Food entrepreneurs may sell home-baked goods in Wisconsin, thanks to a successful lawsuit from the Institute for Justice on behalf of three farmers. The case, filed against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture on Jan. 13, 2016, asked the court to allow home bakers to sell their products directly to their friends, neighbors and other consumers. On May 31, 2017, a Wisconsin trial court agreed with the Institute for Justice and declared a statewide ban on home-baked goods unconstitutional. On Oct. 2, 2017, the judge clarified that the ruling protected all home bakers, not just the three farmers mentioned in the lawsuit. Read more about the Wisconsin homemade food victory…
Wisconsin cottage food laws
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Prior to the Institute for Justice victory, food producers could sell homemade canned goods. But the state made it illegal to sell even one cookie without first obtaining a license and spending tens of thousands of dollars to rent or build a commercial–grade kitchen, which had to be in a separate room or building from one’s home kitchen. Anyone who violated the law and sold baked goods made in their home kitchen risked fines of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. Now, home Wisconsin home bakers are free to sell safe, delicious baked goods that do not require refrigeration directly to consumers. Forrager Cottage Food Community provides additional details about Wisconsin cottage food rules…
Wisconsin 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. As the trial court found, Wisconsin’s home-baked food ban had nothing to do with safety. The uncontested evidence showed there was no health risk from improperly baked goods.
- 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.
Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Wisconsin? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Wisconsin legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Wisconsin 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.