement call about the environment in which the food has been prepared. Are the counters clean or full of dishes with rotten food in them? Are there bugs/vermin/catsonthecounter? Is the food hot? Is there garbage piled on the porch with rodent droppings everywhere? Is there meat sitting on the counter at room temperature?

A "consumer" (aka guest for dinner) can make a judgement call whether to stay for dinner or to leave. Buying from an un-licensed person via an online website...you cannot make any judgement call as to the safety of the sauce you are buying and eating, therefore you, as the consumer, should rely on the the health licensing authority to make sure your sauce was prepared in a clean, pest-free environment and was processed in a way to ensure the safety of YOU and your family. Does the producer even know that mixing soap and bleach will cancel out the bleach so there is no sanitization?


The rules/regulations are there to protect YOU the consumer from what you cannot see. YOU cannot visit the meat packing plant that processes the ground beef that is used in the burger you just bought at the Drive-Thru for your self and your little kids, and the kids from the ball team that are riding home with you. YOU cannot see the temp of that meat patty as it's being cooked on the (what's that in the corner of the grill???) how-clean-is-it food establishment.
So, you rely on the health authorities to make sure your meat doesn't contain e-coli and is cooked to the proper temp so all the little angels don't get sick from under-cooked burger. [sub]Ever heard of the Jack-in-the-Box problem in the 90's? if you don't look it up, then look up spinach e-coli) [/sub]


That "clean environment and safe processing" can be achieved in a home kitchen WHERE IT IS LEGAL TO DO SO!!!! It is not totally required to put in a $$$$$ food kitchen. LOOK AROUND! there are many options of kitchens to use! There are many posts here on THP about using other kitchens for a legal business.

If, where you live, it is not legal to make products to sell out of your home kitchen, then Yea...it sucks....but you better get legit before "going into business".

If someone sells a sauce that is illegally made and [sub](GOD FORBID!) [/sub]someone gets sick and it can be traced to that bad sauce, that sauce maker could be in HUGE trouble for fines and liability and damages lawsuits. If you (the sauce maker) present yourself and your product as a licensed, tested product, you are in a world of hurt if something happens! I'm not a lawyer, and this is totally up for correction from a person who knows, but...it seems that the "perception" of being licensed is enough to cause the sauce maker a world of grief.

Just for myself, this last year, I've paid over $2100 for food lab tests, health licenses, BPCS plus a week of my life (if you are making a sauce to sell and don't know what the BPCS is, you shouldn't be making a sauce to sell!), Product liability insurance, water system bacterial and microbial tests, state business license- and that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. That's just to have a LEGAL sideline food business, not including all the state and federal TAXES that have to be paid when a person runs a legal business.

That is the type of things legal sauce makers do. Isn't that perseverence and dedication to do things the right way to protect their customers' health worth something? I've been in this business for 18 years, and I've always done it legal. I've had to make choices like- should I pay my state license of $55 or start a web site? $500 of business insurance or 5 entries in a food contest? I paid the insurance. Doing it right does suck, cuz I don't have nearly the buzz, but I can sleep at night knowing I'm doing it right.

I TOTALLY support the new sauce makers and hope they get lots of reviews and press. Hobby Saucers are how every sauce making business I know of was born. That one great review from a highly recognized blog might be just the nudge needed for someone to take it to the next step.

But it IRKS me when hobby sauces are lauded on the blogs and it's not even mentioned whether they are being produced and sold legally or not. ([sub]personal pet peeve[/sub]) And, I hope the bloggers will recognize the difference and start to differentiate between the two in their reviews. Licensed sauce makers should be identified as such compared to hobby saucers. Licensed Sauce Makers are likely sacrificing publicity to do it properly.

My personal feeling is-
if it is presented as a home made, un-tested hobby sauce...sell it, give it away, trade it, whatever...as long as it is not presented as a legally produced sauce. If the consumer knows what they are buying, then the risk is on the consumer. At that point, it comes back to The Dinner Situation. If the kitchen is clean, you feel comfortable staying for dinner. If you can't see the stove for the filth, you may choose to leave before dinner.



One other note- hot sauces are pretty easy to safely make, which is why I, and most people, feel comfortable buying and eating them from unlicensed people. That does not make it legal to sell unlicensed sauces. I cannot condone selling ANYTHING made with dairy or meat that is not totally legally licensed. That whole meat and dairy thing is VERY RISKY. Don't [sub](mess)[/sub] around with selling anything meat or dairy if you are not properly licensed.


My main profession is as a self employed electrician, my second life passion is a food business. Both of those professions can kill people if those who are doing the work don't know what the hell they are doing. Both are highly regulated... FOR A REASON...to keep [sub](you!) [/sub]the consumer alive. Both cost a ..[sub]lot! $$$[/sub] of money to do safely.

yea, you could get your sister's ex-fiance's half-brother's former nephew to wire your house....but .. really, what does your sister's ex-fiance's half brother's former nephew really know about wiring a house? What's gonna happen to that house if that person don't know $#!T? Who's gonna stand behind the work? ...not your sister's ex-fiance's half-brother's former nephew....and what kind of damage could that person generate....


