People love fresh-baked cookies and cakes right out of the oven, but selling homemade food was illegal in New Jersey until Oct. 4, 2021, when the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law published new rules. The move followed a decadelong grassroots legislative campaign by the New Jersey Home Bakers Association. In 2017, the Institute for Justice represented association members in a constitutional challenge to New Jersey’s home baking ban. Motivated by pressure from the lawsuit, the New Jersey Department of Health used the rulemaking process to do away with the state’s ban on homemade food sales.
New Jersey cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. New Jersey cottage food producers may sell goods that are not time- or temperature-controlled for safety (non-TCS). Examples include most types of baked goods (breads, rolls, biscuits, cakes, cupcakes, pastries and cookies), candy, chocolate-covered nuts, dried fruit, dried herbs and seasonings, dried pasta, dry baking mixes, fruit jams, fruit jellies, fruit preserves, fruit pies, fruit empanadas, fruit tamales, fudge, granola, cereal, trail mix, honey, sweet sorghum syrup, nuts and nut mixtures, nut butters, popcorn and caramel corn, roasted coffee and dried tea, vinegar, mustard, waffle cones, and pizzelles. Upon written application to the New Jersey Public Health and Food Protection Program, New Jersey cottage food producers may sell other non-TCS foods.
New Jersey cottage food venues
New Jersey cottage food producers may sell their goods from their own homes, but not for onsite consumption. New Jersey cottage food producers also may sell their goods at consumers’ homes, farmers’ markets and farm stands. New Jersey cottage food producers may take online orders, but delivery and receipt of cottage foods must occur in person. New Jersey does not allow mail delivery or third-party delivery using common carriers. No wholesale or retail sales are allowed, and New Jersey does not permit sales across state lines. Local restrictions may apply.
Getting started in New Jersey
Setting up a cottage food business in New Jersey does not require a home inspection. New Jersey cottage food producers must register on the state health department’s website, pay $100 for a two-year permit, obtain a food protection manager certificate, and provide a copy of the most recent water bill for the location of the cottage food kitchen. If a New Jersey cottage food operation uses well water, then the applicant must pay for a water test. New Jersey caps gross annual sales for cottage food producers at $50,000. Other restrictions may apply. New Jersey cottage food producers must check local zoning and municipal ordinances.
New Jersey cottage food labels
New Jersey cottage food producers must package their goods with labels displaying the product name and the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight. If the product contains a major food allergen, labels must include the word, “Contains,” followed by a list of the major food allergens. Labels also must show the cottage food producer’s name, business name, permit number, the municipality where the food was prepared, and the following statement: “This food is prepared pursuant to N.J.A.C. 8:24-11 in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Department of Health.”
New Jersey 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. New Jersey regulators looked into the matter and found no evidence of anyone, anywhere, getting sick from home-baked goods. The state’s introduction to its proposed rules points to “scientific evidence that supports a finding that shelf-stable food prepared in home kitchens is safe for consumers.”
- 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 swelled 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.
New Jersey 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.
- New Jersey Home Bakers Association: Check out the New Jersey Home Bakers website to learn more about the New Jersey cottage food law, how you can get involved, and learn tips of the trade from fellow cottage food producers.
Tell your New Jersey story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in New Jersey? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
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.