New Jersey is the only state to ban the sale of home baked goods—but that may be about to change.
On Friday, Judge Douglas Hurd, of the Superior Court of Mercer County, denied a request of New Jersey’s Health Department to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban.
The lawsuit was brought by several home bakers who are asking the court to allow homemade goods—like cookies, cakes, and muffins—to be sold directly to consumers. Because of the judge’s ruling, the lawsuit will be allowed to continue.
Under New Jersey’s ban, it is illegal to sell any homemade foods for profit. Instead, before a person can sell even one cookie, she needs to spend thousands of dollars acquiring a commercial grade kitchen, get a retail food establishment license, undergo inspections, and abide by hundreds of pages of regulations designed for large, commercial bakeries. If someone sells even one muffin from their home kitchen, they can be punished by up to $1,000 in fines. The State has an exception to the ban for homemade goods sold to support charitable organizations, like church bake sales.
“People want to buy my cookies and cakes, and that should be their choice, not the government’s,” said Liz Cibotariu, one of the home bakers in the lawsuit who works as an Army helicopter technician in the National Guard and also served in the Iraq War. “I left Romania when it was still a communist country and proudly served in the military because I value freedom. It is time New Jersey got a lot more free.”
More than a dozen additional home bakers attended the hearing to show their support for the suit. Overturning the ban would allow many New Jerseyans to work from home and earn modest amounts of money to support themselves.
Martha Rabello is another home baker in the lawsuit. After the hearing, she said “I’m very happy to be one step closer to sharing my gift for baking once again. It is time for the Garden state to catch up with the rest of the country.”
The next step is for the parties to conduct discovery, move for summary judgment, and ask the court to decide whether New Jersey’s ban unconstitutionally limits home bakers freedom while protecting commercial bakers from competition.