February 10, 2016

The latest case in IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative takes us to Wisconsin, where government officials are hard at work protecting the public from the menace of homemade cookies.

Yup . . . cookies.

Wisconsin is one of only two states in the nation to completely ban the sale of home-baked goods—even those the government deems “not potentially hazardous,” such as cookies, breads, scones and cakes. Sell a homemade cookie in Wisconsin and you and your scofflaw self may be on your way to jail for six months.

But now three culinarily talented and courageous entrepreneurs are fighting back against the state’s cookie crackdown. On January 13, Lisa Kivirist, Kriss Marion and Dela Ends teamed up with IJ to file a state constitutional challenge to the ban on home-baked goods.

Lisa, Kriss and Dela are farmers from rural Wisconsin; Lisa and Kriss also operate bed-and-breakfasts in their homes. Like many farmers and
rural residents, they look for ways to supplement their income, and selling baked goods is a great way to do it. They would love the freedom to sell cookies, breads and muffins to friends and neighbors, to customers at nearby farmers’ markets and to their farm and bed-and-breakfast guests. But Wisconsin prohibits them from doing so.

The state’s ban makes no sense and is certainly not about health and safety. Home-baked goods are safe. Virtually every other state in the nation allows their sale, and no one is dropping dead from homemade scones.

The ban is also irrational. After all, Wisconsin allows the sale of many other homemade goods, including cider, pickles, salsas, jams and jellies. Homemade baked goods are just as safe as—if not safer than—these other foods, yet their sale is prohibited.

So what is the ban really about? Economic protectionism. Just consider the fact that when bills have been introduced in recent years to eliminate the ban, industry groups such as the Wisconsin Bakers Association have run to their patrons in the Legislature, urging them to oppose the bills. And so far, they have won.

But not for long. Lisa, Kriss and Dela are three tough cookies, and with IJ’s help, they will take down the ban on home-baked goods. And when the cookie ban crumbles, we will have created important economic liberty precedent not just for them and other home-baking entrepreneurs, but for all Wisconsinites. We will also have advanced the mission of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which is to ensure that all Americans are free to produce, procure and consume the foods of their choice.

Michael Bindas is an IJ senior attorney.

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