Lawsuit Tests State’s Ban On Selling Home-Baked Goods

By Neil Johnson
The Janesville Gazette, Wis.


Brodhead organic farmer Dela Ends remembers selling some bread and simple baked goods at her farm market years ago, until she learned the state had banned the sale of anything not cooked in a licensed commercial kitchen.

Ends didn’t have the proper license or kitchen, so she stopped selling baked goods.

Ends, who owns and runs Scotch Hill Farms in Brodhead, said she wants to wade back into the baking business to “diversify” her offerings of organic vegetables and wares. But she still doesn’t have a licensed kitchen.

She and two other area women joined a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Lafayette County Court against the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to try to overturn the state’s ban on the sale of home-baked goods.

It’s the first time such a suit has come to Wisconsin, said the women’s attorney, Erica Smith of the nonprofit Institute for Justice.

Wisconsin and New Jersey are the only two states that ban “unlicensed” home-baked goods, even “nonhazardous” or “shelf-stable” items that don’t require refrigeration. The suit seeks to remove those restrictions.

It comes after the state Legislature stalled on a 2013 measure known as the “Cookie Bill,” which would scale back legislation that requires commercial kitchens and licensing, which can cost up to $80,000, Smith said.

The bill, like the suit, would allow unlicensed, face-to-face sales of up to $7,500 in nonrefrigerated, “shelf-safe” baked goods annually per vendor.

The first time the bill was introduced, it had bipartisan support. It passed the Senate but was blocked from a vote in the Assembly by Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican who owns a commercial popcorn-cooking operation, Smith said.

The bill was introduced again in fall 2015, but trade groups, including the Wisconsin Bakery Association, lobbied against it, some citing public health concerns.

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