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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?

DOWNLOAD THIS FREE GUIDE

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 7/2/2020


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

I’m only interested in selling some of my extra jars of green beans, just to cover the costs of jars and lids. They are home grown and pressure canned at home, and I would just set up a table at the end of my driveway. I saw nothing above about produce, just jams, etc. Is this allowable?

I want to start a pickle company from my own recipe. They are a non-processed product and require refrigeration from production to sale. Can I sell at farmers markets and do I need a commercial kitchen?

I make artisan caramels – given the high temperature and the length of time its cooked at that temperature, is it still a potentially harmful product. Does it require a commercial kitchen?

    It’s not a potentially hazardous food, but it still probably isn’t allowed under this law. I think you need to use a commercial kitchen, but this law was recently amended to allow “similar” items, if the health dept so chooses. You should contact the health dept to see if you can sell your homemade caramels at the farmers market.

I’m looking to start a custom cookie business from my home. I’ve already spoken to the Lake County Health Dept. and didn’t get a very favorable response. Basically I can only sell from the farmers’ market. Even if someone calls me mid-week to place an order, I’d have to tell them to meet me at the market to complete the transaction in person. This seems very cumbersome, since the nature of custom-decorated cookies is that they are event specific, and are not usually purchased on a whim at a farmers’ market. The other option is to rent space in a commercial kitchen, which does not come cheap in my area. That said, I have found MANY people selling cakes and cookies on Facebook in my area, and I find it hard to believe that all of them are using commercial kitchens.

I guess my question is, what steps can I take to try to get the home kitchen operation ordinance passed in Lake County? I’ve noticed that some individual municipalities have passed the law (Naperville, Joliet, Yorkville, etc.). Should I be going to my city council instead of the county board?

    The first thing I would do is talk again to the Lake County health dept about passing the ordinance. If you sense that they are very familiar with the HKO law and are opposed or very unwilling to pass an ordinance, then I don’t really think there’s anything you can do. If they don’t seem opposed, then you can track down the other ordinances that counties have passed and use those as an example and evidence.

    Even if they are willing to pass an ordinance, it will likely takes months or well over a year to pass it, so regardless, I’d recommend that you explore the commercial kitchen route or the illegal route (yes, many of the Facebook bakers are probably illegal). Commercial kitchens are expensive if you only look at ones that rent theirs as a business. Instead, I would suggest trying to use whatever connections you have to find one and utilize it in its off hours, whether that be at a restaurant, church, or community center. You’ll still almost certainly need to pay for the use of the kitchen, but the rate will probably be more reasonable (under $20/hr) and hours can be less strict. I have even heard of some people who have friends that own a commercial kitchen, and they get to use it for free.

    Re: Passing HKO – Skip the health dept and go directly to your county bd members. Get the issue on the agenda. They, not the hlth dept will pass the ordinance. Do your research, gather and present the facts, stories etc. Cty Bd will consult with health dept but growing number of locales have passed HKO and momentum is building. Just got HKO passed in Carroll Cty, #9th one statewide. You can do it!

For selling coffee at farmers markets, would I have to prepare and brew in a commercial kitchen or can I brew in my home kitchen and sell???

    You cannot sell coffee that’s brewed at home, and you should contact the health dept to learn about the requirements. You may be able to sell dry, home-roasted coffee at farmers markets.

Do I have to wrap fresh baked bread in plastic at IL farmers markets? Some breads will be wood fired and maintaining a crusty loaf is vital. Can they be in open paper packaging?

    Look for “perforated” plastic bread bags which prevents moisture building up inside bag. Crust stays crisp! A bit pricey but get the job done.

I don’t see any information on sauces, specifically different types of barbecue sauce. Is this something that can be made and packaged in a home kitchen or would it require commercial kitchen preparation?

I am wondering about laws for
Selling homemade salsa? It is not a cooked salsa but chopped fresh ingredients. I am wanting to sell at vendor events and farmers markets.

I hope that somebody here will be able to answer my question. I am about to file federal taxes for my cottage food operation in Illinois. My question is, what is the business code I have to enter? I mean under which category does a cottage food operation fall?
Thank you so much!

    Thank you so much David, you have been so helpful! I had also read somewhere about 454390: “Other Direct Selling Establishments This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in retailing merchandise (except food for immediate consumption and fuel) via direct sale to the customer by means such as in-house sales (i.e., party plan merchandising), truck or wagon sales, and portable stalls (i.e., street vendors).”