Across the country, governments at every level are chipping away at the rights of food entrepreneurs through irrational and overly burdensome regulations. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has been at the forefront at the fight for the rights of food entrepreneurs and consumers against these needless restrictions. IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative has a particular focus on eliminating restrictions that prevent people from making food for sale in their home kitchens.

Homemade Food Laws

Baking Bad, a nationwide survey by the Institute for Justice, provides the most up-to-date account of state laws that allow the sale of homemade food and will be regularly updated whenever a state changes its laws. Using 17 distinct criteria, the report graded and ranked nearly 70 different homemade food programs from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. (See Methodology)

  • The average grade is a C. Nationwide, 11 states have homemade food laws that earned a B or better. Reflecting this recent surge of interest, 10 of those states enacted their reforms in the past five years.
  • Thanks to its Food Freedom Act, Wyoming has the best laws in the country for selling food made at home and allows the widest variety of products, earning the report’s only A.
  • In sharp contrast, Rhode Island is dead last, receiving a zero on a 100-point scale.  Rhode Island is the only state that limits its homemade food program to farmers, a restriction that prevents 99.8% of the state’s population from participating.

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming District of Columbia
  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • F

Homemade Food Varieties

Until recently, most reform efforts targeted “cottage food” laws, which tend to be limited to shelf-stable foods that don’t require refrigeration. But starting in 2015 with Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act, more states are allowing an increasing variety of homemade foods to be sold:

  • Today, 23 states allow the sale of homemade pickles and other acidified foods. 
  • In 17 states, entrepreneurs are free to sell home fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. 
  • Fourteen states allow the sale of refrigerated baked goods, like pumpkin pies and cream-filled pies.
  • Four states even allow the sale of home cooked dishes that contain meat, creating a new alternative to opening a restaurant.
  • In sharp contrast, cottage food businesses in 19 states can only sell items from an approved list of products set by government regulators.

Restrictions on Selling Homemade Food

Every state allows homemade food to be sold directly to consumers at farmers’ markets. But there the similarities end, as sales and venue restrictions can vary dramatically from state to state:

  • Eight states prohibit homemade food businesses from selling online.
  • Fifteen states ban mail delivery of cottage food products.
  • In 25 states, people selling food made at home face annual revenue caps, ranging from $3,000 for selling pickled foods in Virginia to $250,000 in Florida and Wyoming. Among state laws with yearly sales caps, half are at or under $35,000.

Regulatory Burdens

The ease of opening a home-based food business can fluctuate wildly, not just from state to state, but within states as well:

  • Thirty-two states never require an inspection to open a homemade food business, while 25 states do not license, permit, or register home-based food enterprises.
  • On the other hand, six states plus the District of Columbia impose extensive inspections and permitting requirements before anyone can open any type of homemade food business–no matter how slight the perceived health risk.
  • Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require recipe approval or laboratory testing before selling at least some homemade food products.
  • Even if a state law is permissive, local ordinances may further restrict or even outright ban a homemade food business that would be legal elsewhere in the state; only 15 states expressly preempt cities and counties from imposing additional homemade food regulations.

IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative is a nationwide campaign that brings a variety of legal challenges and legislative efforts to laws that interfere with the ability of people to buy, sell, grow or advertise different foods. As the nation’s leading experts on home kitchen laws, IJ has helped change the law in more than 20 states.  

Featured Cases

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North Dakota Food Freedom

Five North Dakotans teamed up with IJ to sue the Department of Health for illegally passing regulations on selling homemade baked goods. Now, North Dakota is again one of the best states in the country…

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