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Illinois

Cottage Food Law

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.

Selling

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.

Starting a cottage food business?

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Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

(Some of them just might surprise you!)

Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

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
  • Sprouts
  • 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.

Only "non-potentially hazardous" foods are allowed, but certain non-PHFs may not be allowed. Most foods that don't need to be refrigerated (foods without meat, cheese, etc.) are considered non-potentially hazardous. Learn more

Limitations

Limitations
There is no sales limit

Business

Registration

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.

Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate

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.

Labeling

Sample Label

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 7/6/2020


Workplace

In addition to (or instead of) your home kitchen, you can use another residential or commercial kitchen on your property.

Resources

Law Dates
January 2012
SB 0840
June 2014
HB 5354
June 2014
HB 5657
January 2016
HB 2486
January 2018
HB 3063

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Starting a cottage food business?

DOWNLOAD THIS FREE GUIDE

Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Cottage Food Business

(Some of them just might surprise you!)

Comments

    There is an exemption for that kind of activity and these cottage food laws don’t apply to you. You should be fine — you don’t need a license, but you may want to check with your county’s health department to see if they have any requirements, like special signage or something.

    David, can you point to the exception for the church bake sale? I’m reviewing the Illinois cottage food law and I can’t find an exception for anything. Thank you.

    Sarms, you won’t find the exemption in the cottage food laws… most states (if not all) have had exemptions for non-profits long before the cottage food laws ever came about. I tried looking around for the language that mentions this exemption, but I couldn’t find it. Sometimes laws are really hard to find online, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I think if you call your health department, they’ll be able to help you.

I was wondering about homemade extracts ( eg. Vanilla) and herbal tinctures. They are both made with 80% alcohol or higher and would most likely be safe from bacteria. What are the regulations on these types of items?

If my dad owns a coffee house / restaurant and I want to sell breads, cookies, and candies out of his shop and cook them in his kitchen do I need any license besides my food handlers license? And would I still follow the cottage food laws?

    You would not be able to follow the cottage food laws in this case, but you would need to get licensed beyond a food handlers license. Assuming your dad has a commercial kitchen that you could use for free, you’ve already got a leg up on most of the people out there trying to start a food business. There could still be a significant process and cost to starting your business, though… contact your health department and they can guide you in the right direction.

I noticed that canning of pickle products are not listed. This seems extremely strange considering the high acidity. This is quite dissappointing considering my plan to start up a business based on my mother’s pickling recipes…..sigh.

    Pickles are allowed in some states, but not many. It is true that pickles can be made perfectly safely, but in this case, the issue might be due to possible risks. You might be able to make it correctly, but others might not without the proper training and kitchen equipment. I’m not sure if botulism is a risk here, but that has certainly kept many preserved foods off of approved foods lists in the cottage food industry.

My family and I are relatively new to Illinois (via USAF). As a supplementary source of income, my wife has sold a variety of foods from our home. As I was looking through the list of foods authorized for sale, I noticed ice cream is not on the list. Why is ice cream not approved? Based on the rationale, would it be reconsidered?

    Ice cream is not approved in any state because it must be temperature-controlled. Cottage foods, as a general rule, must be shelf-stable at room temperature. Homemade ice cream, although delicious, will not likely make the list for many years, if ever. Sorry!

I recently spoke to my state representative about the Illinois cottage food law. He was elected after the law was enacted and knew nothing about it. He could not understand why we can sell cakes at a Farmers Market, but not at home, and promised to look into it. I followed up with a letter that I am happy to share with other bakers. If you would like a copy of my letter, please email me at cakedujour@comcast.net and put Cottage Law in the subject line. I will email you the letter I wrote and you may use it in full, edit it, or just use it as inspiration for a letter of your own. If we can get enough bakers to contact our representatives, maybe we can get our law expanded. I’ve already shared the letter with several bakers so we are on our way.

Is there a limit as to the number of participants involved in a Farmers Market under the cottage law? For instance a market has 25 participants in a farmers market/flea market out of 80 vendors present.

    Not that I know of. Generally, farmers markets give preference to actual farmers and produce, and they might have a separate, smaller section for other sellers (like cottage food operations), but I don’t think there’s any official limit or anything.

