When do I need a food license?

Whether food is being sold or given away to the public, a food license is required with the following exceptions:A non-profit organization serving meals for 3 or fewer days a year.

  1. A non-profit organization serving non-meal food (e.g. ice cream, desserts) for 12 or fewer days a year.
  2. Giving away bite-sized portions of food (samples).

There are other a few other licensing exceptions for the sale of some food based on food type.  They are briefly summarized below.  For more information about how these foods must be handled, please see Tri-County’s Farmers Market Guidelines.


A Wisconsin circuit court ruling has declared a license is not required to sell home-baked goods as long as the baker meets four criteria:

  1. The baked goods must be sold directly to consumers.
  2. Baked goods are produced in low volume.
  3. Products are shelf-stable and non-potentially hazardous, flour-based baked goods.
  4. Products are made in a hygienic home kitchen

Licensed bakers are not required to have a separate license to sell pre-packaged, shelf-stable bakery as long as the baked goods are packaged at the licensed bakery.

Canned Goods

·         Pickle Bill:  Fruits and vegetables with a pH value of 4.6 or lower (pickled fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, chutneys, applesauce, sauerkraut  and salsa). No license is required to sell only at a farmers market or community/social event in WI, provided sales do not exceed $5000/year.

 ·         Low-Acid Canned Goods: If the canned goods were produced at a licensed food processing plant, no other license is required to sell shelf-stable canned goods.


Honey and Maple Syrup

·         No license is required to sell honey and maple syrup UNLESS you gather honey from others for extracting, bottling or processing OR if you process your own or others’ honey by adding color, flavors or other ingredients.  

Juice and Cider

·         Pasteurized juice sold by the grower and harvester does not need a food license.

·         Cider sold by the grower and harvester does not need a food license.


·         Raw, uncut fruits and vegetables do not require a food license.