Would you go to a restaurant to buy food someone made in their kitchen at home?
That's the question millions of Californians are going to have to ask themselves now that a new law, which went into effect on January 1, allows Golden State residents to sell their own products at restaurants and grocery stores without going through the onerous process of getting a commercial kitchen license.
Signed into law by California governor Jerry Brown last year, the California Homemade Food Act allows people to register themselves at "cottage food operations" after taking a food safety class, passing a state examination, paying a registration fee, labeling their food as homemade and submitting their kitchens to an annual inspection.
The law is aimed at stimulating the growth of small businesses as well as increasing access to the types of healthy food options, especially in low-income and rural communities.
"Up until now, people who wanted to turn their passion into a small business were faced with stifling red tape," the bill's author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), told Capital Public Radio.
Gatto introduced the bill after the bread Los Angeles-area amateur baker Mark Stambler sold to some local restaurants drew the ire of public heath officials.
"If I...[wanted] to sell bread in a store anywhere in Los Angeles County, I basically have to own a wholesale food processing facility. Period," Stambler told Southern California Public Radio, noting that the costs for setting up a facility could easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are some limitations on what home food producers are allowed to produce: meat, dairy and other perishable products are strictly off-limits. The list of approved foods includes non-cream filled goods, candy, dried fruit, pastas, granola, roasted coffee, jams, jellies, preserves and popcorn.
Additionally, since legislators didn't want the law to become a loophole through which large-scale food producers could skirt health code regulations, cottage operators have a revenue limit set at $35,000 (rising to $50,000 in 2015) and can only employ one full-time equivalent worker.
At least 32 other states, such as Texas, Michigan and Oregon, have passed similar laws allowing small businesses to prepare non-hazardous food for sale in home kitchens
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Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto