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Wisconsin Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts

Wisconsin Cottage Food producers have had a tough road with a state legislature that allowed home sales of canned goods (called the "Pickle Bill") but not baked goods (proposed bill called the "cookie bill"). But finally on May 31, 2017, after 3 farmers sued the government, (see details here) Judge Duane Jorgenson, Wisconsin District Court in Lafayette County, struck down Wisconsin's ban on selling home baked goods. The decision just went into effect on October 2, 2017, when the judge issued an order that the ruling applied to everyone in Wisconsin (not  just the three plaintiffs in the case,, Lisa Kivirist, Dela Ends and Kriss Marion)
There is a law called the Cookie Bill (Senate Bill 271) which passed the Senate unanimously on June 5, 2017, but has yet to go through committee hearing in the Assembly, be voted on in the Assembly and then signed by the Governor before it can become law.

Which foods are subject to the Wisconsin Cottage Food law?

Canned goods:

Home producers are allowed to make jams, jellies, pickled goods, sauces, and any other canned goods that are acidic enough to be safe (needs a pH under 4.6). You can sell home-canned fruits and vegetables that are naturally acidic or have been acidified by pickling or fermenting. Examples of allowable products:

  • pickled fruits and vegetables (not refrigerator pickles)
  • salsas and chutneys
  • sauerkraut and kimchi
  • jams and jellies
  • applesauce

 Not sure if your product can be sold without a license? Contact University of Wisconsin Extension: 608-263-7383 or Wisconsin Dept of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection: 608-224-4682.

Baked Goods:

 Wisconsin home bakers may legally sell their non-hazardous baked goods directly to customers. The exemption from licensure applies only to flour-based “baked goods” as indirectly defined in the Wis. Stat. § 97.29(1) (b) definition of “bakery.” The court's order did not address other processing activities, such as the cooking and drying of products like candies and other confectionaries. If you prepare items other than baked goods, then you must obtain a license to operate your business. See Licensing Exemption for Wisconsin Home Bakers. As of October 2017 it is legal to sell:

  • baked goods means bread, crackers, pasta or pies, or any other food product for which flour or meal is the principal ingredient

Prohibited Foods

  • Anything that is not baked, in other words an energy bar or cookie that is simply rolled together without being baked is not considered baked goods and is not currently allowed.
  • You can not sell low-acid home-canned foods such as vegetables, fish and meat
  • You can not sell sauces, dressings or condiments unless they are clearly fruit or vegetable products
  • You can not sell home-canned foods contain meat, eggs or dairy such as pickled eggs, lemon curd, and pesto
  • You can not sell baked goods, dried foods, flavored vinegars, beverages, foods that must be kept refrigerated to ensure safety, or any other item that is not a high-acid canned fruit or vegetable

If your food product does not meet the definition of a Cottage Food, you may still be able to make and sell it commercially, through a startup approach.  See this page for detailed information about selling foods that do not meet the Cottage Food definition.Wisconsin Sample Cottage Food Label

Labeling requirements

Cottage Food Production Operations must label all of their food products properly, which include the following information on the label of each unit of food product offered or distributed for sale:

  • ​The name of the product
  • A listing of ingredients in decreasing order of predominance by weight
  • A net weight or volume statement
  • The name, address, and zip code of the manufacturer, packer or distributor
  • Nutrition information, unless the food is specifically exempt​

See this page for more information.

Here is a free Microsoft Word label template which you can download and edit.  These labels are already formatted to fit on Avery Template 22820  Print-to-the-Edge Oval, Labels 2" x 3-1/3", 8 per Sheet, Glossy White. You can get the label stock online (see at right). 

 

Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?

They may be sold directly to the consumer  at farmers markets and other community events. These events include town celebrations, sporadic church or service club bazaars, and scheduled farmers' markets. Events where sales may not take place include for-profit events, flea markets, craft shows, traveling circuses or carnivals, high school sporting or fund-raising events, and regularly occurring licensed food-sales events such as a church's Friday-night fish fry. All sales must be made in-person and go directly from the producer to the consumer. Cottage Food Products may not be sold across state lines.  In other words, only be sold within the state.  See this page for further guidance from the state about online and mail differences between baked and canned goods.

Bakers and Canned good producers may sell:

  • at Farmers' markets
  • at non-profit Community events
  • in a CSA's boxes

Baked goods may also be sold:

  • online

Sales which are not allowed include:

  • Out of the producer's home
  • Wholesale (resale by someone else)
  • in restaurants or roadside stands
  • catering
  • On consignment
  • Via the internet (except for baked goods)
  • out of state

Other requirements

  • Canned goods: Home Producers can only have up to $5,000 of sales per year
    Baked Goods: According to the Wisconsin Farmer's Union, baked goods have no limit on sales volume, "Until the Cookie Bill officially passes, we do not have a gross sales cap in Wisconsin. That means the sky is the limit until a law is passed related to baked goods."
  • A sign must be displayed at the place of sale that says "These canned goods are homemade and not subject to state inspection."
  • There is no registration process or cost necessary to start selling. The law exempts producers from needing to get a license.
  • The Department of Agriculture encourages sellers to test their product for safety and take some training to educate themselves on safe production practices.
  • You must make it in your home kitchen; You can not sell products that are made outside your family's kitchen, such as in a restaurant or a shared kitchen
  • You may not slice a caked or other baked goods and sell it by the piece to customers, as that is classified as food service

Recommendations:

Beyond the requirements, common sense, good practices and reducing liability suggests you should do the following.

Testing of pH

​It's best to use a pH meter, properly calibrated on the day used. I use this one, which is reliable and inexpensive. And this pH meter is really good, but isn't always available.
Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper's range includes a pH of 4.6.

Record-keeping is suggested

Keep a written record of every batch of product made for sale, including:

  • ​Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
  • Amount canned and sold
  • Canning date
  • Sale dates and locations
  • Gross sales receipts
  • Results of any pH test

Sanitation

Although inspections are not required, you should consider doing the following:

  • ​Use clean equipment that has been effectively sanitized prior to use
  • Clean work surfaces and then sanitize with bleach water before and after use
  • Keep ingredients separate from other unprocessed foods
  • Keep household pets out of the work area
  • Keep walls and floors clean
  • Have adequate lighting
  • Keep window and door screens in good repair to keep insects out
  • Wash hands frequently while working
  • Consider annual testing of water if using a private well

More resources:

Please let me know if a link breaks.  The geniuses who work for the state are constantly moving the pages, deleting them and otherwise screwing them up! It makes it darn near impossible for consumers to find state resources.

Questions? Contact Information:

 Not sure if your product can be sold without a license? Contact University of Wisconsin Extension: 608-263-7383 or Wisconsin Dept of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection: 608-224-4682

For legal questions:
​Licensing Consultant
(608) 224-4720​
​​​DATCPDFSLicensing@wi.gov​​
For additional information or to submit your application, contact:
Licensing Assistance
608-224-4923
datcpdfslicensing@wisconsin.gov
Application/Payment
Wisconsin DATCP
Division of Food and Recreational Safety
PO Box 93586
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0586


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