Dan King
Dan King · September 6, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—New data, released today by the Institute for Justice (IJ), show states that permit home cooks to sell perishable foods do not see an increase in foodborne illnesses. The data, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests in the seven states with the broadest homemade food laws, show that none of these states have ever confirmed any cases of foodborne illness attributed to food sold under their homemade food programs. 

The seven states which were studied—California, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—all permit homemade food producers to sell not only shelf-stable foods, like breads and jam, but also perishables, such as tamales and pizza.  

“Opponents of expanding food freedom have long argued that allowing homemade food sales would lead to increases in foodborne illnesses, but these data show there is no evidence behind those claims,” said IJ Senior Attorney Erica Smith Ewing. “Not only are homemade food producers making delicious food, they’re doing so in a way that is safe for consumers.” 

Not only did the data show zero confirmed cases of foodborne illness for the entire time the homemade food laws have been in place, they also showed barely any suspected cases of foodborne illness. Across the seven states, there were only two instances of suspected foodborne illness, neither of which were confirmed to be from homemade food producers and neither of which were considered serious. 

“These data should encourage other states to loosen their restrictions on homemade food producers, so more Americans can share their culinary creations and earn an honest living in the process,” said IJ Assistant Director of Activism Jennifer McDonald. 

While all seven states that were surveyed permit the sale of perishable foods, they all have slightly different regulatory environments. Three of the seven—Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming—allow sales with no permit required and minimal government oversight. Oklahoma has a $75,000 annual cap on gross sales and requires home cooks to take a food safety course. California and Iowa have additional requirements, such as kitchen inspections by the local health department. Lastly, Utah requires permits and inspections for meat products, but not other perishables such as vegetable lasagna or cheesecakes. Of these states, Wyoming’s law has been in place the longest, being enacted in 2015. 

IJ is the nation’s leading advocate for food freedom. Through litigation and legislation, it has helped reform cottage food laws in more than 25 states. IJ successfully sued New Jersey and Wisconsin, leading both states to remove their bans on the sale of cottage foods. In addition, IJ recently helped a bipartisan cottage food reform pass through the Arizona legislature, before it was unfortunately vetoed for unfounded “safety” reasons by the governor. IJ also recently expanded food freedom in California and Oregon.   

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