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Don't Get in a Pickle! : Understanding Wisconsin Laws for Selling Homemade Foods

If you have ever thought of taking your passion for baking to the next level by selling your baked goods to members of the community, it involves a bit more than setting up your kitchen with the appropriate supplies. However, it does not require going through all the licensing and processes that are required of a commercial bakery.

Before 2018, Wisconsin homebakers were not allowed to sell baked goods from their home kitchens without complying with Wisconsin regulations for commercial bakers. However, an exemption has now been created that allows Wisconsin homebakers to sell baked goods. This exemption is known as the "Cottage laws".

So what's a baked good?
different variety of baked goods - pizza, donut, fruit cake etc

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade Consumer Protection (DATCP), this exemption only applies to baked goods. They define baked goods as baked items that are exposed to a dry heat transmitted via air at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed chamber.

While a dehydrator uses dry air in a closed chamber, it does not qualify for this exemption. In addition to the baking requirement, the baked goods in question must not be potentially hazardous as defined under state law. This means that the baked goods must not be capable of growing infectious microorganisms, cultivating salmonella or botulism.

Essentially this is saying that a home baker cannot sell raw dough or undercooked baked goods that could result in growing or cultivating things that will cause disease. Also, items must be direct to consumers, meaning that a home baker cannot wholesale their items and can only sell items to consumers.

There is no restriction on the amount of money a home baker can make in a year or how the home baker has to sell their goods, which means they are not forced only to use farmer’s markets or other community markets to sell their goods.

And what qualifies as a canned good?
pickles in a jar being sold in a make shift store

In addition to baked goods, Wisconsin law allows for certain homemade canned goods to be sold without a license.

These are known as the Pickle Bill. This has a lot more regulations than the Cottage Laws. It is limited to fruits and vegetables that are naturally acidic like cabbage, beets, corn, mushrooms, limes, peaches, and apples) or to fruits and vegetables that become acidic due to pickling. Items that are also allowed under this “Pickle Bill” is salsa, chutneys, jams/jellies, sauerkraut and non-refrigerator pickles.

The “Pickle Bill” has many more regulations than Wisconsin Cottage Laws. A seller of homemade canned goods is limited to taking in $5,000 in sales per year and can only sell items at farmer’s markets or community bazaars. Similar to Cottage laws, you cannot sell these items wholesale.

The last condition for homemade canned goods is that there must be a sign at your market stall that “Homemade goods and not subject to state inspection” and on your goods it must include your name and address, the date you canned the items, and the ingredient list.

This can all be confusing, but we are here to help you understand the Wisconsin Laws for selling homemade foods.

Before you take your passion to the level of a side gig or main gig, make sure you understand whether you fall under the Cottage or pickle laws or if you need to apply for the appropriate licenses.

Schedule a free consultation and we'll walk you through what you need to know.

And if you already, started your business, but aren't sure if you've got everything covered, reach out and schedule a Legal Check Up to find out where you may have gaps in your legal protection.


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