What the California Homemade Food Act Means to Transitioners

Most of us who grow our own food in small organic gardens know that there is usually always a surplus that is freely shared with friends, neighbors, and whoever is willing to help make sure it does not spoil by taking an armload of veggies.  Many of us also know how nice it would be if it was possible to be able to legally sale some of the surplus canned, baked, or frozen goods that the pantry and freezer gets stocked with after the fall harvest. 

The AB1616 would allow us to do that without having to spend 10k on a legal certified kitchen and jump through confusing hoops that each county health department requires.  Right now this bill is sitting with the State Senate Committee and if you would like to see this become a reality you need to contact your local Assembly and Senate person urging them to make sure this bill passes!

Currently in California if you were to make some jam or bake a cake and sell it to the public - like at a farmers market or bake sale - you are breaking the law if it is not prepared in a commercial kitchen.  Setting up a commercial kitchen is a huge investment and without some working capital pretty much prohibits the ambitious baker/cook from making a living selling their home made recipes and goods.  
That will change if AB1616, proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) becomes law.  32 other States have 'Cottage Food' laws that allow small-scale food sales from private kitchens.  This law does not include potentially hazardous food (PHF) like cheeses or meats but is meant to cover foods that are safely held and eaten at room temperature.  
Cottage food makers would still be subject to regulations like labeling and they would have to register within their local county.  They would also have to allow their kitchens to be inspected if a consumer complaint warrants it but inspection is not a prerequisite for registration.  
This has already passed the State Assembly and is currently in the Senate with its next hearing set for August 16th.  

This law would allow an enormous amount of economic and health benefits and the language reads:

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Small businesses have played an important role in helping slow economies recover and prosper as an engine of job creation. During the 1990s, small businesses created the majority of new jobs and now account for 65 percent of United States employment.
(b) California, and the United States as a whole, are facing growing obesity and obesity-related disease epidemics.
(1) Two-thirds of American adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight, placing them at risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
(2) One in every nine California children, one in three teens, and over half of adults are already overweight or obese. This epidemic affects virtually all Californians.
(3) These health conditions are preventable and curable through lifestyle choices that include consumption of healthy fresh foods.
(c) For decades, low-income and rural communities have faced limited opportunities to purchase healthy foods. Often, without cars or convenient public transportation options, low-income residents in these areas must rely for much of their shopping on expensive, fatty, processed foods sold at convenience and corner stores.
(d) There is a growing movement in California to support community-based food production, sometimes referred to as “cottage food,” “artisanal food,” “slow food,” “locally based food,” or “urban agriculture” movements. These movements seek to connect food to local communities, small businesses, and environmental sustainability.
(e) Increased opportunities for entrepreneur development through microenterprises can help to supplement household incomes, prevent poverty and hunger, and strengthen local economies.
(f) At least 32 other states have passed laws that allow small business entrepreneurs to use their home kitchens to prepare, for sale, foods that are not potentially hazardous.
(g) Even some bake sales are currently illegal in California.
(h) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact a homemade food act specifically designed to help address these challenges and opportunities.

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