Maybe on a late night you've purchased food from a small-scale street vendor, or you've hired an acquaintance to cater a gathering at your home -- in both of these cases, you might have been breaking the law.
Selling food cooked in a personal kitchen is illegal in California. In 2013, state lawmakers passed permitting regulations for some 'cottage food operations,' but only if the food items being sold do not need refrigeration.
Click here for the full-list of approved 'cottage foods'
A Stockton mother of six faced three years of jail time for selling homemade ceviche through a Facebook group called '209 Food Spot' last year. Mariza Ruelas was charged with four misdemeanors in November 2016 for operating a food facility without a valid permit to sell. In January, she agreed to serve 80 hours of community service.
“Many of my constituents have expressed their concerns and frustrations trying to work in compliance with the existing, overly complicated cottage food laws,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia in a statement. The Coachella Democrat is proposing California expand what types of homemade foods are legal to sell, in order "to knock down barriers and expand opportunities for marginalized populations who often lack access to the professional food world.”
Asm. Garcia said creating safeguards for the existing, but informal, food sales economy will give immigrant, minority and other vulnerable communities an important tool of economic empowerment .
The informal home cooking industry is already expanding in California through technological innovations, like the organization Josephine -- an online marketplace where users order and pickup meals from nearby home chefs. "We are working to address the needs of the thousands of talented cooks in California for whom cooking at home is both an important source of extra income and more compatible with existing skillsets and lifestyle constraints," Josephine's Co-CEO Matt Jorgensen said in a statement supporting the bill.
If Asm. Garcia's legislation becomes law, a resident could operate their home's kitchen as a food facility if food is prepared, cooked and served all in the same day. A customer must also pick up, or be delivered, the food within a safe time period, as defined. Raw oysters, raw milk or raw milk products would be prohibited.
Food preparation would be limited to no more than 30 meals a day, and no more than 60 meals per week, unless a local enforcement agency approves more based on the operation's food preparation capacity. Gross annual sales would not be able to exceed $50,000.
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