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Why Amy Duvall in Alexandria Loves Virginia’s New ‘Cake Pop’ Law

New Legislation Modernizes Regulations for Small-Food Entrepreneurs, Providing Much Needed Clarity

white haired lady holding freshly made biscuit
Amy Duvall with biscuit. (Photo: Jeff Campagna)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – If you wonder why Alexandria resident Amy Duvall has an extra special smile radiating today, it’s because the new cake pop law was signed today by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin put his signature on HB 759, otherwise known as the cake pop law, which was championed by Delegate Nick Freitas. The legislation makes it easier for small food entrepreneurs to thrive in Alexandria and across the Commonwealth.

In 2016, after a successful 20-year career as an environmental lawyer and lobbyist that culminated in the passage of major legislation signed into law by President Obama, Duvall had a panic attack. In the aftermath, her therapist asked what made her happy? The answer, she said, was working in the kitchen. So she left her high-stress job in March 2018 and began baking breads and cookies.

After her Italian cookies, modeled after the amazing confections she and her husband discovered in Taormina, a small town in Sicily, received rave reviews from friends and neighbors, Duvall opened from politics to pastry, a home-based, made-from-scratch, small-batch business that specializes in traditional Italian sweets, custom pastries and breads, and in-home/virtual culinary instruction classes.

Plate full of colorful cookies
The famous Italian cookies made by Amy Duvall at from politics to pastry. (Photo: Jeff Campagna)

Since its February 2019 launch, from politics to pastry has amassed over 1800 followers on Facebook, who wait for regular posts and pictures about available treats and upcoming classes. Over on Instagram, there are over 1150 similar posts. And mouth-watering pictures of Italian cookies, scones, bars, breads, cakes, and other treats, including a wide selection of gluten-free options, beckon from the company’s website (the museum-quality photographs are courtesy of Duvall’s husband, Jeff Campagna, a photo editor at Smithsonian Magazine).

Box full of brightly colored baked cookies and small cakes.
Treat boxes like this are a staple part of Amy Duvall’s from politics to pastry business. (Photo: Jeff Campagna)
What are Cottage Food Laws?

When she opened her business, Duvall carefully reviewed the “cottage food laws” of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the state agency responsible for enforcing food safety rules over small businesses that operate in home kitchens. It excludes low-risk foods, like baked goods, jellies, nuts, and pickles produced in home kitchens from regulation as long as they are sold directly to customers at the producer’s home or at a farmer’s market. Additionally the uninspected goods cannot be “offered for sale over the Internet or in interstate commerce.”

“My take on it, with my background, was that the word ‘sale,’ from a legal standpoint is a contract,” Duvall said. “You pay me, I give you something in return. I never would have thought that applied to advertising. Advertising is advertising; it’s not offering for sale.”

Last year, however, Department regulators sent a letter to Kelly Phillips, a Richmond-based entrepreneur, after she shared on social media that she would be selling her cake pops at a local craft show. It warned Phillips that by advertising her products on social media, she had run afoul of the prohibition on Internet sales, and was thus operating her cake pop venture without a necessary permit. Failure to rectify the situation, the official said, could lead to a misdemeanor charge. The Department also cited Phillips for selling her uninspected goods at a craft show, noting that the regulation allowed sales only at a farmers market.

Phillips protested that she only used social media to post photos and menus and let people know when and where her cake pops would be available. Similarly, from politics to pastry used its website and social media presence to attract and connect with customers, while making clear that the cookies and treats are not available for resale or shipping, and would need to be picked up at Duvall’s home near Alexandria City High School. Following the Department’s letter to Phillips, however, it became unclear whether other home-based small businesses may be operating in violation of Virginia law.

After Phillips’ letter went viral, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) “We’re going to fix this, Virginia will always be the best place to live, work, and bake cake pops!” In early February, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 94-2 in favor of legislation clarifying that advertising or promoting homemade goods on social media platforms does not constitute actually selling them via the Internet, as long as the actual transaction takes place in person.

Additionally, under the new law, sales of uninspected goods are no longer limited to farmer’s markets and may now occur at any “temporary event that operates for a period of no more than 14 consecutive days,” thus covering a wider range of craft shows, holiday markets, and other events that do not focus primarily on farm-produced goods.

Governor surrounded by large crowd with desk covered in cake pops, signs new cake pop law in Virginia.
Governor Glenn Youngkin signs HB 759 in Richmond on March 25, 2024. (Official photo by Lori Massengill, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.)

In late February, the bill passed unanimously in the Virginia Senate. And on Monday, March 25, Governor Youngkin signed the legislation, formerly known as HB 759 but generally described as the “Cake Pop Bill,” into law at an outdoor ceremony at the Governor’s Executive Mansion in Richmond. Seated behind a desk overflowing with cake pops, and with a beaming Phillips at his side, Youngkin celebrated “an opportunity for us to deregulate a bit, to open up pathways for entrepreneurs, and to make Virginia an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and make cake pops.”

Man behind desk passing our cake pops to kids

Governor Glenn Youngkin hands out cake pops in Richmond on March 25, 2024. (Official photo by Lori Massengill, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.)

For Duvall, the passage of the Cake Pop Bill, which takes effect July 1, 2024, means that she no longer has to worry about running afoul of state regulators: “The social media clarification is certainly welcomed,” said Duvall. “I already presumed that social media wasn’t an issue, but I’m glad they clarified it. The farmer’s market clarification is, to me, even more valuable.” Duvall said that she can now focus her efforts on growing her burgeoning business and introducing more residents of the DMV to her selection of rainbow cookies, Sicilian pasta di mandorla amaretti with red cherry centers, lemon ricotta, pignoli, biscotti, and other Italian cookies and treats.

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