Minnesota Just Made it Easier to Start a Home-Baking Business

Under Minnesota’s cottage food laws, enterprising bakers can legally sell a wide variety of “not potentially hazardous food” made at home, like certain baked goods, jams, jellies and home-canned pickles, fruits and vegetables. While nearly every state now has a cottage food law on the books, until recently, Minnesota’s was one of the most stringent. Home bakers could only sell at farmers’ markets and community events. Meanwhile, cottage food businesses could earn no more than $5,000 a year, or less than $100 a week.

IJ Client Jane Astramecki.

IJ Client Jane Astramecki.

But a new law that went into effect on July 1 provides some regulatory relief. Minnesota now allows home bakers to sell directly to customers from the bakers’ homes and allows online sales as long as the consumer is in the state. Just as crucially, lawmakers raised the sales cap to $18,000, nearly quadrupling the amount home bakers can sell annually. Bakers who sell more than $5,000 in a year will also have to complete a “safe food handling training course” that “shall not exceed eight hours” once every three years and pay a $50 registration fee.

Expanding cottage food freedom will help home bakers like Jane Astramecki. A graduate of Le Cordon Blue and a mother of six, Jane wanted to be near her children and fulfill her passion for baking by running her own business. So she created Jane Dough Bakery out of her home. Unfortunately, she was stifled under the old rules, particularly Minnesota’s $5,000 sales cap, which needlessly limited her growth. Along with Mara Heck, another home baker, she partnered with the Institute for Justice andsued the state over its strict regulations.

Last year, a state trial court dismissed the lawsuit, but in May, the Minnesota Court of Appeals chided the state for a “lack of evidence in the record” on how Minnesota’s cottage-food restrictions would protect the public. The appellate court also reinstated Jane and Mara’s challenge. One month later, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the new cottage food bill into law.

Across the country, more states are overhauling their cottage food laws. After both California and Texasloosened their laws on selling homemade food, entrepreneurs created well over a thousand local businesses each in those two states. In fact, in Texas, none of the environmental health departments for the 25 largest cities and counties reported any complaints of foodborne illnesses from a cottage food business. Earlier this year, Wyoming went even further and enacted the Food Freedom Act, which allows “Wyomingites to sell homemade and homegrown foods (besides non-poultry meat products) without state inspection or licensing as long as the goods are sold directly from a producer to an ‘informed’ consumer.”

As Jane put it, “It should be up to ordinary Minnesotans, not the government, to decide what foods to buy for themselves and their families.”

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