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Illinois Cottage Food Laws and Regulations: How to sell your homemade foods in Illinois
Illinois Cottage Food Laws, Regulations and Facts
Date of the enactment of the
food law: January 2012.
Revised in 2014, revised in 2015 and expected to be revised for
Food Operation law (P.A.097-0393)
allows certain foods made in home kitchens to be sold at Illinois
farmers’ markets with limited regulation. The purpose of the law is
to promote and support the Illinois agriculture and cottage food
Which foods are subject to the Illinois Cottage Food law?
Foods prepared for sale by a Cottage Food Operation: only
non-potentially hazardous baked goods, fruit pies, jams, jellies,
fruit preserves, fruit butters, dry herbs, dry herb blends, and dry
tea blends intended for end-use consumption are permitted. Here is a
- Jams, Jellies, and Preserves: Fruits are naturally high in
food acid. Only high acid jams, jellies, and preserves made from
the following fruits are permitted: apple, apricot, grape,
peach, plum, quince, orange, nectarine, tangerine, blackberry,
raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry,
strawberry, red currants, or a combination of those fruits.
Any other jams, jellies, butters, or preserves not listed
may be produced by a cottage food operation provided the recipe
has been tested. The testing must be conducted by a commercial
laboratory at the expense of the cottage food operation. The lab
report must document that the product is not potentially
hazardous, containing a pH equilibrium of less than 4.6 or has
been specified and adopted as allowed in administrative rules by
Low Sugar Jams and Jellies: The best practice
for low sugar jams and jellies or those using sugar substitute
is that they be processed only in a boiling water canner for a
minimum of ten (10) minutes and not by any other methods unless
water activity is determined by a commercial lab to be less than
What about other flavors? Any other jams, jellies, or
preserves not listed may be produced by a cottage food operation
provided their recipe has been tested and documented by a
commercial laboratory as containing a pH level equilibrium of
less than 4.6.
Baked Goods Permitted: Baked goods, such as,
but not limited to, breads, cookies, cakes, fruit pies, and
Fruit Butters: Only high acid fruit butters are
permitted. Fruit butters made from: apple, apricot, grape,
peach, plum, quince, and prune. Any other fruit butter not
listed may be produced by a cottage food operation provided
their recipe has been tested and documented by a commercial
laboratory as containing pH of less than 4.6. and water activity
of less than 0.85.
Fruit pieFruit Pies Permitted: High-acid
fruit pies made of apple, apricot, grape, peach, plum, quince,
orange, nectarine, tangerine, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry,
boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, strawberry, red currants, or a
combination of these fruits.
Fruit pies not listed may be
produced by a cottage food operation provided their recipe has
been tested by a Commercial Laboratory and documented by the
laboratory as containing a pH equilibrium of less than 4.6
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.
The following are among those NOT allowed as a Cottage Food
- fried doughnuts, fried pies, crepes or pancakes
- Meat and dairy products,
- canned vegetables,
- pickled products,
- raw seed sprouts, jams
- Preserves and jellies made from watermelon
- Butters made from pumpkin, banana, and pear
- Baked goods: pumpkin, sweet potato, custard or any cream
pies, cheese cake, or any pastry with a potentially hazardous
filing or topping –
- Heat treated plant food,
- baked or boiled potatoes,
- cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes, cut melons, garlic and oil
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.)
- Fish (tuna, salmon, etc.)
- Shellfish and crustaceans (shrimp, crab, clam, etc.)
- Shell Eggs
- Milk and milk products
- Heat-treated plant food (cooked rice, beans, or vegetables)
- “baked” goods? To cook (food) by dry heat
without direct exposure to a flame, especially in an oven (e.g.
bread, muffins, cakes, rolls, cookies, crackers).
- "Cottage food operation" means a person who
produces or packages non-potentially hazardous food in a kitchen
of that person's primary domestic residence for direct sale by
the owner or a family member, stored in the residence where the
food is made.
- "Farmers' market" means a common facility
or area where farmers gather to sell a variety of fresh fruits
and vegetables and other locally produced farm and food products
directly to consumers.
