Shelli Eng lives in Erie, Illinois, a village about 100 miles due west of Chicago. For years, Eng, known as the “Bread Lady,” has sold baked goods at a local farmers market and two other locations. But then county regulators, red tape in hand, came calling. Now her business is in jeopardy.
But it really shouldn’t be, because Illinois has a law that’s meant to protect folks like Eng. Adopted in 2011, and later expanded, the state’s “cottage food” law allows home cooks to make and sell low-risk foods without using a commercial kitchen. These laws lower the barriers to entry for countless home cooks. As I noted in 2013, they “help budding culinary entrepreneurs escape often crushing regulations faced by restaurants and other food sellers.”
But the true potential of these laws haven’t been realized almost anywhere in the country, writes Baylen Linnekin. And that leaves folks like Eng vulnerable to the biases of local bureaucrats.
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