Home Canned Foods

Canning foods is an excellent method of preservation. The process uses heat and pressure to properly seal the containers and prevent contaminants from entering them and can be done on any stove top with the proper equipment and containers. Under normal circumstances, canning is considered a form of food processing and requires a food processing license before any of the canned goods can be sold. However, thanks to legislation passed in 2009 (sometimes called the "pickle bill"), it is legal under certain circumstances to sell home canned goods without a license. However, the bill is fairly specific regarding the specific conditions for this exemption. The details for exemption are outlined below. 

Products Exempt from Licensing* 

  • Fruit and vegetable products may be sold without a license; products containing meat and dairy may not. 
  • The main criteria that must be met for the exemption to apply is that the final product must be acidic in nature, with an equilibrium pH of 4.6 or less. 
    • This pH requirement can be met due to the natural pH of the canned goods themselves, or due to any pickling or fermenting process used. 
    • It is recommended that home canners use only well-established recipes in order to help meet this pH requirement (see the resources below for sources of recipes).
  • Examples of allowed products (provided they meet the pH requirement:)
    • Pickled Fruits and Vegetables
    • Sauerkraut 
    • Salsas
    • Jams/Jellies
    • Apple sauce
    • Chutneys


Sales Restrictions 

  • Producer may not sell more than $5,000  a year in canned goods
  • Sales must be directly from producer to consumer (no wholesaling of goods)
  • Sales must take place at community or local events, such as bazaars or farmers markets. 


Signage and Labeling Requirements 

  • The bill requires that a sign be present at the point of sale that states "these canned goods are homemade and not subject to inspection."
  • Products must be properly labeled, including:
    • Name and address of the individual  who canned the goods
    • Date the products were canned
    • The statement "this product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection"
    • All ingredients in descending order of prominence, including the common name for any ingredient that originates from milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans.  These are ingredients that can cause severe allergic reactions in some people, who must be able to recognize when they are present.


Testing pH (suggested) 

  • Quality control of pH levels are not required by the bill but it is recommended
  • The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection recommends you test at least the first batch of each recipe you make during the production season.
  • The DATCP also recommends the use of a pH meter.
    • Short-range paper pH test strips, commonly known as litmus paper, may be used instead, if the product normally has a pH of 4.0 or lower and the paper’s range includes a pH of 4.6.


Training and Recipes

Producers exempt from licensing are still responsible for the safety of their own products. As such, it is recommended that home canned good producers properly educate themselves about the canning process and proper sanitation, and use only established well-tested recipes and processes. There are no official requirements for training or recipe use, but there are several recommended resources, including: 


Record Keeping 

  • Record keeping is suggested, since license requirement status depends on annual sales. 
  • Proper records should include:
  • Recipe, including procedures and ingredients
  • Amount canned and sold
  • Canning date
  • Sale dates and locations
  • Gross sales receipts
  • Results of any pH test