Do you know why rhubarb jams are excluded from the approved foods list? I thought rhubarb was a high acid food, since home canning books only specify using a hot water bath, not a pressure cooker. I know that the leaves have a very high oxalic acid content and would make a person pretty sick, but only the stalks are used in cooking.

    I’m not sure why. Vegetables are generally considered to be a higher-risk food to can, especially in regard to the potential of botulism. Because of this, the law’s authors might have just played it safe and only allowed fruits.

    However, everything you say is true. Rhubarb is very acidic and only needs the hot water bath method to be safe. I did a little research and couldn’t find anything that would indicate that rhubarb is susceptible to the kinds of risks that most other vegetables have associated with them. You could ask Illinois’ health department, but unfortunately, they probably can’t allow it until that wording comes out of the law. You might consider proposing a simple amendment in the next legislative session.

    Thank you for your answer. I’ll check with the health dept and see if I can get the ball rolling. Illinois is the land of Rhubarb, so it seems a shame to eliminate it in cottage foods sold at farmers markets

My neighbor bakes cakes and cupcakes and sells them out of her home through Facebook. Is this a legal business? If not, what is the process to report her business? And would any action be taken?

    The cottage food laws in Illinois would not allow this, and if she is using her home kitchen to make her home goods, then yes, it would technically be illegal. In many other states it would not be illegal, but Illinois hasn’t expanded their laws yet.

    An operation like this is extremely common. In fact, this is a reason given when a cottage food law is up for vote in legislature: essentially that the current laws, with their very high barrier to entry, are forcing so many producers under the table. It’s a sense of “people are doing it anyway, laws or not, so we might as well have laws that help hold them accountable.”

    What are your motivations to report this person? Has she gotten people ill? Is she running a large business that’s too big for her home? Is her business disturbing you (too much traffic in the neighborhood, for instance)?

    You might want to consider talking with this person directly about her motives. Maybe she is unaware, as many people are, that it is illegal to sell from home. Maybe she could help address whatever your concerns are. I can tell you with confidence that the health department is aware — very aware — that there are tons of businesses like this, in every state and county. I don’t know how much they’d react if you tried to report her… most departments are overbooked just with dealing with the legal businesses out there, especially as their funding has diminished in recent years. You’d probably make more headway talking to the individual.

    I know that if it were me, I wouldn’t bother trying to report it, and I might not even talk to her about it. Especially since she just does cakes and cupcakes… those are both cottage foods — non-potentially hazardous foods and unlikely to get anyone ill. Also, if she is directly selling to people who know her, then there is a good deal of accountability naturally happening there — might I say even more accountability for quality than a health department can guarantee? But the main reason I wouldn’t make an issue of it is because I know that if she were living in many other states, her operation would be totally legal, even without needing a basic permit in some. It’s a little unfortunate she lives in Illinois. I hope that helps.

I am glad that Illinois has a cottage food law. However, I am not happy that we are restricted only to farmer’s markets. I don’t understand why the scope wasn’t enlarged to include home, food stands, events, or mail order. We are required to have a food service certificate (which I have). People have sold their baked goods for years. The law restricts us to sales only a few months during the year, completely missing the holiday season. Are there special permits available to cover the holiday season?

    Karen, you would need to become a commercial processor to sell outside a farmers market — that would mean using a commercial kitchen, not your home one. Cottage food laws are generally intended to help someone start a food business more easily, until they can afford to get the proper permits to expand.

    However, many cottage food laws that are this restrictive have gotten amended and improved over time. Usually it takes a dedicated individual in the state to make this happen — Roxane in Louisiana is a good example right now.

    Thank you for your reply, David.

    I would not want to have a commercial business, just a home one. I remember a person who sold fruitcakes every year from home. It seems to be a missed opportunity for people who are wanting to supplement their incomes with good products to be able to sell at any time of the year from their homes. I would be willing to get a tax number and pay Illinois taxes. We could sure use it!

    Check with your local Farmer’s Market and see if they plan to go year round. I know here in Carbondale our normal farmer’s market runs April through Nov. There is a second market that opened recently that is year round having their winter market in the gym of one of the schools.