People love fresh-baked cookies and cakes right out of the oven, but only farmers can sell homemade food in Rhode Island. Everyone else is out of luck. The Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture Law, adopted in 2002 and modified as recently as 2012, specifies that homemade food sold at farmers’ markets and other venues in Rhode Island must be prepared “in a kitchen that is on the premises of a farm.” Even for farmers who qualify, things are not easy. Overall, Rhode Island has the most restrictive laws in the United States for selling homemade food.
Rhode Island cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Rhode Island regulates “farm home food” instead, which refers to “nonpotentially hazardous food and foods that do not require refrigeration,” prepared on a qualifying farm. Examples mentioned in the law are: Jams, jellies, preserves, vinegars, double-crust pies made with locally grown fruit, yeast breads, maple syrup from the sap of trees within a 20-mile radius of the farm, candies, fudges, dried herbs and spices.
Rhode Island cottage food venues
Rhode Island bans cottage food sales at most venues. Qualifying farmers may sell their products only at farmers’ markets, farmstands and other markets and stores “operated by farmers for the purpose of the retail sale of the products of Rhode Island farms.” Rhode Island farmers may not sell homemade food online or at any venue not operated by farmers.
Getting started in Rhode Island
Before receiving permission from the Rhode Island Department of Health to sell homemade food, farmers must ensure that their kitchens meet standards specified in the law. They also must submit to inspections and make their recipes available for government review. If their water comes from a private supply, then it must be tested annually. Rhode Island farmers who sell homemade food must keep pets out of food preparation and storage areas, and they must not use cooking facilities for “domestic food purposes” while preparing farm home food products.
Rhode Island cottage food labels
Rhode Island farmers who sell homemade food must list all ingredients on product labels, which also must include the farm name, address and telephone number.
Rhode Island cottage food discrimination
Rhode Island excludes all non-farmers from selling homemade food, which means that fewer than 2 in 1,000 residents may sell food prepared in their own kitchens. Based on 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overlaid with U.S. Census data, the Rhode Island law excludes about 99.8% of residents.
Rhode Island 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.
Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Rhode Island? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Rhode Island legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Rhode Island 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.