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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 cottage food law: January 2012.
Revised in 2014, revised in 2015 and expected to be revised for 2018. The Cottage 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 industries.

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 list:

  • 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 the Department.
    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 0.85.
    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 pastries.
    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.

Prohitibted foods

The following are among those NOT allowed as a Cottage Food product:

  • 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 mixtures
  •  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 food definition.
  • “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

Labeling requirements

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 ingredients )
  • 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 food allergens.”

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

You cannot 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 foods.

Other requirements

 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.
Short-range paper 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, including:

  • ​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 the following:

  • ​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 out
  • Wash hands frequently while working
  • Consider annual testing of water if using a private well

Best Practices

  • 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 allergens are
    • milk,
    • eggs,
    • fish,
    • crustacean shellfish,
    • tree nuts,
    • peanuts,
    • wheat and
    • soybean.
  • 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 discarded.

More resources:

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).



  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4.  Can I freeze fresh homegrown produce and use it for making baked goods, like sweet breads, at a later date?
    Yes, 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.
  5. 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?
    No. Food 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.
  6. Can I make freezer jams?
    No. Freezer jams do not fall within the exemptions allowed as they have to be maintained frozen.
  7. 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) 278-5900.
  8. 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.
  9. Do I need to collect and report retailer’s occupation tax (sales tax) for my cottage food business?
    Possibly. Cottage 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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)?
    You should consider a press release or other public notice. See the following FDA website:
  12. 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.
  13. More FAQs can be found here and here
  14. Another summer and FAQs is presented here.

Questions? Contact Information:

For more information, contact


Scaling up?

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.

Going retail?

 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.