What do homemade jams, baked goods, pickles, tomato sauce, and sauerkraut have in common? They are all eligible to be made in home kitchens and sold directly to customers under the Cottage Food Law. 

Everything you need to know to start or grow your cottage food business is inside. 

In this guide you will find: 

  • Official guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Heatlh on the interpretation and implementation of cottage food law
  • Sample registration forms and ancillary materials
  • A list of labs for product testing
  • Links to “approved” recipes
  • Resources to find a Certified Food Protection Manager course near you
  • Food safety best practices
  • Sample labels
  • FAQs
  • Additional resources to answer all your burning questions

This guide was developed by Illinois Stewardship Alliance in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health, our members, local health departments, and many organizational partners.  

In 2021, Illinois Stewardship Alliance members worked with farmers, bakers, hot-sauce makers and home-food businesses across the state to pass legislation called the Home-to-Market act, which created sweeping reforms to cottage food law. 

Together with partners like the Institute for Justice and Illinois Environmental Council– we won! 

The new cottage food law:

  • Standardizes regulations across the state and prevents counties from making regulations more strict than what is in the law.  Now every county will follow the same registration process.
  • Allows you to sell from your home, at fairs and festivals, through delivery and drop off, and even to ship your products within Illinois. 
  • Protects public safety by adding a few additional safety provisions, such as water testing for well water and a food safety plan for pickled and fermented foods. 

After the passage of this law, our members fundraised to develop a new Cottage Food Guide that would reflect the changes to the law.  We led a stakeholder group in collaboration with IDPH to develop this guide. 

Thanks to members and supporters like you, the newly updated 2023 Cottage Food Guide is now available!

At Illinois Stewardship Alliance, our members believe that fair and scale appropriate cottage food laws are one piece of the puzzle to building a thriving local food system in Illinois– one where communities have access to fresh local food and unique Illinois products, and where food dollars are spent locally with your business and reinvested into your local economy. 

We hope you find this guide to be a useful resource for growing your food business dream!

Building Power for Change: History of Cottage Food Law in Illinois

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 was championed by Illinois Stewardship Alliance is one step in ongoing effort to create policies that support the burgeoning local food movement.  The law gave farmers and food entrepreneurs the opportunity to prepare or lightly process non-hazardous baked goods, jams, and jellies in their home kitchens for sale at farmers markets. 

Prior to the passage of this law, a commercial kitchen was required, and the availability of renting a commercial kitchen, or expense of purchasing one, was out of reach for most starting food businesses. 

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.

In 2017, our members proposed an amendment, the Food Freedom Act, which drastically increased the number of allowed foods, and importantly, allowed for the processing of vegetables, giving farmers greater opportunity to add value to their products and preserve vegetables for sale over the winter. The Food Freedom Act not only made it possible to make pickles, sauerkraut, and canned tomato products, but it flipped the entire Cottage Food paradigm from a small list of allowed foods, to instead allowing everything except a small list of hazardous foods. 

The Food Freedom Act was a major victory for cottage food producers across Illinois, but the work was not done. Our members told us that they wanted to be able to sell their products from their home, deliver their products to their customers, or ship them across the state– but the law limited the sale of cottage food to farmers markets. The 2020 pandemic further highlighted the need for cottage food producers to have more sales opportunities outside of farmers markets to support their businesses.

In 2021, Alliance members and partners advocated for the passage of the Home to Market Act, which broadly expanded sales avenues for Cottage Food operators to allow all direct-to-customer sales, including home sales, delivery, pickup, and shipping. The Home to Market Act clarified rules for acidified and fermented products and created rules to allow buttercream frosting.

Download the Guide

2018 Bilingual Presentation of the Illinois Cottage Food Laws

Estamos trabajando para traducir la 2022 Guia de Alimentos Caseros, y materiales relacionados, al espanol. Suscríbase a nuestra lista de correo electrónico para recibir una notificación cuando la guía esté disponible.