January 31, 2018

After IJ crumbled Wisconsin’s cookie ban this summer, we set our sights on the only state left that completely bans the sale of home-baked goods: New Jersey. The state’s home bakers have tried for nearly 10 years to get the law changed in the Legislature, and now they are taking their fight to the courts.

The Garden State bans home bakers from selling not only cookies, cakes and muffins but also chocolates, dried spices, honey and maple syrup. Before a person can sell even one cookie or chocolate, they have to spend thousands of dollars renting a commercial-grade kitchen and obtaining a commercial license.

The ban has nothing to do with safety. There is no report of anyone, anywhere, ever becoming sick from an improperly baked good. The other homemade goods New Jersey bans are similarly safe. Worse still, New Jersey allows the sale of such homemade foods for charity. But the second a baker sells a cookie to earn a living, they are breaking the law and face up to $1,000 in fines.

The only reason the ban continues to exist is special interest politics. There is bipartisan support in the New Jersey Legislature for removing the ban, and bills to do exactly that have passed the Assembly unanimously on three separate occasions. However, one man has stood in the way: state Sen. Joseph Vitale. Sen. Vitale has repeatedly refused to allow these bills to have a hearing in his Senate committee, letting the bills die without ever getting a full Senate vote. Although Sen. Vitale has made vague safety claims about homemade goods, he has publicly admitted that he wants to protect commercial bakers from competition.

The ban has nothing to do with safety. There is no report of anyone, anywhere, ever becoming sick from an improperly baked good.

Meanwhile, the ban is hurting those who simply want to use their talents and home kitchens to support themselves and their families. IJ client Heather Russinko is a single mom who lives paycheck to paycheck as she tries to take care of her 14-year-old son. Before learning of the ban, Heather made thousands of dollars selling delicious cake pops to members of her community—money she intended to use to send her son to college. But Heather had to close her budding home business after she learned she was breaking the law and risking thousands of dollars in fines.

Lifting the ban would create opportunities for hundreds of people like Heather. That is exactly what happened in Wisconsin after we won our lawsuit. Within just two weeks, hundreds of new home-baking businesses popped up and immediately began taking orders from eager customers. And these types of “cottage food” businesses are successful all over the U.S. As you will read in the sidebar next to this article, IJ’s recently released report Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses shows how producers in 22 states are successfully earning a living through their home kitchens.

We are confident that, as in Wisconsin, we can persuade the New Jersey courts to strike down this arbitrary and protectionist ban, finally allowing home bakers in all 50 states to prosper

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