According to Illinois Cottage Food Laws (updated January 1, 2022), licensed cottage food operators can only make non-potentially hazardous foods (see examples of approved products below).
Operators can use their domestic home kitchen to produce products to sell directly to consumers at farmers’ markets, for delivery, online, pick-up, fairs, and public events. Some items may be shipped, but only within the state.
To get going in Illinois is fairly easy but they do require you get a license before starting. See below for step by step instructions.
Table of Contents
HOW TO START YOUR COTTAGE FOOD BUSINESS IN ILLINOIS – LICENSING
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ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS – Foods That Are Allowed
Illinois, like most states restrict foods that are temperature controlled and are potentially hazardous.
The following is a partial list of foods that are allowed to be made in an Illinois cottage kitchen:
Many foods (not listed below as prohibited foods) can be sold under the newly amended cottage food law, if the food item has been approved for sale by the local health department.
- Baked Goods
Canned foods only in mason-style jars with new lids and processed in boiling water bath canner as described in the attached;
(i) Fruit jams, fruit jellies, fruit preserves, or fruit butters;
(iii) Whole or cut fruit canned in syrup;
(iv) Acidified fruit or vegetables prepared and offered for sale in compliance paragraph (1.6); and
(v) Condiments such as prepared mustard, horseradish, or ketchup that do not contain ingredients prohibited under this section and that are prepared and offered for sale in compliance with paragraph (1.6 below);
(1.6) In order to sell canned tomatoes or a canned product containing tomatoes, a cottage food operator shall either
(A) follow exactly a recipe that has been tested by the United States Department of Agriculture or by a state cooperative extension located in this State or any other state in the United States; or
(B) submit the recipe, at the cottage food operator’s expense, to a commercial laboratory to test that the product has been adequately acidified; use only the varietal or proportionate varietals of tomato included in the tested recipe for all subsequent batches of such recipe; and provide documentation of the test results of the recipe submitted under this subparagraph to an inspector upon request during any inspection authorized by paragraph (2) of subsection
(1.7) A State-certified local public health department that regulates the service of food by a cottage food operation may require a cottage food operation to submit a canned food that is subject to paragraph (1.6), at the cottage food operator’s expense, to a commercial laboratory to verify that the product has a final equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below.
(1.8) A State-certified local public health department that regulates the service of food by a cottage food operation may require a cottage food operation to submit a recipe for any baked good containing cheese, at the cottage food operator’s expense, to a commercial laboratory to verify that it is non-potentially hazardous before allowing the cottage food operation to sell the baked good as a cottage food.
Real Life Cottage Food Entrepreneurs and Opportunities
- Cakes – teacher turns kitchen into bakery
- Doughnuts – cottage mini donut vendor
- Fruit jams and jellies – See Additional Requirements Here
- Kettle corn – real kettle corn vendors from home
- Popcorn (plain and flavored) – see a real home vendor here
- Talk and Join hundreds of others here: VendorsUnited.com
ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS – PROHIBITED FOODS
Illinois maintains a list of foods not allowed to be made and sold through a cottage kitchen.
If the food product you would like to produce is on this list, it still may be possible to make and sell if you provide proof of testing that meets the required acidity levels. (see testing / acidity below)
Prohibited foods include (1.5):
(A) meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or shellfish;
(B) dairy, except as an ingredient in a non-potentially hazardous baked good or candy, such as caramel, or as an ingredient in frosting for baked goods, such as buttercream (as of 1/1/2022);
(C) eggs, except as an ingredient in a non-potentially hazardous baked good or in dry noodles, or as an ingredient in baked good frosting, such as buttercream, as long as the egg is not raw;
(D) pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, cheesecakes, custard pies, crème pies, and pastries with potentially hazardous fillings or toppings;
(E) garlic in oil or oil infused with garlic, except if the garlic oil is acidified; (1.6) A food is “acidified” if: acid or acid ingredients are added to it to produce a final equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below; or it is fermented to produce a final equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below. “Equilibrium pH” means the final potential of hydrogen measured in an acidified food after all the components of the food have achieved the same acidity.
