At the stroke of midnight on January 1, California joined at least 25 other states by enacting its Homemade Food Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last September.
The act makes California the largest state with a cottage food law covering anything produced by the state’s more than 11.5 million home kitchens and marks a high point for a movement that got seriously underway with the recession four years ago.
Like many of the other states that recently adopted cottage food laws to loosen regulation of homemade foods that are “non-potentially hazardous,” California has a popular advocate and well-placed legislative sponsor for the change.
The advocate is amateur baker Mark Stambler who gained media attention in 2011 for the homemade bread he was selling to a couple of local restaurants. Trouble for Stambler came when the folks at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health read one of those features.
Public health officials told the small batch baker he’d need a wholesale food-processing license to sell bread in LA County, in restaurants or at retail. Lucky for Stambler, his home kitchen in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles was not far from State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat first elected in 2010.
Gatto, a lawyer by profession known for helping clients fight red tape, picked up the cause and introduced California’s cottage food law last spring and had it on the Governor’s desk by fall.
He accepted some changes by the California Senate. Amendments in the upper chamber give the Department of Public Health (DPH) to add and remove foods from the list of those approved for home kitchen production. DPH was also kept in charge of labeling requirements.
Under California’s new law, a cottage food operation can only have one employee outside the immediate family. It is limited to the home kitchen of one’s primary residence.
Foods containing cream, custard or meat fillings is potentially hazardous and not among those that foods cottage food operations can produce. “Potentially hazardous foods” are those that require time and temperature controls for safety to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation. Non-potentially hazardous foods do not require such time/temperature controls.
There are two classes of cottage food under California’s new law. The “Class A” cottage food operation can only sell food directly to the consumer, and is registered via a self-certification compliance checklist.
With a “Class A,” direct sales are permitted from the individual’s home, at holiday bazaars or other temporary events like bake sales or food swaps. Farm stand, farmers markets, and agricultural subscription sales are also permitted.
With a Class B cottage food operations, indirect sales are permitted in addition to the direct sales allowed under Class A. Under Class B, there is an inspection, but indirect sales are permitted to restaurants, retail food stores and food trucks. Any third party outlet must have its own permit.
The Senate apparently insisted that indirect sales through third parties be limited to the county of production unless adjoining counties have an agreement.
Gatto said the Senate changes were necessary for proper implementation by the Brown Administration.
Homemade food producers stand to make up to $35,000 in gross sales in 2013, rising to $45,000 in 2014 and $50,000 in 2015. A $50,000 increase is also predicted for each subsequent year.
Home kitchen equipment has to be clean and in proper condition. And customer complaints could bring on a DPH inspection. Anyone who prepares or packages cottage food products must attend a two-hour food-processing course.
Home kitchens will require permits, and DPH is authorized to provide technical assistance. The California Assembly’s estimate of the cost of adopting the new cottage food law and necessary regulations changes is $150,000 to $300,000.
Like other states, the California Assembly cited support for community-based food production and “increased opportunities for entrepreneur development” as reasons for its cottage food law.
Among the other state laws that took effect on New Year’s Day is one in Illinois that now makes it possible for anyone in the Land of Lincoln to “collect road kill.”© Food Safety News