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Selling Food From Home Illinois

If you live in Illinois, selling food from home has been made easier. The state law was updated last year and now permits small farms and home bakers to sell their goods directly to consumers in different locations.

Before 2022, selling food from home in Illinois was mostly limited to farmers' markets. Now, you can sell your homemade goodies and agricultural produce, subject to local regulations, in various venues such as festivals, public events, fairs, roadside stands, and even online.

Home Kitchen Operation Law Illinois

According to the Cottage Food Laws Illinois, there are some food items that you can and cannot sell from home. To avoid incurring fines and/or charges, it would be beneficial to have a thorough understanding of the rules on selling food from home.

Most states, including Illinois, allow food entrepreneurs to prepare and sell food items that do not require time and temperature control to maintain safety. Shelf-stable foods, or non-potentially hazardous foods that do not require refrigeration to keep safe such as baked goods, jams, jellies, dry blends, and properly acidified food products, can be prepared in a domestic kitchen and sold directly to customers.

Food products including meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish, and dairy-based ingredients are not allowed under the Cottage Food Law, since they can become harmful if not cooked properly and kept at the proper temperature. Low-acid canned meals are also prohibited, as are pies or pastries with potentially dangerous toppings or fillings.

Under the Illinois Home-To-Market Act, home bakers and farmers in Illinois can sell their goods directly to the general public. Besides adding a few additional safety requirements, the Home-To-Market Act Illinois, which took effect in January 2022, permits cottage food producers to operate small food businesses outside of their homes and beyond farmers’ markets. The venues have been expanded to include fairs and other public events. The new law also allows for house sales, pickup, and delivery services, and removes the restrictive $1,000 monthly sales cap. Additionally, the amended law aims to standardize the procedures on cottage food registration across counties to level the playing field across the state.

Do You Need a Permit to Sell Food From Home? 

Cottage Food Law in Illinois requires that food products are prepared and handled safely under sanitary conditions. In Illinois, there are only a handful of food operations that do not need permits, and the penalties for selling food using unlicensed home kitchens are steep.

In the event of noncompliance with cottage food operation requirements, the Department of Public Health or the local health department may inspect the premises in question, charge a reasonable inspection fee, and impose the appropriate fines. Depending on the severity of the offense, cottage food operators may be ordered to stop selling cottage food items until the situation has been properly addressed and all the necessary conditions have been satisfied.

License to Sell Food From Home in Illinois

If you are a homemade food business owner in Illinois, there are a few things to consider before getting started. Perhaps you might be asking, "Do I need a license to sell homemade food In Illinois?" and "What license do I need to sell food in Illinois?"

To answer the question, “Do I need a license to sell food from my home?” most counties require you to obtain an Illinois home kitchen license if you plan to start a home-based cottage food business. A cottage food operation enables home cooks and bakers to prepare food in their home or farm kitchen. Cottage food producers in Illinois must also register with their local health department on an annual basis and pay a fee of no more than $50.

Illinois Cottage Food Law Requirements

The Cook County home kitchen operation regulates the sale of low-risk food products that do not require refrigeration or time and temperature control for safety. The Cook County Department of Public Health requires cottage food operators to submit a Cook County food application for registration under the Cook County Cottage Food Law.

Regarding cottage food license application, Illinois also requires business owners to take the Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification course to obtain proper training on how to produce food products safely. The cottage food certification course takes about 8 hours to complete and requires a passing score of 75% or higher.

Here are the important steps on how to get a cottage food license in Illinois: 

When it comes to selling food from home Illinois, certain guidelines and regulations must be followed in order to legally sell your homemade food. Before we get into the details of how to start a food business from home in Illinois, it is important to understand a few items. First, the answer to your question, “Do I need a license to sell food from my home?” is yes. You will need to complete certain certification courses before you can even begin production. If you live in Chicago, you must follow a different procedure in order to obtain your permit to sell food from home. 

The home kitchen operation law Illinois is the set of legal regulations that are set forth by the state government. This law permits residents to run small food operations out of their homes. Only certain items may be packaged and sold, such as jams, jellies, baked goods, and others. Food ingredients must be properly labeled, stored, and disposed of per county guidelines. Additionally, gross monthly sales cannot exceed $1,000. 

The penalty for selling food without a permit is steep. Any person discovered to have illegal home kitchen operations in Illinois will face fines and/or charges from the state’s prosecutor. Detailed information about the extent of the charges are not available online. However, the process of Illinois selling food from home is simple and cost-effective, so no one (including you, reader) should move forward without first obtaining the proper permits, certifications, and inspections. 

Illinois Cottage Food Law

When entrepreneurs like yourself first start looking into how to start a food business in Illinois, it wasn’t as easy as it was today. The original Illinois Cottage Food Law only pertains to those in farmer’s markets. Since many vendors wanted to showcase their goods, the state legislators created the Cottage Food Laws. This allowed farmer’s to use their own agricultural products to make simple prepared items. This often included jellies and jams. Any items that required specific refrigeration or storage were prohibited from being sold. 

In 2014, the state of Illinois updated its home kitchen operation law to include a group that had previously been excluded: bakers and homemakers. Under the cottage laws, baked goods could not be prepared or sold. The Cupcake Law Illinois changed everything. Now, bakers can create their baked goods and sell them from their home. 

Fast-forward to the Illinois Cottage Food Law 2021, now any person (not just farmers) can produce food in their own kitchens and sell it. Of course, there are some limitations. According to the law, the following items are prohibited: meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, canned food, sprouts, leafy greens, melons, and mushrooms.

Regardless if you will be operating under the Cottage Food Law or the Cupcake law, almost all jurisdictions will require you to obtain a home kitchen license Illinois. Just like with all laws in the state, each county and individual municipality can add their own regulations to the law. Check with your local health department to see if you need to follow anything specific for your Illinois home kitchen operation. 

We know you are wondering, “What happens if you get caught selling food without a license?” The first thing that that will happen is you will be shut down immediately. From there, you will either receive a fine for selling food from home and/or receive criminal charges. The time and resources you will spend after you are caught will be far greater than the initial investment to start your homemade food business in Illinois correctly from the beginning. 

Chicago Home Kitchen Operation

Anyone who desires a Chicago home kitchen operation will need to go through a more detailed process than what is required by many other jurisdictions. Since Chicago is the largest city in the state, the local legislators require a few more steps from entrepreneurs who wish to start their Cook County home kitchen operation. 

The question, “Does Cook County allow home kitchen operations?” is quite popular, and the answer is yes. The county and city of Chicago both allow home operations to anyone who complete the following three steps:

  1. Obtain a Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) food service sanitation certificate.
  2. Register with the Chicago Department of Public Health.
  3. Follow all other requirements in the Cook County Cottage Food Law and/or Cook County Cupcake Law. 

While Chicago and Cook County do not require fees in order to register, there are fees associated with certifications and other education courses required to efficiently run your homemade food business. 

These nearby counties have the following home business operation guidelines: 

Always consult with your local regulators or a lawyer to make sure that your home-based food business in Illinois is compliant.

Additional Resources

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Read about Illinois' cottage food law, home kitchen operations, and county cottage food regulations for Illinois.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer


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