At the New Jersey Home Bakers Association, we believe in food safety.
One of the most important aspects of producing non-hazardous baked goods is the emphasis on food safety. The products we seek to sell are shelf-stable and do not require any additional preparation or initial refrigeration. This includes but is not limited to items such as cakes, cookies, brownies, and bread.
Our prior proposed legislation included numerous consumer protections, such as stringent production, ingredient, and allergen labeling. It also dictated that all home producers would hold a valid food-handling certification from an agency recognized by the state; many of our members already hold these certifications and/or have had food safety training in the past. While the legislation did not call for an initial or annual Department of Health inspection, it did allow for inspection upon demand or complaint.
The nature of the preparation of baked items means that the potential for contamination or illness is very low, as evidenced by data gathered by the CDC, which can be found on the agency’s website by using their Foodborne Illness Tracker Tool. Statistics from 1995-2015 show zero reported incidents of illness caused by home-baked goods nationwide. Our argument for the safety of home-baked goods was further reinforced during the discovery phase of our litigation, in the 12-page report submitted by expert witness Dr. Thomas J. Montville. Dr. Montville is an internationally-recognized food microbiologist who also serves as a professor emeritus at Rutgers, The State University.
One of the questions we are continually asked is, “What about bake sales?” The answer is this: in most New Jersey municipalities, it is PERFECTLY LEGAL to sell or donate baked goods for charity. What that means is that the same items, made from the same ingredients, in the same kitchen, by the same baker, can be sold for the benefit of others, but not for the benefit of the baker. To say we feel this is an unfair double standard would be quite the understatement.
This discrepancy, however, does not deter our members from displaying generosity. Each year, New Jersey home bakers donate innumerable hours of their time preparing thousands of dollars’ worth of baked goods. These items go to school and community clubs, religious and civic organizations, and national groups like Icing Smiles, which delivers special occasion cakes and goodies to children with life-threatening illnesses. That means that home-baked goods go to young people who may have vulnerable or compromised immune systems, and these families are making the choice to have home bakers fulfill their children’s wishes.
For home bakers, safety isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a priority. These are the baked goods we feed our families, friends, and neighbors, and we want them to stay safe and healthy. As small business owners, safety would remain a priority as we commit ourselves to protect the health of our clientele and therefore protect the success of our livelihood.
At the New Jersey Home Bakers Association, we believe in freedom of choice.
Home baking isn’t just a way to make a little income- it’s a path forward into consumer and producer freedoms. Our members span a wide demographic, and being able to bake from home would give many of them a chance at more freedom; from disabled bakers with adaptive home kitchens, to single parents who need extra income, to military spouses who’d like to contribute more to their households and retirees who’d like to supplement their pensions, the freedom to sell baked goods from home would affect a broad swath of New Jersey residents.
We’ve collected stories from around the state, and each one tells the tale of a baker with drive and aptitude, who finds themselves stymied by the lack of cottage food laws. New Jersey is sitting on a hotbed of culinary talent, which goes untapped due to the inability to afford the expense of renting commercial kitchen space. Rental space is difficult to obtain, restrains the amount of time a baker can work on their craft, and comes with often burdensome costs and equipment restrictions.
Food freedom doesn’t just benefit producers, though- it comes with greater freedom of choice for consumers. Many home bakers fill needs or niches that commercial bakeries cannot take on. This includes things like foods from dedicated allergen-free kitchens, and traditional ethnic and cultural foods. Consumer freedom means having more options for special occasion baked goods, or even for everyday breads and treats. Consumers can have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where their food came from, who baked it, and when it was baked.
Because we’ve agreed that the sale of cottage food items should only be directly from consumer to producer, either at home, through personal delivery, or at venues such as farmers’ markets and festivals, transactions are limited and further strengthen the connection to the food chain. Consumers deserve and should be granted the option to shake hands with the person who created their food, and producers deserve the opportunity to sell their wares in their communities and grow a dedicated clientele.
At the New Jersey Home Bakers Association, we believe in strengthening the economy.
Small business is a vital part of any thriving community, and New Jersey’s home bakers are ready and able to take on the challenge of small business ownership. Like any home-based enterprise, bakers will be responsible for procuring insurance, maintaining financial records, and paying proper taxes into the state and local economy.
Home bakers are also able to source their ingredients in smaller batches than larger commercial enterprises, which means they’ll likely be purchasing goods from other local businesses- another win for local economies. With a proposed income cap of $50,000, home bakers will be hard-pressed to put commercial bakeries out of business but will bolster the economy through freedom of choice.
The hourly overhead cost of producing a batch of chocolate chip cookies from home was $8.83 cents in 2017. To produce the same batch of cookies in a rented commercial kitchen would have an hourly cost of $48.83. The numbers don’t lie- baking from home reduces costs and leaves more room for profit. Being able to bake from home would give producers more flexibility to work at any hour, reduce the need for childcare costs, and lessen wear and tear on vehicles and time spent hauling equipment to commercial kitchens. It also would allow producers to keep the retail cost of their goods at competitive prices, leaving more capital for business growth and personal spending.
New Jersey remains the only state without any manner of cottage food law, and the creation of such would provide near-instant employment for perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, of residents. It’s our belief that New Jersey needs to catch up to the rest of the nation by allowing for the sale of home-baked goods, which would create new jobs and new businesses, grow our local and state economy, and provide income to residents who are willing to pour their passion and talents into the centuries-old art of creating baked goods.