North Dakota jumped to the front of a national movement in 2017 when state lawmakers passed a Cottage Food Act that gave residents freedom to sell almost all types of homemade food directly to consumers. Three years later, state health officials adopted administrative rules that gutted the law. Fortunately, North Dakota homemade food producers partnered with the nonprofit Institute for Justice and fought back in court. The legal challenge, filed on March 31, 2020, forced the state to restore the will of the people. Now, North Dakota homemade food producers once again can sell almost all types of food. Read more about the Institute for Justice lawsuit…
North Dakota cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. North Dakota cottage food producers may sell shelf-stable food and many products that require refrigeration, so long as sellers inform consumers that the food is homemade. Allowable products include home-cooked meals, nonalcoholic beverages, uninspected poultry, and low-acid canned goods. Specifically, North Dakota homemade food producers may sell everything from chicken noodle soup and lasagna to pizza. The only foods the law excludes from sale are certain meat products.
North Dakota cottage food venues
North Dakota cottage food producers must sell their products directly to consumers in person. Sales may occur at farmers’ markets, festivals and roadside stands. North Dakota also permits home delivery and pickup. The state bans internet, telephone and mail orders, although advertising and customer engagement may occur online. This means that North Dakota homemade food producers may set up websites and use social media to promote their products, but they cannot set up online stores that accept payment. State law also prohibits homemade food transactions in retail outlets and restaurants, and across state lines.
Getting started in North Dakota
Starting a North Dakota cottage food operation is easy. North Dakota homemade food producers do not need a government license, training or inspection. All they need is a residential kitchen and entrepreneurial spirit. Once an operation is up and running, North Dakota imposes no sales limit.
North Dakota cottage food labels
North Dakota cottage food labels must include a simple statement: “This product is made in a home kitchen that is not inspected by the state or local health department.”
North Dakota 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. Since North Dakota’s Food Freedom Law took effect in 2017, there has not been a single outbreak of foodborne illness from food sold under the law.
- 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. Within the first five years of Wyoming’s Food Freedom Law, the number of farmers’ markets in the state—a proxy used to measure homemade food businesses—has soared by nearly 70%.
- 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.
North Dakota 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 North Dakota story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in North Dakota? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support North Dakota legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in North Dakota 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.