Illinois has two different laws in place that allow the sale of homemade food. This page covers the older law, which is for “cottage food operations”. The newer law is for “home kitchen operations,” which you should use if you want to sell baked goods outside of farmers markets. Aside from being able to sell outside of farmers markets, the newer law is more restrictive than this one.
This law only lets you sell cottage foods at a farmers market*. The startup cost for your cottage food operation could be as low as $100, but it could be higher if your local health department has decided to charge fees for registration and an inspection.
In 2017, a new bill (HB 3063) passed which improved this law by removing the sales limit, and by allowing many more food items to be sold. There is a list of perishable foods that are not allowed, and any food or drink item that is not on that list is allowed.
* Products with a locally-grown main ingredient can also be sold on the farm that grew the main ingredient, or delivered directly to the consumer.
At the point of sale, you must put up a prominent placard that says “This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens.” (this is in addition to placing that statement on product labels) In addition to farmers markets, products that have a locally-grown main ingredient (such as strawberry jam with locally grown strawberries) can be sold on the farm that grew the main ingredient, or delivered directly to the consumer.
Unlike most laws, Illinois specifies which types of foods are NOT allowed. Therefore, any food or drink item that is not on the prohibited list is allowed. Here is the list of foods that you cannot make:
- Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or shellfish
- Dairy, except as an ingredient in a non-potentially hazardous baked good or candy, such as caramel
- Eggs, except as an ingredient in a non-potentially hazardous baked good or in dry noodles
- Pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, cheesecakes, custard pies, creme pies, and pastries with potentially hazardous fillings or toppings
- Garlic in oil
- Canned foods, except for fruit jams, fruit jellies, fruit preserves, fruit butters, and acidified vegetables
- Cut leafy greens, except for leafy greens that are dehydrated or blanched and frozen
- Cut fresh tomato or melon
- Dehydrated tomato or melon
- Frozen cut melon
- Wild-harvested, non-cultivated mushrooms
- Alcoholic beverages
Again, if your food or drink product is not on that list, then you are allowed to sell it at a farmers market.
To clarify, you can sell salsa, but assuming that it includes cut tomato, it must be sold frozen. You can sell ketchup, assuming that it is an acidified food (you added an acid, like vinegar, to it to lower its pH value). You can sell other types of sauces (like BBQ sauce), assuming they are considered acidified foods.
You must register with the health department before selling cottage foods under this law, and usually there is no fee to do so. The department cannot charge more that $25 per year for registration.
You must take a class and receive a “Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification” from the health department, which takes about 8 hours to complete and costs at least $35.
By default, the only requirements for a cottage food operation are a no-fee registration and a certificate. However, an individual health department has the option to charge a fee (up to $25 per year) for registration and mandate a home inspection, which may also incur a fee. If you are only making baked goods, you can bypass the above requirements by trying to become a home kitchen operation.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
"This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens."
Forrager Cookie Company
123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, IL 73531
Ingredients: enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), butter (cream, salt), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavors), brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract (vanilla bean extract, alcohol, sugar), baking soda, salt (salt, calcium silicate)
Contains: milk, eggs, wheat, soy
Produced on 6/22/2021
In addition to (or instead of) your home kitchen, you can use another residential or commercial kitchen on your property.