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Wisconsin Can you legally sell food from home in Wisconsin?

Cottage Food Law

Wisconsin has two avenues for selling homemade food: this ruling, which allows baked goods, and the pickle bill, which allows some types of canned goods. Under this ruling, home cooks can sell their nonperishable baked goods directly to anyone in the state, and there is no limit on how much they can sell.

Wisconsin tried to change their pickle bill for many years, but they were always thwarted by strong political efforts from the Wisconsin Bakers Association and the Wisconsin Grocer’s Association, which were concerned about competition. It made no sense that Wisconsin would allow canned goods, which are relatively risky, and not allow baked goods, some of the least risky foods.

With multiple unsuccessful attempts at changing the law (2013 AB 182 & 2015 SB 330), the restriction for home bakers was finally overturned by a lawsuit against the state, which took over two years to come to a full resolution. This successful group effort involved plaintiffs Lisa Kivirist (author of Homemade For Sale), Kriss Marion, and Dela Ends, along with legal support from the Institute for Justice. The opposition from the associations were so strong that the judge had to clarify his ruling twice, and clearly became annoyed at their efforts to restrict home bakers.

Even after the successful lawsuit allowed Wisconsin residents to sell baked goods, the ag department continued to try to restrict them by interpreting “baked goods” to mean only items made with flour. Advocates in the state had to file yet another lawsuit in 2021, which was also successful and clarified that all non-perishable baked goods are allowed. They are also working on a lawsuit that would allow more than just baked goods to be sold.

Wisconsin is the only state that has created an allowance for cottage foods through a lawsuit. Minnesota also tried in 2013, which likely influenced the passage of their new and improved law a couple of years later. Lawsuits have also been created in New Jersey, North Dakota, and Nebraska.

Wisconsin is also now one of a handful of states that has no law allowing cottage food operations (and doesn’t need one). However, a bill may be passed in the future (like 2017 SB 271), which would clarify (and probably slightly restrict) the current allowances.

Because there are no official regulations for home bakers in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Farmers Union created wisconsincottagefood.com, which provides excellent and reasonable guidance for home cooks. All home bakers should read through that entire website. There is also a Facebook page with provides updates.

Selling Where can you sell homemade food products?

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Allowed Foods What food products can you sell from home?

All of your products must be baked goods that are non-PHFs (do not require refrigeration). If your product is not a baked good, OR if it requires refrigeration, it is not allowed under this law.

You can sell up to $5,000 of home-canned goods by using the pickle bill.

If you are unsure about whether your product is a non-PHF, you can get it tested in a lab for about $25.

You are allowed to make basic frostings for your baked items. Frostings that contain cream or eggs, and require refrigeration, are not allowed.

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 How will your home food business be restricted?

Limitations
There is no sales limit

Business What do you need to do to sell food from home?

Local Regulations

Although you do not need any licensing or permission from the state to start your business, your local town or county may have requirements for home-based businesses.

Labeling How do you label cottage food products?

Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection"


Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, WI 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 12/2/2021


There are NO current requirements for labeling, but the Wisconsin Farmers Union strongly recommends following the labeling requirements in the pickle bill, which is shown above. Again, this is optional, but highly recommended.

Resources Where can you find more information about this law?

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This forum contains 4 topics and 7 replies, and was last updated by  Diane 2 years, 3 months ago.

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Comments

If the cookie bill is passed in the House will dry mixes still be illegal to prepare and sell from a home kitchen?

    The law above is already in effect, but I assume you’re referring to AB 182, which would allow other types of food (like baked goods). That bill just passed the Senate and now needs to move on to the House. Assuming that it does pass (which is probable, but certainly not definite), my guess is that it could take awhile to go into effect: possibly as late as the beginning of 2015, and possibly as early as July.

I don’t understand the label graphic. Why is a graphic for a baked good (cookies) used when it’s illegal to sell baked goods?

    Good point! I don’t know why I didn’t even think about that. It’s the sample label for every state, modified to show what components are necessary in the state. Wisconsin is the only one that strangely doesn’t allow baked goods (which I hope they change soon). Anyway, thanks for pointing it out and I’ll work on changing it for this page.

I was informed that people can sell any kind of food out of their home in the state of Wisconsin, as long as they don’t advertise their “business”, ie. putting up flyers, printing ads, etc. So, people can make things and sell them to others, but it has to be through word of mouth only. Is this true?

    My friend has asked me to do cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday party. I would be happy to do the cupcakes, as she is a friend, I love to do it, and she doesn’t have time to do it herself (2 kids under 3). She wants to pay me, but because I am not licensed and bake from home, I would only accept a donation (I am not going into business- I already have a job). Am I doing something illegal?

    In addition, she has a sister who is looking for a wedding cake- her baker (a relative) backed out last minute. I’m going to turn the job down- even though I feel sorry that someone backed out of her special day. Is baking a wedding cake for a donation illegal?

    If it is illegal to do these things, is there a law in the works that will change it? I keep thinking of school bake sales, birthday parties, etc.

    If by “donation” you mean they can pay you whatever they want, then this would be technically illegal, because this is for your personal profit. Baked goods sold for donations that support a nonprofit are typically exempt from the rules.

    However, since this is a one-time thing and for a friend, I don’t think you should worry about it too much. There is a bill on the table (AB 182), but it’s not advancing in the legislature right now.

I have thought about making fondant cupcake decorations. I would use store bought fondant instead of home made. Is there a way to do this legally? Maybe if I included some kind of label?

    Wisconsin only allows home canned goods. Other types of food items are not allowed to be prepared at home for a business. Even though you’re using store-bought fondant, you’d probably still need to prepare you decorations in a commercial kitchen.

I live in the state of WI and have been reading through all laws/bills (passed) pertaining to food preparation in the home. When it comes to repackaging existing food items, I cannot find anything that mentions that. An example would be, buying ham all ready prepared, slicing and repackaging into a different product. No cooking is performed and the product was all ready created. Looking to recreate a Lunchable type meal.

    It is possible to resell bulk items with much less overhead (especially prepackaged items)… you may only need a seller’s permit to do so. But if you are actually slicing a ham, then you are “preparing” that item, even though it came from a commercial kitchen. Because you are preparing it and it’s not a cottage food, this type of activity still needs to be done in a commercial kitchen and at that point you would be a regular food business. You won’t be able to find too much specific info online, and I’d recommend calling your local health dept.

    So, if I’m reading this right (and the post below this one). I could not create any type of “food in a jar” type mixes which takes already prepared ingredients (noodles, spices, flour, etc.) and package it into sterile mason jars and sell. AND, even if this type of product WAS allowed I could not sell it on Etsy or any other online venue. Correct?

    Strangely, that’s all correct. You are still considered “preparing” the items even though you’re only assembling them. I think this is because you are handling them in an uninspected environment. And these items “made” in a home wouldn’t be able to be sold online unless an amendment to the law allowed it. It’s likely that even with a good amendment, you wouldn’t be able to ship out-of-state with an Etsy sale.

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