Selling homemade food is getting easier for Illinois residents who want to work in their own kitchens. State law, updated in 2017 and 2021, allows homemade food producers to sell a wide variety of products directly to consumers in many venues. Prior to Jan. 1, 2022, Illinois limited most homemade food sales to farmers’ markets. The state also allowed local jurisdictions to adopt their own regulations, resulting in a patchwork of laws. Homemade food producers could cross town borders and find totally different opportunities. Starting on Jan. 1, 2022, the entire state will follow the same set of rules.
Illinois cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Illinois cottage food producers may sell any homemade food or drink except meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish, pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, cheesecakes, custard pies, creme pies, pastries with potentially hazardous fillings or toppings, low-acid canned foods, sprouts, cut leafy greens, cut or pureed fresh tomato or melon, dehydrated tomato or melon, frozen cut melon, wild-harvested mushrooms, alcoholic beverages and kombucha. Illinois cottage food producers may sell garlic oil only when it is acidified. They may sell dairy and eggs only as ingredients in non-potentially hazardous foods. Illinois cottage food producers who sell canned tomatoes or canned products containing tomatoes must follow preapproved recipes or submit original recipes to a commercial laboratory for testing to ensure proper acidification.
Illinois cottage food venues
Illinois cottage food producers may sell directly to consumers for their own consumption and not for resale in coffee shops, bakeries and other retail outlets. Starting on Jan. 1, 2022, sales may occur at farmers’ markets, fairs, festivals, public events or online. Illinois also allows home pickup and delivery, although local restrictions may apply. Only food that is non-potentially hazardous may be shipped, and nothing may be shipped out of state.
Getting started in Illinois
Illinois cottage food producers must register annually with their local health department and pay an annual fee not to exceed $50. Home inspections are not required to get started, but inspections may occur following consumer complaints or foodborne illness outbreaks. Once registered, Illinois cottage food producers may sell their products outside their local jurisdiction.
Illinois cottage food labeling
Illinois cottage food must include a prominent label that includes the name of the cottage food operation, the unit of local government in which the cottage food operation is located, the identifying registration number provided by the local health department, the common name of the food product, all ingredients listed in descending order by weight, the date the product was processed, and allergen labeling as specified under federal labeling requirements. Labels must include the following phrase in prominent lettering: “This product was produced in a home kitchen not inspected by a health department that may also process common food allergens. If you have safety concerns, contact your local health department.”
Illinois cottage food facts
Myths about cottage food abound. Here are the facts:
- Cottage food is safe. Critics who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what could go wrong because real-world cases are rare or nonexistent.
- Cottage food is local. When neighbors trade with neighbors, money stays in the local economy.
- Cottage food is transparent. People who buy from a cottage food producer know what they get. If they have questions about ingredients, sourcing or safety, they can ask.
- Cottage food creates jobs. Many homemade food producers use their income to provide for their families. Others seek a secondary or supplemental income.
- Cottage food empowers women. IJ cottage food research shows that most cottage food producers are women, and many live in rural areas with limited economic opportunity.
- Cottage food expands consumer choice. Some stores simply don’t sell what you want. This is especially true if you have a gluten-free, peanut-free, halal, kosher or vegan diet. Cottage food fills market gaps, giving consumers more options.
Illinois cottage food resources
As part of its Food Freedom Initiative, the Institute for Justice provides a variety of resources for home bakers and other food entrepreneurs. These include:
- Model Food Freedom Act from the Institute for Justice guides activism efforts at state capitols nationwide.
- Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses surveys 775 cottage food producers in 22 states about what their businesses mean to them.
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s cottage food victory in Wisconsin.
- The Attack on Food Freedom examines the impact of regulations on farmers, chefs, artisans, restaurateurs, food truck operators and others.
Tell your Illinois story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Illinois? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Illinois legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Illinois by teaming with the Institute for Justice. Send an email with your name, background information and availability to get started…
Defending homemade food freedom nationwide
People have a right to earn an honest living without arbitrary and excessive government interference. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has defended home bakers and chefs as part of its Food Freedom Initiative. Read about IJ’s nationwide food freedom advocacy…
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All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Statutes, regulations, and processes are subject to change at any time, and specific facts and circumstances could alter how they are applied. If you have questions about the regulation of cottage foods in your jurisdiction, we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.