I like to follow the law. I’m just going to get that out there right now. But what do you do when there IS no law, but only a judiciary ruling that the current law is unconstitutional?
I’m talking here about homemade food. I live in Wisconsin, and up until a couple of years ago, it was 100% illegal to sell even a single cookie unless it was made in a commercial kitchen by someone with a food processing license (with the exception of charity bake sales). And both of those things are outlandishly expensive. In 2017, three women went to the courts to try to change that. Two of these women owned B&Bs, and the third was a farmer who sold baked goods at her local farmer’s market. To showcase the ridiculousness of this law, the owners of B&Bs could serve a cookie to a paying customer, but if that same customer wanted to purchase that same cookie to eat when they left the house, that sale was illegal. And somehow this was considered to be in the interest of public health.
This is made even more silly by the fact that Wisconsinites are allowed to make and sell canned goods (which have way more potential to be dangerous), unpasteurized apple cider, honey, popcorn, maple syrup, eggs, and raw produce without any special licenses or fancy commercial kitchens.
Thankfully, the judge who oversaw this case understood that it was a stupid law that only served to keep entrepreneurs out with absolutely zero benefit to the public, and declared it unconstitutional. But what does that mean? Nobody seems to know. In an attempt to clarify the issue, I’ve been emailing back and forth with the IOSC in the DFRS at the WI-DATCP (seriously, that’s how he ended his first email, perhaps thinking I’d be intimidated by all the letters, because only smart people have titles with letters – he’s actually the Internal Operations Section Chief in the Division of Food and Recreational Safety at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and, wow – that’s unnecessarily long, and probably the real reason he abbreviates it). It’s been fun. Every email I write is like a well researched college paper, complete with a reference section, and every response is like “But… but… I don’t like that.”
He’s arguing that only non-potentially-hazardous (ie, low moisture, shelf stable) flour-based baked goods are permitted to be sold without a license. I’m arguing that only non-potentially-hazardous foods are allowed. Neither of us is right, because technically nothing is LEGAL, it’s just ILLEGAL to make it ILLEGAL to sell homemade food. So… that makes sense, right?
But I’m seriously enjoying our banter. He says he’s right, because he wants to be right, I say I’m right because I’ve got a bunch of evidence, the judge’s words from the courtroom case, his further written clarifications of his ruling, and the ability to think critically about the meaning of words and their connotations. He’s also really good at repeating sentences that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about.
I think I’m winning.
But the whole reason I started this post is to say that I’m testing out a new biscotti recipe of my own invention (matcha and white chocolate), and, while it still needs a little tweaking, it’s amAZIng. So keep a look out for that in the next couple of days. And don’t worry, it’s definitely legal.