Let Them Bake Cake

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · May 18, 2015

Minneapolis—Today, a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals in Minnesota reversed a lower court ruling and reinstated a lawsuit brought by a group of Minnesota home-based bakers.  The lawsuit challenges the State’s arbitrary restrictions on the sale of home baked and canned goods.

“With today’s decision, we’re one step closer to Minnesota’s home-based bakers having the freedom to earn an honest living,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Erica Smith, who argued the case before the appeals court. “These foods are perfectly safe and consumers should be free to purchase them.”

The lawsuit concerns the rights of home bakers and canners to sell food that is “not potentially hazardous,” meaning food that can be kept safely at room temperature. Currently, the challenged laws ban the sale of home-made goods everywhere in the state except for farmers’ markets and community events. It also limits their sale to $5,000 annually for each seller, which comes out to only $96 a week.

In reversing the lower court’s ruling, the Appeals Court wrote that it was “particularly concerned with the lack of evidence in the record at this stage of the proceedings that shows how the venue and sales-cap restrictions are genuine or relevant to” the state’s public safety concerns. Today’s ruling sends the case back to the Ramsey County District Court for further consideration and litigation.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) filed the lawsuit in November 2013 on behalf of Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck, two home-baking entrepreneurs who want to earn a living selling their delicious baked goods, including cakes, cookies, and jams.

“I’m ecstatic the court is giving us the opportunity to be heard,” said Jane Astramecki.

“The implications of today’s ruling will reverberate well beyond just home bakers and canners,” continued Smith. “In reversing the lower court, the judge noted that the state Constitution prohibits the legislature from passing arbitrary laws restricting Minnesotans’ right to earn an honest living. It instead can only restrict their liberties for a good reason, supported by actual evidence. And so far, that evidence simply doesn’t exist here.”

IJ’s challenge to Minnesota’s arbitrary restrictions on home-bakers is part of its National Food Freedom Initiative: an ongoing, nationwide campaign that brings property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that interfere with the ability of Americans to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.  The case has drawn substantial interest from other groups interested in food freedom issues, including the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which submitted an important friend-of-the court brief in the case in support of the rights of home food producers.