Not-so-fun fact: New Jersey is the only state where you can’t have a home-baked foods business.
Sales of home-baked goods are allowed in the Garden State, provided they’re at charity events or bake sales. But bakers who filed a lawsuit say there should also be a law that allows them to make a viable living baking from home.
The lawsuit, which remains in New Jersey Superior Court almost two years after it was filed, demands that state legislators make it legal for bakers to sell cookies, cakes and other goods that are baked in home kitchens.
The suit was filed in December 2017 by the New Jersey Home Bakers Association, a grassroots group made up of bakers, against the New Jersey Department of Health. The association is represented by the Institute for Justice and the Chusid Law Firm LLC.
Supporters of the suit say that a law allowing bakers to legally sell non-hazardous baked goods that are made in their homes will provide them with a convenient, inexpensive place to bake their goods, and could be a benefit people with disabilities who are home-bound and want to bake for a living.
Currently, bakers in New Jersey can bake out of commercial kitchens, which some of the suit’s supporters say are expensive and can be inconvenient for people like stay-at-home parents.
“If we’re allowed to donate baked goods for charity, then why is it a concern when we do it for profit?” said Martha Rabello, one of the bakers who filed the lawsuit. “It will open up another means for customers to buy baked goods.”
Rabello, a resident of Fanwood, used to have a business where she sold Brazilian-inspired cookies, but now stays at home to care for her three young children — Eddie, 6, Max, 3, and baby Alice.
“Many people would like to start their own business, but the overhead is costly,” Rabello said.
According to the lawsuit, the state Department of Health is violating the New Jersey Constitution’s Equal Protection guarantee by “allowing home-baked good and other homemade foods to be sold to support a nonprofit, but not to support one’s family.”
The bakers are seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief concerning the licensing and other requirements for retail food establishments.”
In court papers, the state argues that foods prepared in a private home cannot be appropriately regulated because the state “has no authority to enter a private home to inspect food preparation, food storage, and/or warewashing areas to ensure compliance with the State Sanitary Code.”
During the summer, New Jersey Sen. Kip Bateman, R-Somerville, pushed again for a bill to be passed that was introduced in April 2016. Bateman introduced the bill, S-3618, that seeks to make it legal for bakers to sell the goods they’ve baked in their homes.
But no movement has occurred recently on the bill. Bateman did not return a call or an email seeking comment.
New Jersey Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, has suggested ways the bill could be changed to the Home Bakers Association. Vitale said he is currently working on these amendments, which would include required health inspections and guidelines for home bakers to follow.
He told NJ Flavor in an email on Sept. 26 that he will “set forth clear guidance to home bakers so that they may fully prosper under a newly created and regulated program.”
Read more on NJ Flavor:
Got a story you'd like to see on NJ Flavor? Email Jackie Lieberman at firstname.lastname@example.org.