ARLINGTON, Va.—Yesterday, Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda L. Lanford ruled that the government may not prevent people from selling homemade, shelf-stable foods directly to consumers. This ruling means that Wisconsinites may use their own home kitchens to support their families with sales of safe foods like fudges, doughnuts, and roasted coffee beans—that is, any food that does not need to be refrigerated for food safety purposes.
Wisconsin was one of very few states that had banned virtually all sales of homemade food, requiring that people instead pay to utilize an off-site commercial kitchen. In 2017, a legal challenge from a group of home bakers led a Wisconsin court to declare the ban on baked goods to be unconstitutional. But Wisconsin continued to ban the sale of other homemade shelf-stable foods, like chocolates, candies, dried goods, and roasted coffee beans. This lawsuit, launched in February 2021, sought to change that.
“We are thrilled with the court’s decision,” said Lisa Kivirist, a home baker and plaintiff in both the original and current lawsuits. “This win is going to be a game changer for so many in Wisconsin.”
Dela Ends, another plaintiff in the prior and current lawsuits, joined the cases so she can sell shelf-stable dried foods like soup mixes, tea mixes and dehydrated vegetables to supplement her income. Rising prices has left many people struggling to make ends meet, and any additional source of revenue for home-based food producers would be helpful to Wisconsin families like Dela’s. Dela said that a victory in the lawsuit could help her bed-and-breakfast business, and it would allow her to cook more than breakfast.
“Wisconsin’s own regulators repeatedly admitted that this ban made no sense and only existed because powerful groups like the Wisconsin Bakers Association pushed for it,” said IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson. “Legislators are not allowed to hurt the little guy just because their powerful friends asked them to.”
Because of today’s ruling, people all over Wisconsin now have the option to sell—and buy—homemade food of any kind, without restriction, so long as the food is shelf-stable and being sold to a consumer (that is, not for resale).
“If a grandmother wants to sell a piece of perfectly safe, homemade fudge to her neighbor, that is her right—and bureaucrats in Madison may not stand in the way,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “Because of Judge Lanford’s decision, Wisconsinites will enjoy greater options to support themselves, and consumers everywhere will have more choices.”