Could you imagine being labelled a criminal for selling homemade baked goods like cupcakes, muffins or cookies online? This bizarre scenario is a bewildering reality under current Florida law, which imposes a $5,000 fine for any “violation” of the blanket ban on selling homemade baked goods over the internet. But state lawmakers could soon change that.
Lawmakers in the Florida Senate recently advanced Senate Bill 1136 through committee and scheduled it for hearings in the full chamber. If it passes the legislature and Gov. Scott signs it into law, SB 1136 would more than triple the sales cap on homemade baked goods, which the law calls cottage food, and allows such food products “to be advertised, sold, and paid for over the Internet.”
According to a 2017 report from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, 23 percent of U.S. households buy food online today, and Americans will spend more than $100 billion annually on such purchases by 2025. Amid this growing paradigm shift in food-buying habits, eliminating Florida’s total ban on online cottage food sales would be a major win for hardworking entrepreneurs and hungry customers alike.
But SB 1136 is not perfect. Although the new law would raise the annual sales cap on cottage food from $15,000 to $50,000 per “operation” (i.e., person), any mandatory sales limit is an unnecessary shackle on economic growth and opportunity. Nothing magical happens when somebody sells the 50,001st dollar worth of pie, bread, or pickled food. The bill would also require food purchased online to be delivered directly to the consumer or to an event venue, like a farmer’s market. Florida law already admits that cottage food is “not a potentially hazardous food,” and as such, there is no legitimate public health or safety reason for these restrictions.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) is a national advocate for homemade bakers. IJ filed a lawsuit against a similar ban on homemade baked goods in Minnesota, which ultimately led to repeal of the onerous law in 2015, and is now fighting Wisconsin’s cottage food ban in court. The Institute has also been active in the broader fight for food freedom across Florida. IJ is currently challenging a local ban on front-yard vegetable gardens in Miami Shores, and its attorney recently won a lawsuit against the state’s unconstitutional ban on accurately labelling skim milk as skim milk.
All Americans should be free to produce, sell and buy food safely and responsibly with their own resources without government infringement. If enacted, SB 1136 would be a good step toward food freedom for all hardworking Floridians.