NEW JERSEY — New Jersey is still the only state where you can’t have a home-baked foods business — something that could soon change.
Since we wrote about the issue in October, bakers have been making another push to legalize the for-profit sale of home baked goods — this time by encouraging the public to write to the state health department in support of a proposed rule change.
“We’re very encouraged by this new development for a possible rule change,” said Martha Rabello, one of the home bakers who filed a lawsuit in 2017 demanding that home bakers be permitted to sell their goods for profit. “We’re the last state in the United States to not have any sort of cottage food law so we’re really excited. We want to get as many comments as possible.”
Under current state law, it is legal for individuals to donate or sell baked goods for charity but illegal for them to bake out of their homes for profit. For-profit bakers must instead pay to use a commercial kitchen.
“We’re not just talking about rights in a vacuum,” said Tatiana Pino, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group representing Rabello, the New Jersey Home Bakers Association and other plaintiffs in the 2017 state court lawsuit. “This law will have real-world consequences and will benefit entrepreneurs and the public.”
A proposed change to the current law would allow home bakers to sell shelf-stable food (including baked breads, cookies and cupcakes as well as non-baked items, such as fudge) out of their homes for profit, as long as they follow guidelines written out in the bill, S73, which is awaiting a Senate vote.
Products would require labeling with what they are, the name of the baker who made them and the address where the product was baked. Other guidelines include capping the gross income for bakers at $50,000 a year and listing major food allergens on the products’ packaging.
If approved, the proposed legislation would mark a major milestone for bakers in New Jersey, who have been fighting to be able to legally bake out of their own homes for a living. State legislators have introduced bills in the past regarding home baking, but those measures have not been signed into law.
The public comment period for the proposed rule change runs until June 19. More information about it may be found on this page of the New Jersey Department of Health’s website.
Janelle Fleming, spokeswoman for the state health department, said the department will then review and respond to the comments.
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