People love fresh-baked cookies and cake right out of the oven. Yet selling homemade food was illegal at many venues in Minnesota until 2015, when the Institute for Justice helped free home bakers and canners from arbitrary restrictions on their right to earn an honest living. As a result of litigation and cottage food producers’ advocacy at the state Capitol, Minnesota lawmakers passed reforms that gave homemade food producers expanded freedom to sell their products. The change was a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough. Fortunately, Minnesota passed new cottage food regulations in 2021 as a part of a larger agriculture bill, making it easier than ever before to sell homemade food in the state. When the new rules take effect on Aug. 1, 2021, they will raise the revenue cap for homemade food producers and allow them to operate as limited liability companies.
Minnesota cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Cottage food producers in Minnesota may sell “non-potentially hazardous” food, which refers to food that is shelf-stable (safe without refrigeration). Examples include cookies, jams, jellies, candy, honey, dried goods and granola. Other examples include home-processed and home-canned pickles, vegetables and fruit with a pH of 4.6 or below. The Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association provides an extensive list of non-potentially hazardous foods. Minnesota also allows people to sell homemade pet treats and pet food, provided that the pet food is baked or dried, and not potentially hazardous per Minnesota’s definitions.
Getting started in Minnesota
Minnesota requires cottage food producers to complete food safety training every three years and register as a cottage food producer. The course costs $50, though cottage food producers who make less than $5,000 in annual revenue are exempt from paying. Under the 2021 legislation, cottage food producers can earn up $78,000 in gross annual revenue. The previous cap was $18,000.
Minnesota cottage food labels
All cottage food distributed in Minnesota must be labeled with the name of the producer, the date that the food was made, the ingredients in the food, any possible allergens (the eight most common allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy), and the following statement: “These products are homemade and not subject to state inspection.” Homemade food producers must also display a sign with the same statement at the point of sale.
Minnesota cottage food venues
Minnesota cottage food producers may sell cottage food directly to the consumer, either in person or by remote means, including over the internet and by telephone. Cottage food may not be distributed by a third party, including retail outlets like grocery stores, and may not be shipped to consumers.
Minnesota limited liability companies
Minnesota cottage food producers may register their businesses as limited liability companies (LLCs), which helps protect sellers’ personal assets from legal liability. The rule means that a farmer who already operates as an LLC may sell cottage food as a part of the same business without establishing a separate entity to sell cottage food.
Minnesota temporary food stands
Minnesota has a fairly permissive “lemonade stand law” that reaches far beyond kids selling lemonade. Minnesota Statute 157.22(15) allows people to sell any food, including potentially hazardous food, at special food stands or seasonal temporary food stands that meet certain conditions. Each stand must be located on private property with the owner’s permission, it must have gross receipts of less than $1,000, and it must display a sign or placard if it offers potentially hazardous food that states: “The products sold at this stand are not subject to state inspection or regulation.”
Minnesota 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. Results in Minnesota show the potential economic impact. Within two years of an IJ victory in 2015, the state granted more than 3,000 cottage food licenses, each representing a small business. By 2020, the number had grown to 4,000.
- 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.
Minnesota 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.
- The Minnesota Cottage Food Producers Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works to support cottage food producers in Minnesota.
Tell your Minnesota story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Minnesota? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Minnesota legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Minnesota 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.