Illinois Cottage Food Law — Updated for 2016

What do homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, and dried herbs have in common? They are all eligible to be made in home kitchens and sold at farmers markets under the Cottage Food Law, which went into effect January 2012.  Illinois joined the many other states across the country that support the growing local food movement by crafting risk and scale appropriate laws regulating local food businesses.

To make things easier for potential cottage food operations we have put together a Cottage Food Guide that describes what the law does and doesn’t allow and what you have to do to qualify as a cottage food operation.  This Guide has been updated to reflect the current requirements under the Cottage Food Law, as amended in 2014 and 2015.

Illinois Department of Public Health provides links to additional useful guides in the “Publications” section here: http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/food-safety/farmers-markets.  (Please note, some of these documents were published in 2012.  They are still helpful, but there have been two amendments to the Cottage Food Law since.)  This season, farmers market vendors, including cottage food operations, may apply for statewide food sampling certificates that will remain valid for 3 years and will authorize vendors to offer samples at all farmers markets they participate in statewide.  This replaces the need for county by county certification, though vendors can still opt for county certification if they prefer.  Certification requirements and the application may also be found at http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/food-safety/farmers-markets.

If you are planning on starting a cottage food operation, it is highly recommended that you reach out to your local health department early and start a conversation about your cottage food related plans.  Please note, a cottage food operation could still be held liable if its food products sicken consumers, so plan accordingly to protect yourself and your customers.

For help getting started, contact your local public health department.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to contact Rebecca Osland at rebecca@ilstewards.org or 217-528-1563.

 

Background: On August 16, 2011 in honor of Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Governor Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 840, the Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act, also known as the Cottage Food Law. The Cottage Food Law is a step in an ongoing effort to create policies that support the burgeoning local food movement.  The Cottage Food Law creates new opportunities for farmers to engage in value-added processing, while making it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to start new local food businesses selling at one of Illinois’ 300-plus farmers markets.

The Cottage Food Law changes Illinois’ food safety laws to allow homemade non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams and jellies, fruit butter, dried herbs, and dried tea blends to be sold at farmers markets provided they are properly labeled as homemade products, annual gross receipts from sales are $36,000 or less, the “cottage food operation” is registered and the person preparing the food has a valid Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate.

SB 840 was sponsored by Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria) and Representative Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee). Both Senator Koehler and Representative Dugan deserve our thanks for all their hard work because without it, the passage of SB 840 would not have been possible.

On January 1st, 2012, Illinois Cottage Food Law officially went into effect. Since its initial passage, it has been refined and expanded by amendments that Illinois Stewardship Alliance worked to pass in both 2014 and 2015.

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