New lawsuit hopes to legalize sale of more foods made at home

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 5:10 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -A ruling in a Wisconsin lawsuit filed in 2016 made it legal to sell baked goods made at home. A new case making its way through the courts hopes to legalize more foods.

Before the ruling in the original case, in Wisconsin you couldn’t bake cookies at home, and then try to sell them to family, friends or the community.

Since they won that case, the same plaintiffs are hoping to make other shelf-stable food products legal too.

The books on her shelf say it all: Becca Simpson from Eau Claire is obsessed with coffee.

“I want to teach the average person how to make a better cup of coffee at home,” Simpson said.

The first step: getting freshly roasted coffee beans.

“It caramelizes them basically, and you know, you wouldn’t be able to drink a green coffee bean because it’s too hard,” Simpson said. “You wouldn’t be able to grind it. It softens them, it caramelizes them. It brings out those natural flavors in it.”

This pursuit of a great tasting cup of joe led Simpson and her husband to start roasting their own coffee beans around two years ago.

They wanted to start selling to family and friends, but realized that’s not legal under Wisconsin’s cottage laws.

Starting at home was the Simpson’s plan for getting their dream business off the ground.

“It was really more about kind of slowly starting, getting a feel for you know, what other people are doing, what people like or don’t like, and maybe slowly growing that name and that following, so that when we get to this point, we’re not diving in,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the cost of renting a commercial kitchen in addition to license fees are too costly for them right now as they both have full time jobs.

One of the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, Kriss Marion, said her goal is to help entrepreneurs like the Simpsons get their start.

“It’s really a big deal for small towns, and I think for urban neighborhoods too to be able to have small businesses operating out of homes where people can experiment with their recipes, build their markets and then graduate to a bigger brick and mortar type thing is a really big deal,” Marion said.

As of right now, you can only sell baked goods that are not considered potentially hazardous without a license.

We reached out to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for this story. They were unable to comment due to the ongoing lawsuit.

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