Capitol Alert

Tamales anyone? New California law legalizes sale of homemade food

A new California law allows cities and counties to authorize and permit the sale of home-cooked foods, such as tamales.
A new California law allows cities and counties to authorize and permit the sale of home-cooked foods, such as tamales. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Home cooks looking to make a little extra money just got a boost from California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has signed a bill recognizing and regulating “microenterprise home kitchens,” or MHKs, also referred to as the cottage food industry.

Assembly Bill 626 defines what qualifies as a MHK and provides several restrictions for enterprising home cooks. No raw oysters. Food must be cooked and sold on the same day. No more than one full-time equivalent employee. Proprietors can earn no more than $50,000 a year from the enterprise.

Supporters of the bill, including its author, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, argue that the law is aimed at providing protections and opportunities for members of historically marginalized communities such as women, immigrants and people of color, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

Sweet and Spicy Fresno is one of a few new food trucks in Fresno.

However, the California State Association of Counties and the County Health Executives Association of California argued that the law could put diners at risk by potentially exposing them to pathogen-tainted food served by unqualified preparers, according to the bill’s legislative analysis.

The CDC estimates 48 million Americans, or one in six, will get sick with food poisoning every year.

Before AB 626’s passage, California’s Cottage Foods Law allowed for the sale of “non-potentially hazardous foods” such as fruit jams and pies; but the law prohibited home kitchens from being used for commercial activities, with narrow exceptions.

Mariza Ruelas, a single mother of six in Stockton, was charged last year for illegally selling homemade food online. She supports Assembly Bill 626, which would allow small-scale home cooking operations.

AB 626 allows cities and counties to authorize and permit homemade food sales as a new category of “retail food facility.”

The bill passed the Assembly floor 66-1, and Senate 36-0.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler
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