It Could Soon Be Legal to Sell Food from Your Own Kitchen in California

Daniel Zuchnik / Stringer / Getty Images 

By Elisabeth Sherman Posted May 01, 2017

The bill wants to make it easier to start a small business in California.

Home cooks may soon be able to monetize their skills in California: Last week, legislation passed in the state's Health Committee that would make it legal to sell homemade food out of personal kitchens for a profit.

The bill was introduced in February by State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, who said that his legislation is meant be “a pathway to attain income self-sufficiency and achieve [the] ‘American dream’ of success.”

Under current California law, individuals are only allowed to sell food through retail facilities, or through a short list of “cottage food operations,” which are allowed to prepare “non-potentially hazardous foods.”

The new bill would allow home kitchen operations, to be considered a “food facility” under the Health and Safety Code, but there are strict rules regarding what constitutes a “home kitchen operation”: They can only have one full-time employee (excluding employees who are members of the household), and the food has to be prepared, cooked and picked up by the customer or served on the same day. They must also cap their annual profits at $50,000.

These types of businesses already exist under the table throughout California without any type of legal regulations, so this bill may actually make food safer by training and educating home cooks about food safety guidelines. It may also cut down on the number of people criminally prosecuted for operating a business necessary for their livelihood.

Despite those benefits, California’s public health officials still think that food prepared in private residencies has a higher risk of contamination and spreading food borne illnesses.

However, advocates for this bill say that it will provide opportunities for people to become entrepreneurs in their own right, especially those most in need of additional income—many of them women, single parents, and recent immigrants.

In fact, one of the bill’s central objectives is to create “economic empowerment” for marginalized groups in particular. Assemblyman Garcia said that if the bill does pass, it be will be a big step toward “building a more inclusive food system” in California—one where small business can thrive with the law’s protection.

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