In Wisconsin You Can Serve Your Cake But You Can’t Sell It Too

Lisa Kivirist owns a bed and breakfast in Green County, Wisconsin. Lisa likes to wake up well before her guests to bake them delicious muffins for their breakfast. While it is legal for her to give baked goods to her guests as part of their stay, if she tried to sell any of those muffins to those guests when they leave, she could be fined or even spend the night in the slammer.

That’s because Wisconsin bans the sale of home-baked goods. In order to sell even one cookie, Wisconsin requires Lisa to be use an expensive commercial kitchen and obtain a burdensome commercial food license. Yesterday, Lisa, along with home-bakers Kriss Marion and Dela Ends, partnered with the Institute for Justice to file a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture to strike down this ban.

In Wisconsin, the punishment for selling home-baked goods is six-months in jail or a $1000 fine.  That includes even “not potentially hazardous” home baked goods, like cookies, muffins, and breads that are shelf stable and are perfectly safe without refrigeration. However, the state permits the sale of other homemade goods, including raw apple cider, popcorn, syrups, and raw honey, as well as home-canned goods like jams and pickles. The only other state with a ban on selling home-baked goods is New Jersey.

Although the Wisconsin legislature has been trying to pass a “Cookie Bill” to allow home bakers to sell a limited amount of their goods directly to consumers, commercial food groups have lobbied against its passage—all to protect themselves from competition. For instance, the Wisconsin Bakers Association has a petition against the pending Cookie Bill, stating “[W]e don’t need more competition; we need cooperation from our government!”  Last session, although the bill passed the Senate, it was blocked from a vote in the Assembly by Speaker Robin Voss, who happens to own his own commercial food business.

The lawsuit is part of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative.

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