- "Potentially hazardous food" means a food
that is potentially hazardous according to the Federal Food and
Drug Administration 2009 Food Code (FDA 2009 Food Code) or any
subsequent amendments to the FDA 2009 Food Code. Potentially
hazardous food (PHF) in general means a food that requires time
and temperature control for safety (TCS) to limit pathogenic
microorganism growth or toxin formation. In accordance with the
FDA 2009 Food Code, potentially hazardous food does not include
a food item that because of its pH or Aw value, or interaction
of Aw and pH values, is designated as a non-PHF/non-TCS food in
Table A or B of the FDA 2009 Food Code's potentially hazardous
- “primary domestic residence” - It is
the place where you live, whether you own the home or are
renting. So, a house, an apartment, condominium or a rental home
all could be a primary domestic residence. It does not include
group or communal residential settings, such as group homes,
sororities or fraternities or second homes, vacation homes or
motor homes (if they are not your primary residence).
Licensing and training
Cottage Food Production Operations must label all of their food products properly,
must conform to the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
- Name and address of cottage food operation
- Common name of product and weight
- All ingredients listed in descending order by weight
- Allergen labeling ( must identify: – Milk, eggs, wheat,
peanuts, soybeans, fish, crustacean shellfish, and tree nuts •
Allergens may be listed as part of ingredient list OR • As
allergen statement, such as, “contains….” as separate list after
- Date product was processed
- Both a statement on the label and at a point of sale placard
that must read, “This product was produced in a home kitchen not
subject to public health inspection that may also process common
Where may Cottage Food Production Operations sell the food products?
Cottage food operations may only sell directly to the consumer at
a farmers' market, on-farm, farm-stands, and at CSAs
sell your foods to a
- retailer for them to resell
- to a restaurant for use or sale in the restaurant.
- over the Internet,
- by mail order,
- on consignment,
- at craft shows without a farmers’ market,
- to wholesalers,
- to brokers
- or other food distributors who will resell the cottage
Gross receipts must not exceed $36,000 per year
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.
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,
- Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
- Amount canned and sold
- Canning date
- Sale dates and locations
- Gross sales receipts
- Results of any pH test
Although iInspections are not required, you should consider doing
- 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
- Wash hands frequently while working
- Consider annual testing of water if using a private well
- Allergans: Most state home baking
acts require an “ingredient statement” and/or an “allergen
listing” on the label of the bakery item for sale; but if your
state does not, you should anyway. The eight major food
- crustacean shellfish,
- tree nuts,
- wheat and
- Cross-allergenicity: There are also
ingredients available, even flours, that can cause a
cross-allergenicity. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma &
Immunology explains cross-allergenicity as an allergic reaction
when proteins in one substance are similar to the proteins found
in another substance. For example, consumption of lupine flour
may trigger an allergic reaction to peanuts, and cricket flour
may trigger an allergic reaction to shellfish. Again, providing
such information might be a beneficial marketing tool and help
keep potential consumers safe.
- The 2 Hour/4 Hour Rule - Anyone
wishing to make and sell refrigerated bakery items should
remember to follow the “2 Hour/4 Hour Rule.” This is a system
that can be implemented when potentially hazardous foods are out
of temperature control (temperatures greater than 45 degrees
Fahrenheit) during preparation, serving or display for sale. The
rule guidelines are as follows:
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for 2 hours or less, then it may
continue to be used or be placed back in the refrigerator.
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for more than 2 hours but less than 4
hours, it needs to be used quickly or discarded.
- If a potentially hazardous food has been out of
temperature control for more than 4 hours, it must be
More information about specific fruit allowances:
You may combine specifically allowed fruit products if all the
fruits are allowed in that form.
An asterisk (*) means the product is neither specifically allowed
nor prohibited. That means if you want to make and sell such a
product , you must, at your own expense, submit the recipe to a
commercial laboratory to be tested and documented as non-potentially
hazardous (that is, it has a pH less than 4.6).
- Can nonprofit organizations produce and sell cottage foods?
No. Nonprofits do not have a primary domestic residence, and
therefore do not qualify as cottage food businesses.
