Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · March 25, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) applauds the Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin for enacting reforms that give home bakers more opportunities to earn an honest living while also solidifying their constitutional right to advertise their food products online. Today’s bill signing comes three months after Kelly Phillips and IJ teamed up to petition the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). 

Last November, VDACS told Kelly, who owns KP’s Kake Pops & Treats, that she couldn’t advertise her cake pops on social media. In its letter, IJ warned VDACS that such a rule violated Kelly’s First Amendment rights. A month later, after the situation gained the attention of Gov. Youngkin, regulators at VDACS clarified that home bakers were free to advertise their products online, allowing Kelly to continue bringing smiles to customers’ faces one cake pop at a time. 

Kelly and IJ’s partnership also prompted members of the Virginia House of Delegates to amend HB 759, a bill that initially dealt with homemade pickles, to clarify that advertising or promoting homemade goods on social media was allowed, provided that the home baker complied with certain restrictions. It also expanded the venues at which home bakers may sell their foods. That bill passed the House of Delegates, an occasion marked by lawmakers waving cake pops, then unanimously passed through the Virginia Senate, before arriving at the governor’s desk. 

“This bill is a step in the right direction toward giving people more freedom to buy and sell the food of their choice, but Virginia’s cottage food law remains more restrictive than other states,” said Meagan Forbes, director of legislation and senior legislative counsel at IJ. “Virginia should remove other arbitrary restrictions in the law, such as additional restrictions on where homemade food can be sold, and allow home-based food producers to sell a broader variety of food.” 

Data collected from several states shows that homemade foods are incredibly safe, and today, seven states allow the sale of homemade meals and other perishable foods. While Virginia has allowed people to sell homemade food for more than a decade, its regulations are still lacking compared to other states. Virginia’s current regulations for cottage foods earned the state a “C+” on IJ’s national rankings of homemade food laws, trailing 13 other states that received better marks. West Virginia, for example, places fewer restrictions on homemade food producers compared to Virginia, helping the state earn a “B” in IJ’s rankings.