Whether it's food service, or electricical, or car engine repair or website design... people who are not in that business should recognise what they DON'T know and allow those who do know... to protect the health and safety of themselves and their families.

The bottom line for this post is- do it right or don't present yourself as a legitimate sauce business...cuz you're not.

Please, let the discussion begin....
 

salsalady

Business Member
BINGO! +2 to both of you.

But making a sauce with those ingredients is legal....what's the other issue?
 

salsalady

Business Member
:lol:


no, it's referring to a theoretical sauce made by an unlicensed person selling it to the public, and there were some referenced in posts before that about people assuming responsibility for their own health. The point was that if JoeBlow saw a sauce labeled like that, would he know there were potential health issues?

edit-
here's the original theoretical question-

Does JoeBlow CPA have that same basic food knowledge [as most of us onTHP]? What would you think of if you saw a sauce in a woozy bottle with the ingredients listed as "jalapenos, onions, garlic, salt, spices"?

JoeBlow would think "WOW! I love those Flavors! This sounds like a great sauce!" But what's the problem with the sauce described above?"

And the question still stands- what are the problems with that sauce?
 
So no acidity, and I have no idea what "spices" are. Also the order of ingredients indicates that Jalapeno is the most prominent ingredient, which is weird. Also since there's no liquid of any kind listed I'm not sure how this is a "sauce" - seems like it'd be more like a paste. I also don't know what kind of salt they're using - could be iodized salt (complete with anti-caking agent).
 

salsalady

Business Member
well, the other issue I was trying to portray is-
it is safe to sell a sauce made with those low acid ingredients if it had been pressure canned.

Woozy bottles with plastic caps cannot be pressure canned. So, by looking at the ingredients and seeing (1)no acid in the sauce, and (2) it's packaged in a woozy bottle that I know can't be pressure canned...I wouldn't touch that with a 50 foot pole! If those same ingredients were sold in a glass jar with a metal lid (the kind that "pop" when opened), I would know it had been pressure canned. The lack of acid is not an issue and I would have not problem at all buying that sauce.

Bringing this back to JoeBlow consumer, I seriously doubt JoeBlow would know those things.
 
well, the other issue I was trying to portray is-
it is safe to sell a sauce made with those low acid ingredients if it had been pressure canned.

Woozy bottles with plastic caps cannot be pressure canned. So, by looking at the ingredients and seeing (1)no acid in the sauce, and (2) it's packaged in a woozy bottle that I know can't be pressure canned...I wouldn't touch that with a 50 foot pole! If those same ingredients were sold in a glass jar with a metal lid (the kind that "pop" when opened), I would know it had been pressure canned. The lack of acid is not an issue and I would have not problem at all buying that sauce.

Bringing this back to JoeBlow consumer, I seriously doubt JoeBlow would know those things.

I've been making sauce for 7 years and *I* wouldn't know those things. I know nothing about pressure canning, or canning in general. I know what I know because of what I've done - pasteurizing, hot packing, etc.

I'd just assumed this was a pasteurized hot-packed "sauce" - though like I said, can't see how it would be anything but a paste without liquid (other than a little from the onion/peppers).

So you're absolutely correct - Joe Blow will know far far far less.
 
salsalady said:
:lol:


no, it's referring to a theoretical sauce made by an unlicensed person selling it to the public, and there were some referenced in posts before that about people assuming responsibility for their own health. The point was that if JoeBlow saw a sauce labeled like that, would he know there were potential health issues?

edit-
here's the original theoretical question-

Does JoeBlow CPA have that same basic food knowledge [as most of us onTHP]? What would you think of if you saw a sauce in a woozy bottle with the ingredients listed as "jalapenos, onions, garlic, salt, spices"?

JoeBlow would think "WOW! I love those Flavors! This sounds like a great sauce!" But what's the problem with the sauce described above?"

And the question still stands- what are the problems with that sauce?
 
just want to add one thing to your very informative posting here,  in this day and age when every other person seems to have a ridiculous allergy to one thing or another, "spices" doesnt quite cut it.  what if they are alergic to cumin, or turmeric, or black pepper (my sister has that one, but she can eat white pepper just fine) , etc etc...   if you just put spices on the label there are a lot of people who will just not buy it because they wont know if it has their particular allergen in it... and then there are the ones who will buy it because it doesn't specifically mention something they are allergic to and then they will have a reaction (sometimes quite serious) and that could open up a legal can of worms you just don't want to deal with.
 

salsalady

Business Member
Exactly.  My brother-in-law is deathly allergic to onions, to the point that a spice mix with onion powder made him sick for 2 days. 
 
Are you saying that onion was hidden under "spices"? Onion isn't a spice, that's bad.

