If you’re a resident of New Jersey or Wisconsin, you can’t legally sell cookies and similar baked goods made in a home kitchen. But there are efforts underway in both states to reverse the ban on home baked cookie sales.
Erica Smith, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, explained the current situation in an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, “In order to sell baked goods you have to get an expensive commercial licence and either buy or rent your own commercial kitchen space, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And that applies even to foods that are not potentially hazardous, like simple cookies and breads that don’t require refrigeration and are perfectly safe.”
Reverse The Ban On Home Baked Cookie Sales
Although home bakers have been trying to change the laws in those states for years, the Institute for Justice has recently gotten involved. Lawmakers have introduced a bill in New Jersey to make it legal for independent bakers to sell their home baked goods. And the Institute for Justice has taken legal action in Wisconsin to change their policies.
Although Smith says she’s confident that home bakers in those states will eventually be able to legally sell their baked goods, there’s one roadblock in New Jersey that is making the effort more difficult. The proposed bill has passed in New Jersey’s lower house twice. But the state Senate’s health and human services Chairman Sen. Joe Vitale hasn’t brought up the measure for a vote.
Vitale opposes the legislation not just because of health concerns, which Smith says shouldn’t really be an issue as evidenced by the other 48 states that allow the sale of home baked goods. His other concerns revolve around fairness to other commercial bakers.
Allowing home bakers to sell their cookies and similar items could potentially lead to some issues for those who have spent time and money building their own commercial baking businesses. Those who bake in their home kitchens could likely sell their baked goods for lower prices due to their lower overhead.
However, for those who want to run part-time baking businesses or simply don’t have the resources to rent or own their commercial spaces, the proposed laws could open up more opportunities for business ownership.
For those who would like to see the effort to legalize the sale of home baked goods succeed in New Jersey, Smith says you can contact Sen. Vitale and share your opinions. And she said that she’s confident that the laws will eventually be changed in both states to reverse the ban on home baked cookie sales and give more opportunities to independent bakers.
Homemade Cookies Photo via Shutterstock
I suspect this is true in more than those two states. A Mennonite woman with children who had to leave an abusive husband was baking pies and selling them at a local store to support them. They even had little hand-typed ingredient lists with only a few ingredients.
Someone turned her in to the state of Texas and she had to stop because she didn’t have a commercial kitchen. So I suspect that law exists in Texas as well – and most likely other states. Some may have exceptions for bake sales, but apply to someone trying to make a living from their baking.
It is, in fact, ONLY New Jersey and Wisconsin that currently have no cottage laws. In the case of the woman in Texas, it may have been because she was selling through a commercial establishment instead of directly to the consumer. In many states that allow home baking, the law specifically states that home baked goods cannot be sold commercially unless those baked goods are produced in a licensed kitchen. In other words, she could sell directly to you, but could not put them for sale in the store. Most states also put a cap on the amount of revenue you can earn through a home bakery. The bill in NJ, for example, caps the revenue at $50,000 annually.
Texas does have a cottage food law, I suspect there was some aspect of her business that didn’t comply with the law. I know many Texas bakers that are legally baking from their homes. Every state structures their laws differently, whether it’s caps on the yearly sales or resticting shipping or labeling, etc.
Actually, Gail, NJ’s PROPOSED bill was modeled almost identically to the Texas Bill, which is extremely comprehensive. So—we are asking to be allowed to do what they do. And yes, we are truly one of only TWO states that still does not have any laws to help home bakers.
Know your facts.
This is sad because it discourages creativity. Commercial bakers don’t really have anything to fear because home bakers can only take a certain amount of orders plus they are not much of a competition if your stuff is good.
“Allowing home bakers to sell their cookies and similar items could potentially lead to some issues for those who have spent time and money building their own commercial baking businesses.”
Translation: “The large commercial Bakeries have given me lots of bribes (sorry campaign contributions, I get the two mixed up) to make sure that there are no new competitors in their market.”
The biggest problem for small business owners and entrepreneurs is not taxes or even for the most part Federal regulations. It is the ever growing number of business and industries bribing state and local Politicians to keep out new competitors. Until this rent seeking behavior stops the economic problems we are experiencing is not going to get any better.