(F) canned foods, except for the following, which are allowed if they are acid/acidified and canned only in Mason-style jars with new lids. “Canned food” means food preserved in airtight, vacuum-sealed containers that are heat processed (Boiling Water Bath Canner) sufficiently to enable storing the food at normal home temperatures. Low acid canned foods are prohibited.
(G) sprouts; “Sprout” means any seedling intended for human consumption that was produced in a manner that does not meet the definition of microgreen.
(H) cut leafy green, except for cut leafy greens that are dehydrated, acidified, or blanched and frozen; “Leafy greens” includes iceberg lettuce; romaine lettuce; leaf lettuce; butter lettuce; baby leaf lettuce, such as immature lettuce or leafy green; escarole; endive; spring mix; spinach; cabbage; kale; arugula; and chard. “Leafy greens” does not include microgreens or herbs such as cilantro or parsley. “Microgreen” means an edible plan seedling grown in soil or substrate and harvested above the soil or substrate line.
(I) cut or pureed fresh tomato or melon;
(J) dehydrated tomato or melon;
(K) frozen cut melon;
(L) wild-harvested, non-cultivated mushrooms; or
(M) alcoholic beverages; or
(N) kombucha (fermented tea).
NOTE: Although eggs, milk and dairy products are not allowed, used as ingredients for the allowed foods – is acceptable.
Many prohibited foods that are baked or cooked into the allowed foods are rendered harmless and therefore allowed.
ACIDITY LEVELS AND TESTING
Most states determine if a food is non-potentially hazardous by the acidity level found in the food. The higher the acidity, the more stable at a range of temps, that food product is.
For example: milk is low acidity and requires temperature controls.
The acidity of foods is measured by pH.
• The range of pH is commonly considered to extend from zero to 14. A pH value of 7 is neutral because pure water has a pH value of exactly 7. Values less than 7 are considered acidic, while those greater than 7 are considered basic or alkaline.
• All fruits are acidic foods and are usually tart and sour. Ex: tomato, lemon, peach, apple, etc.
• The FDA rule for acidic foods states that a food must have a pH below 4.6 to be sold as a minimally processed food.
• The reason for this is bacteria does not grow at this level of acidity.
• The exclusion shall not be construed as allowing the sale of low acid foods (pH > 4.6) in hermetically sealed containers (i.e. home-canned green beans, peas, etc.) when such food is not prepared in a permitted establishment.
In order to sell a fermented or acidified food, a cottage food operation shall either:
- submit a recipe that has been tested by the United States Department of Agriculture or a state cooperative extension system; or
- submit a written food safety plan for each category of products for which the cottage food operator uses the same procedures, and a pH test for a single product that is representative of that category; the written food safety plan shall be submitted annually upon registration and each pH test shall be submitted every 3 years; the food safety plan shall adhere to guidelines developed by the Department.
- A fermented or acidified food shall be packaged according to one of the following standards:
- A fermented or acidified food that is canned must be processed in a boiling water bath in a Mason-style jar or glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
- A fermented or acidified food that is not canned shall be sold in any container that is new, clean, and seals properly and must be stored, transported, and sold at or below 41 degrees.
- In order to sell a baked good with cheese, a local health department may require a cottage food operation to submit a recipe, at the cottage food operator’s expense, to a commercial laboratory to verify that it is non-potentially hazardous before allowing the cottage food operation to sell the baked good as a cottage food.
- For a cottage food operation that does not utilize a municipal water supply, such as an operation using a private well, a local health department may require a water sample test to verify that the water source being used meets public safety standards related to E. coli. If a test is requested, it must be conducted at the cottage food operator’s expense.
Some states require testing if the pH level is unknown. For many food products, the pH level is already known.
You can test for pH yourself using a pH spear tester. (make sure it is made for food and has a long spear tip).
Oklahoma State University shares an awesome guide for selecting the correct tester for foods and liquids which includes tips and tricks for operation and maintenance. Get The Guide Here.
ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS LABELING REQUIREMENTS
ILLINOIS cottage food laws require labeling on all products made under the cottage food law. A placard is also required.
Must Display a Placard
At the point of sale a placard is displayed in a prominent location that states the following: “This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens.”
Print a PDF of the sample required placard below. Mount on cardboard or place in a picture frame for display on your vendor table or booth. This placard must be displayed at all times.
Food Label Requirements
The food packaging must conform to the labeling requirements of the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and includes the following information on each of its products in prominent lettering:
Food Label Requirements (continued)
- The common or usual name of the food product.
- All ingredients of the food product, including any colors, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight using common or usual names. Sub ingredients as well: example: (soy sauce: wheat, soybeans, salt).
- Allergen labeling as specified in federal labeling requirements (see below).
- The date the product was processed (prepared).
- The label may be hand written or printed large enough to be easily read.
Allergen Labeling as Specified in Federal Labeling Requirements
A cottage food operation label must identify if any of the ingredients are made from one of the following food groups: milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, fish, Crustacean/shellfish, and tree nuts (identify which nut: i.e., almonds) and any ingredient made from these food groups.
Example: If the cottage food operation is making wheat bread they have the following two options:
- Include the allergen in the ingredient list. For example, a white bread with the following ingredient listings: whole wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. In this example, the statement “Whole wheat flour” is the allergen and this statement meets the requirements of federal law.
- Include an allergen statement (“Contains.”) after the ingredient list. For example a white bread with the following ingredients: Whole wheat flour, water, sodium caseinate, salt and yeast. Contains: wheat and milk. The “contains” statement must include all the allergens found in the product.
Using VistaPrint.com or similar – you can quickly create professional labels that not only serve to meet the state cottage food guidelines but also serve for marketing your awesome business and products.
You’ll find some fantastic examples of this from members inside VendorsUnited.com
ALLERGENS ON LABELING
The FDA lists eight (8) major food allergens. Listing any of these on your label is a smart business practice and will certainly help your customers choose a product.
- Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
- Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
Simply add to your label: “CONTAINS: SOYBEANS” Some go as far to announce that a certain allergen is used in the same kitchen.
Some states require you list any potential allergens and potential for any cross contamination even if the allergen is not used in the recipe.
FDA Allergen Labeling Example: Contains Wheat, Milk, Egg, and Soy
WHERE CAN I SELL MY COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCTS
Where can “cottage foods” be sold?
Products can be sold directly to customers at farmers’ markets, by delivery, pick-up, online sales, fairs, and other public events. Non-potentially hazardous foods may be shipped within the state in tamper-evident packaging.
Can products be sold at year-round or indoor farmers markets?
Yes, as long as the products meet the “cottage food” requirements of the Public Act.
Can products be sold at retail outlets (i.e., local grocery stores or retail markets)?
Cottage foods cannot be sold to a retailer for resale or to a restaurant for use or sale in the restaurant. They can only be sold direct-to-customer.
Can products be sold through a brokering arrangement?
No. “Cottage food operation” means a person who produces or packages non-potentially hazardous food in a home kitchen or another appropriately designed kitchen on that property of the person’s primary domestic residence for direct sale by the owner or a family member.
Products must be stored in the residence or appropriately designed and equipped residential or commercial-style kitchen on that property where the food is made.
Can CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce be sold at the Farmer’s Market under the Cottage Food Law?
Inside kitchenincome.com you can find out how many cottage food entrepreneurs are getting sales faster than they can make the food.
FOOD HANDLER TRAINING AND BEST PRACTICES
Illinois requires you obtain FOOD SAFETY TRAINING that is American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited. ANSI accredited food safety and handling courses.
You must take the Certified Food Protection Manager course.
Much of this may seem like common sense, but even if you already know, it’s a good idea to remind yourself with a list of things that can prevent you from missing something small.
And if for no other reason… CYA! CYA = Cover Your A#%
CLEAN WORK AREA / WORK SPACE / SANITIZATION
Providing safe to eat foods from your kitchen – starts in your kitchen.