- Can I make and sell sweet breads, muffins or other baked
goods made with homegrown/fresh fruits and vegetables like
zucchini, carrots, apples, and strawberries?
Yes, as long as
the fruits or vegetables are incorporated into the batter and
properly baked, packaged and labeled.
- Can homegrown produce be canned and used for making
baked goods, like sweet breads, at a later date?
No, but you
can use commercially canned products for baked goods, like
canned apple pie filling. Home-canned products are not approved
for production under the cottage food law, with the exception of
some types of jams, jellies and fruit butters.
- Can I freeze fresh homegrown produce and use it for
making baked goods, like sweet breads, at a later date?
as long as the frozen fruits or vegetables are minimally
processed (washed and cut only) and then incorporated into the
batter and properly baked, packaged and labeled.
- Can I produce and sell fresh raw prepared and/or cooked
vegetable products, like salsas, tomato sauces, spaghetti
sauces, or foccacia bread with roasted vegetables?
products made with fresh raw prepared and/or cooked vegetable
products do not qualify. Cooked vegetables, whether from fresh,
frozen or canned are considered a potentially hazardous
food/temperature controlled for safety (PHF/TCS) food. Under the
Illinois Food Code, cooked vegetables must be held either hot
(above 135°F) or cold (below 41°F). They can't be stored at room
temperature, which makes them ineligible for production as a
cottage food operation. Cut fresh tomatoes that may be in cold
prepared foods, e.g., salsa, is a PHF/TCS. Primary domestic
residence kitchens cannot be used for processing produce (e.g.,
wash, cut or slice) for ready-to-eat service.
- Can I make freezer jams?
No. Freezer jams do not fall
within the exemptions allowed as they have to be maintained
- Can I press and sell cider as a cottage food operation?
No. Cider is not an acceptable item. Actually, no beverages are
allowed to be produced. Are honey and maple syrup covered under
the cottage food law? No. Honey and maple syrup producers should
contact the Illinois Department of Public Health at (217)
- Will I need to meet local zoning or other laws?
Possibly. The cottage food exemption only exempts you from the
health department requirements of permits and routine
inspections. Contact your local unit of government
(village/city/county) to determine if there are local
regulations that will affect your business.
- Do I need to collect and report retailer’s occupation tax
(sales tax) for my cottage food business?
food businesses, although exempt from food permitting
requirements, may meet other provisions of law regarding
businesses, including tax law. You may need to maintain sales
records and may need to provide them to the Internal Revenue
Service, Illinois Department of Revenue, farmers’ market sponsor
or for village/city/county sales tax collection.
- Are there any liability exemptions?
No. It is your
responsibility to assure that your foods are safe, unadulterated
and properly labeled. Contact your attorney and/or insurance
representative for advice.
- Should I initiate a recall or market withdrawal of my foods
if found to be misbranded (e.g., did not declare milk on the
label) or adulterated (e.g., foreign object in food)?
should consider a press release or other public notice. See the
following FDA website:
- Can I offer samples? Yes, with conditions. There is now
a Farmers Market Food Product Sampling Handler Certificate, see
this page. The law is found here
Illinois Food Service Sanitation Code 750.4300
Effective July 15, 2015, a Farmers Market Food Product Sampling
Handler Certificate is required to sample your food product at a
Farmers Market, without having to get a separate license from
the local health department (applies to samples only). The
Farmers Market Food Product Sampling Handler Certificate is
required for all persons who engage in performing tasks such as
unpacking, cutting, slicing, preparing or distributing food
product samples. Certificates are not transferrable between
individuals and are valid for 3 years from issue date.
More FAQs can be found here and
Another summer and FAQs is presented here.
Questions? Contact Information:
For more information, contact
If you decide you would like to wholesale your products, which is
not allowed under the cottage food law, you are ready to move to the
next step and become a wholesale food processor. Contact the
Illinois Department of Public Health at (217) 278-5900.
If you would like to operate a retail business, you must
operate from a permitted, inspected kitchen and obtain a health
permit and applicable city food licenses. Contact the
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District/Champaign County Public
Health Department at (217) 373-7900 or (217) 363-3269 or see the
plan review and
permitting section on the food safety page.