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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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The 'Cookie Bill' is halfway there for Wisconsin home bakers
But time is running out for passing legislation in 2014

The relaxation of cottage food regulations nationwide has gone hand in hand with the rise in the artisanal food movement. Wisconsin's so-called Cookie Bill, SB 435, creating more entrepreneurial avenues for the home baker, passed in the Senate on Feb. 11. SB 435 was then referred to the Assembly Rules Committee and is awaiting scheduling for a floor vote in the Assembly.

Current state law requires that a baker have a state license or bake in a commercially licensed kitchen in order to sell baked goods. SB 435 creates an exemption for "face-to-face sale of non-hazardous homemade baked goods" if the income from the sales will amount to less than $10,000 per year.

Non-hazardous baked goods (aren't these everyone's favorite kind?) means stuff that doesn't require refrigeration, like cakes, breads and cookies -- anything with such a low moisture content that it would "not support the growth of dangerous organisms."

This doesn't mean it will be no-holds-barred for the home baker, though. The would-be entrepreneur would still need to register with the state, take a food-safety class approved by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and "[comply] with requirements concerning labeling, signage and documenting sales." Sales must be face-to-face, but cannot be door-to-door. The ingredients and the name and address of the person who made the food must be on the label, along with the phrase "This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection" -- verbiage that must also be present at any stand where the goods are sold. In addition, there must be a written plan in place for recalling the products should a recall become necessary.

Wisconsin has had some of the most restrictive cottage food rules in the nation, though the so-called Pickle Bill (Act 101, passed in 2009) opened one avenue for farmers and gardeners looking to pickle or can and sell surplus produce. Even the Pickle Bill capped the income derived from sales at $5,000 and required sales take place at "a community or social event or a farmers' market." The Cookie Bill will up the profit limit to the $10,000 cap and adopt the "face-to-face" requirement for canners and picklers.

Before the bill can make it to the Assembly, it must be scheduled by the Rules Committee. As of press time, the next Rules Committee meeting had not yet been set, but it should take place within the next week, before the next floor session in mid-March. The last general business floor period for 2014 ends April 3. It is still possible that further conditions could be attached.

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