Oh and Lucky Dog, assuming that the hypothetical sauce doesn't use an unlisted ingredients, my thoughts are it would probably be made with frozen peppers that have picked up condensation and such. If they've been left out the freezer too long, my experience says they'll have gained a good bit of moisture but also gone mushy and not be at their nicest.
I wouldn't recommend it but it would solve the lack of liquid.
 
There's a black market for my illegal hobby sauce. The fact that it might kill you makes it more intriguing...
 
In all seriousness, good discussion; I have a buddy thinking about getting in the business. I'll show him this thread. 
 
spicefreak said:
Oh and Lucky Dog, assuming that the hypothetical sauce doesn't use an unlisted ingredients, my thoughts are it would probably be made with frozen peppers that have picked up condensation and such. If they've been left out the freezer too long, my experience says they'll have gained a good bit of moisture but also gone mushy and not be at their nicest.
I wouldn't recommend it but it would solve the lack of liquid.
 

     Peppers don't gain moisture in the freezer. They lose moisture that condenses and freezes to the inside of their containers.
 
Great post! Personally cutting corners is not an option for us. Even if we skirt by every month, I dread when the insurance comes knocking. It's a big chunk of change, but it's necessary to have. If someone gets sick tasting a sauce, trips over your tent at an event, (or who knows what) you need to make sure you're covered.
 
Being certified doesn't mean every sauce maker knows every cook method or canning method. I'm sure a lot of us know the method we use to make our products, and the other methods aren't as familiar. The biggest problem when taking the better process control class was that most of the information applied to large productions, and every piece of equipment was industrial sized. It's difficult to relate to a lot of the information you learn there because almost no one starts out in a large production facility like that using equipment that costs hundreds of thousands.
 
Agree that reviewers should state if its a hobby sauce or legally made sauce. We all put a lot of effort into our products and spend a lot of time and money to do it the right and safe way for our customers.
 

salsalady

Business Member
Good comments, Furious~.  Thanks for joining the conversation.
 
Regarding the BPCS- I make a BBQ sauce that contains butter.  I'd been making other vinegar and fruit based sauces for 10 years and never had any issues with the PA or state inspector.  pH test, hot fill/hold...good to go!  Because the BBQ sauce contains that one ingredient- Butter- I had to get BPCS certified, and the packing process was still Hot Fill/Hold.  Go Figure!  :rolleyes:
 
...and I have to record pH testing on every batch, physical exam of the bottles prior to filling, packaging temps, BlahBlahBlah, and if I don't have the box check-marked on the processing chart that I "examined bottles prior to filling" when the inspector comes to visit, I get marked down on the inspection report.  (don't get me started!)... 
 
I understand what you are saying about the BPCS being geared towards larger processing plants.  There still is a niche for a small batch processor to use pressure canning and with new packaging pouches, some of those can be done small batch also.  Several folks have recently been asking about using metal caps on the woozy bottles.  BPCS might be a part of that process. 
 
Side Note- this thread started in 2012.  Most reviewers have revised their comments to include differentiation of hobby sauces and legal sauces.  Some still do hobby sauces, some don't post hobby sauce reviews but still offer private comments to hobby sauce makers working towards a legal sauce for R&D.  Most hot sauce competitions and awards now only honor legal sauces.
 
I still see folks selling on hobby sauces FB, but most people here on THP are aware of the difference and thankfully, most hobby sauce makers post as such.  I'm happy to eat, trade for, support, hobby sauces.  That's how most sauce makers start!  As long as I know it is such and is not presented as a legal sauce.
 

The Hot Pepper

Founder
Admin
ColdSmoke said:
There's a black market for my illegal hobby sauce. The fact that it might kill you makes it more intriguing...
 
In all seriousness, good discussion; I have a buddy thinking about getting in the business. I'll show him this thread.
spicefreak said:
Fugu Black, the most dangerous sauce off the market.
 
You obviously have not received hot sauces in old French's mustard squeeze bottles with duct tape labels. I have.
 
The Hot Pepper said:
 You obviously have not received hot sauces in old French's mustard squeeze bottles with duct tape labels. I have.
 

I've had Reaper sauces without any warnings, plastic bottles that pepper sprayed their parcel and jam jars with nothing but the word "hot" chalked on the lid but no, not that. Never that.
 
My joke, however, relied on the fact that "Fugu" is pufferfish meat, something that you really really do not want to be getting from an unlicensed seller.
 

salsalady

Business Member
I got the pufferfish reference, SF.  yea, not something you want to eat when prepared by the "trainee".  :lol:
 
Which brings to mind...why are doctors always practicing?  OK, never mind...I'm hijacking my own thread!  :lol:
 
 I'm not a reviewer and don't receive any unsolicited samples.  Have had a bottle explode on opening, have left a bottle on the counter and it exploded a couple days later....but French's mustard bottles with duct tape???  I think that one gets the DooDoo crown.  Or some other World's Worst title.  Wow.
 
 
 
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