Keep your area clean and sanitized to avoid cross contamination and to insure you provide your customers and clients with the safest and best foods they can get.
The following are some “common” sense things you can do to insure the best environment for preparing foods to sell:
- Keep all equipment and surface areas clean and sanitized
- Make sure window and door screens are bug proof with no gaps
- Keep ingredients separate to prevent cross contamination / e.g. raw eggs near flour
- No pets in work area and preferably none in the home
- Allow no-one with a cold, sniffles or sick in kitchen while preparing foods
- Wipe down walls and clean floors daily
- Use good lighting to avoid missing unclean areas
- Keep window and door screens in good repair to keep insects out
- Wash hands frequently while working and use food grade gloves for extra safety
- Keep areas of food storage and equipment storage clean and sanitized
Why keep these types of records?
Let’s say the inspector calls you and says they got a report that your banana bread, someone purchased, made them sick.
You’ll be able to show that you didn’t even make banana bread that week and that the person who reported you, bought that 4 weeks ago and you weren’t even the one that sold it to him.
This does not need to be complicated. I love my yellow legal pads and they make an inexpensive tool for keeping up with the following:
- The recipes you use including ingredients
- The process you use to prepare that specific recipe: (can be just like recipe instructions)
- Date made (can be coded for your own use only if your state doesn’t require the production date) e.g. Made 12.22.29 = 292212
- Date sold (you can have a batch code to help track a certain batch) Simply write down date you sold an item
- Location sold is another great piece of information to keep track of
- Sales receipts are something great to keep for a couple of reasons and over at KitchenIncome.com I dive into the best practices, best systems and best methods for tracking, managing, selling and shipping.
COTTAGE FOOD lIABILITY INSURANCE
We live in a society that likes to sue. I can sue you for wearing that color shirt. No kidding! Of course I probably won’t win, but at the very least, it’s gonna cause you stress and some costs.
Liability insurance is a MUST.
It can be expensive – but several years ago, I found FLIP and by far, they gave me the most protection (coverage) and allow you to run your cottage food business without fear of being sued.
WHY? Because they provide the lawyers. And their lawyers… they are good!
Of course you should price shop around with your local agent or a national brand company, but rest assured, I’ve done all the legwork for you.
Alternatively, some folks opt to get bonded. You’ve heard the saying before: “licensed and bonded”. A bond is usually provided from an insurance bonding company or your own insurance company.
My first time, I got a bond at State Farm.
A bond is expensive comparatively but is less out of pocket in the beginning. Of course, it’s way, way less insurance / coverage too.
A $10,000 bond may cost $50 annually while a $2,000,000.00 liability policy may cost a few hundred a year.
No matter what you decide… knowing you’re insured against frivolous lawsuits is worth every penny.
ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Illinois’ list of common questions with answers about Cottage Food Operations and Licensing
ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS IMPORTANT LINKS
- Illinois Cottage Food Laws – LINK
- Illinois Cottage Food Operations – All Links
- Illinois Cottage Food Laws – Frequently Asked Questions
- Chicago, Illinois – Cottage Food Limitations / Application
CONTACT ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SAFETY – COTTAGE FOOD
For fast answers click here or contact your local county health department.
Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
1650 Commerce Drive
Bourbonnais, Illinois 60914
UPDATES TO ILLINOIS COTTAGE FOOD LAWS
From time to time, links, info, rules and numbers change, are updated or made obsolete.
Although I spend time daily with hundreds of vendors (many of which are cottage food businesses) – I can miss an update.
If you find a broken link, outdated information or any other issue… please let me know and I’ll send you a special gift for helping me maintain the best site on the internet for the cottage food industry.
My goal has always been to have a central place that is absolutely free those starting out or existing entrepreneurs who use their homes and kitchens to make real incomes.
Need more resources? Check it out HERE (Helpful Resources)
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This information is provided to help those interested in starting a cottage food business. It is not a document made by the state government. This information is not provided as law nor should be construed as law. Always use the contact information for each state to confirm compliance and any changes.
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