Trenton, N.J.—Today, New Jersey legalized the sale of home-baked goods like cookies, cakes and muffins with new rules published by the Office of Administrative Law. This move by New Jersey’s Department of Health means that home bakers in every state and D.C. can now sell homemade foods to their neighbors. The victory for New Jersey home bakers came following a decade-long grass-roots legislative campaign by the New Jersey Home Bakers Association. In 2017, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm, represented association members in a constitutional challenge to New Jersey’s home baking ban. Motivated by pressure from the lawsuit, the New Jersey Department of Health used the rulemaking process to do away with the state’s ban on all homemade or “cottage food” sales.
Before today’s rule change, bakers caught selling even one homemade baked good faced up to $1,000 in fines. New Jersey required home bakers to register as a “retail food establishment” before selling a single cookie. This required renting or building a commercial-grade kitchen, paying multiple fees and abiding by hundreds of pages of regulations meant for large commercial establishments. Now, bakers simply must register on the health department’s website in late October to pay for a cottage food operator permit and follow common sense sanitation requirements.
The lawsuit challenged New Jersey’s ban on home-baked good sales for violating the New Jersey Constitution, which protects the right to pursue a chosen livelihood without arbitrary or oppressive governmental interference. The empirical evidence is clear that no safety concerns justify an onerous licensing scheme on home bakers; the irrationality of New Jersey’s ban was laid bare by the fact that the state had an exemption for homemade good sales for charity and produced no expert testimony on food safety.
“New Jersey home bakers have been fighting for years for the right to bake. Today is the culmination of their hard work and time spent fighting for their rights,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola.
The homemade food businesses New Jersey home bakers are expected to create vary widely in size and variety. For some, a cottage food business is the first step to a brick-and-mortar business. Others will use their newfound rights to make extra income—up to $50,000 per year under the new rule—for their families. This freedom will be a lifeline for families struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic and will help enrich New Jersey’s economy.
“I have been a part of this effort since 2015, alongside the four incredible women that make up the board of the New Jersey Home Bakers Association. I am beyond happy that New Jersey has a cottage food law,” said Martha Rabello, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I can’t wait to see New Jersey home bakers thriving.”
“The door is now open for bakers to be compensated for their talents just as any other professional is paid for their time and services,” said Mandy Coriston of the New Jersey Home Bakers Association. “More importantly, it offers consumers a new freedom of choice in where they source their baked goods, and allows bakers across every walk of life to work in the place they feel most comfortable—their homes.”
A 2017 study by IJ, Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses, found that allowing the sale of home-baked goods can open up new opportunities for entrepreneurship, particularly for women.