North Dakota court overturns health department restrictions on Cottage Food Act

Local News

Back in January, the North Dakota Department of Health changed the rules of the Cottage Food Act which was first established in 2017.

Recently, the South Central District decided to reverse those changes that limited the sale of homemade goods allowing many people to start selling them again.

In 2017 the Cottage Food Act was passed into law. It allowed North Dakotans to sell baked goods, jams, jellies, and other food without inspection or licensing.

“It really just gave people food freedom,” Attorney Erica Smith.

But in January 2020, the North Dakota Department of Health changed the definition of which foods could be sold by cottage food producers. Attorney Erica Smith says the change banned the sale of homemade meals, low-acid canned goods, almost anything perishable.

Smith said, “The Department of Health just decided to do an end-run around them and do it their own way and just pass the rules in defiance of the legislature.”

Smith represents 5 homemade food vendors that brought a lawsuit against the state back in May. Summer Peterson is one of them. She says the restrictions hurt local businesses and the health department overstepped its authority.

“A year ago we had to stop doing that. and especially with COVID this year. We have a very elderly population in our area and they were really missing the door-to-door deliveries of certain kinds of meals,” said Summer Peterson.

The courts agreed with Peterson. Earlier this month a judge ruled that the Department of Health’s limitations do not follow the Cottage Food Act and are in clear and direct conflict.

Smith says now vendors can get back to doing not only what they love but bringing in money for their family.

“I think it’s going to help a lot of people support their families, support their farms and ranches, and it’s really going to have a big impact especially during the pandemic,” added Smith.

In response to the most recent ruling, the Department of Health released a statement saying, “We’re disappointed in the outcome of the cottage food rules court case, but we respect the court’s decision.”

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