New Baking Bad Report Shows Which States Rise to the Occasion for Food Freedom

Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla
 ·  June 1, 2022

Last fall, following a lawsuit by IJ, New Jersey became the final state in the nation to eliminate its complete ban on selling home-baked goods. Thanks to our efforts, a sea change in the law has occurred: Every state now has at least a “cottage food” law on the books, allowing the sale of home-baked goods and usually other shelf-stable treats such as candy, cereal, dry mixes, jams, jellies, and the like.  

The results are a boon for entrepreneurs, who no longer have to rent prohibitively expensive commercial kitchen space and can instead turn their own home kitchens into business incubators. Tens of thousands of home-based food businesses are now active nationwide, with growth accelerating amid the pandemic.

But state laws can vary dramatically in terms of what foods can be sold, where they can be sold, how much a home baker can earn, and the amount of red tape entrepreneurs must endure before they can start selling. 

To better understand the challenges cottage food sellers face, IJ recently published Baking Bad, which provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date look at nearly 70 different homemade food programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using 17 distinct criteria, Baking Bad grades states based on how well they secure economic opportunity for anyone who wants to turn their love of home baking, canning, pickling, or cooking into a business. 

Clinching the report’s only A grade is Wyoming, which has the broadest “food freedom” law in the nation, allowing individuals to make and sell whatever they please from their home kitchens. Meanwhile, Rhode Island ranks dead last because it allows only farmers to sell homemade food, a restriction that renders 99.8% of the state’s population ineligible. 

Already since the report was published in March, both South Dakota and Tennessee have made it easier to start and run a home-based food business, joining more than 20 other states where we have helped change the law. And in the coming months, Baking Bad will help us continue identifying potential litigation targets and further bolster our legislative efforts nationwide.

Nick Sibilla is an IJ writer and legislative analyst. 

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