Revised 'cupcake' bill passes Illinois House

News-DemocratApril 10, 2014 

— A bill that was inspired by the shut-down of a Madison County girl's cupcake-baking operation won unanimous approval Thursday in the Illinois House.

House Bill 5354, which will allow "home kitchen operations" to continue baking and selling homemade goods with some restrictions, now goes to the Senate. It was sponsored in the House by Rep. Charlie Meier, an Okawville Republican who said trying to get the bill passed has taught him that you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Meier had to put some substitute ingredients in the bill in order to get it passed in the House. It originally would have prohibited local health departments from regulating the sale of home-baked goods by churches and other charitable organizations, or by hobby bakers such as sixth-grader Chloe Stirling of Troy.

Before calling the bill for a vote, Meier amended it to state that a health department can inspect such an operation "in the event of a complaint or a disease outbreak." Another amendment states that such operations, based out of home kitchens, are allowed only "in a municipality, township or county where the local governing body has adopted an ordinance authorizing the direct sale of baked goods."

Meier wouldn't name names, but he said he was "encouraged" by House leadership to make the changes to the bill in order for it to get passed.

"It's not where I started, it's not what I wanted, but we're better off than we were before. It's a step in the right direction," Meier said. "We were at the point where we were going to get nothing or get part of it, so we took part of it."

Most every health department in the state had opposed the bill in its original form.

"Current law has a negative impact on home kitchen operators like Chloe, but once this bill becomes law, they should be able to continue selling baked items without having the fear of being shut down by the health department," Meier said.

The Madison County Health Department's shut-down of Chloe's cupcake-making enterprise spurred Meier to file the bill. Chloe wasn't at the Capitol on Thursday, but Meier said she's happy with the revised bill.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said the amended bill seems to be a good compromise that takes into account public safety and individual freedom. He said he would encourage the Madison County Board to adopt the type of ordinance that is required in the bill.

"I'm totally in favor of that. In fact, I'll help write the ordinance," Gibbons said. "This looks pretty reasonable, pretty workable."

The bill states that in order to qualify as a "home kitchen operation," monthly gross sales cannot exceed $1,000, the food cannot be potentially hazardous, and the operator must provide notice to the purchaser that the food was produced in a home kitchen.

Meier says many churches and other charitable organizations have dinners as fundraisers, where individual members of the organization each bring baked items. For example, he said, a church might sell chicken dinners, with each dinner including a slice of home-baked pie or cake. Meier said he's OK with the church's kitchen having to meet health regulations, but it's going too far to impose health regulations on every home kitchen where a pie is baked.

Chloe's cupcake operation was featured in the BND Magazine in January. Madison County health officials have said they shut Chloe down after receiving a complaint from an adult who was denied permission to sell products baked at home.

The House passed the bill 106-0.

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