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California’s New Law Makes Homemade Food Sales Legal

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment

Cinnamon bunsI have known a number of people in the golden state who wanted to start a home based business selling baked goods, but didn’t because they lacked access to a commercial kitchen. As of January 1, people who want to use their kitchens to prepare food for sale in California can now do so. The Homemade Food Act (AB1616) went into affect on that date.

Signed by Governor Jerry Brown last September, AB1616 allows Californians to sell “non-hazardous” food to grocery stores and restaurants for annual revenue up to $35,000 in 2013. That will increase to $45,000 next year and $50,000 in 2015. The new law puts California into the ranks of at least 32 other states that have passed similar laws.

AB1616 specifically states that a city or county “shall not prohibit a cottage food operation” but must do one of the following:

  • Classify a cottage food operation as a permitted use of residential property for zoning purposes
  • Grant a nondiscretionary permit to use a residence as a cottage food operation that complies with local ordinances
  • Require any cottage food operation to apply for a permit to use a residence for its operation

California Assembly member Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced the bill after one of his constituents had his business shut down by the Los Angeles Department of Environmental Health for selling homemade bread to a cheese shop. Gatto stated back in September that he is “proud to have delivered this victory to my constituents and to aspiring business owners throughout the state that are looking for ways to develop their businesses and purchase healthier, more locally produced foods for their families.”

“I am happy that the Governor has joined me in my efforts to restore economic activity to our neighborhood economies and to the state of California by allowing people to produce and healthy, nutritious or culturally relevant foods in their homes,” Gatto said.

The Homemade Food Act is good for the golden state’s economy

The law is good for California’s economy, a fact not lost on Governor Brown. A press release by the Governor’s office declares that Governor Brown signed “eight bills to bolster business and job creation in the state of California.” One of those eight bills is the Homemade Food Act.

“As California’s economy recovers from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it’s important that state government bolsters local job growth,” said Governor Brown. “Simply put, these bills make it easier for people to do business in California.”

Cottage food laws, as homemade food laws are often called, are particularly important during rough economic times. During high unemployment, cottage food laws allow people to make a living by using their own kitchens. The unemployment rate in California is 9.8 percent (the national rate is 7.8 percent), and the unemployment rate in my home county of Fresno is 14.4 percent.

Cottage food laws do two other key things, as a post by the website, cottagefoodlaws.com mentions: they allow local foods to be produced in our communities, and they allow our communities to have “choice, variety and the opportunity to make the local economy viable.”

California’s Homemade Food Act seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

Photo: Flickr user, Steve A. Johnson


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Categorized: Agriculture & Food|

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  • Fred Smith

    Its a great first start. I am very excited about it. The biggest limitations as I see it are:
    1. The California Department of Public Health has deciced to made shipping by mail illegal under the law. There is nothing in the law that says that this is illegal, so its seems like obstructionism, but perhaps there are other motives. Noentheless, CFOs can ship their goods after sale, the venues for selling products are limited.
    2. Each county can decide whether it will accept CFOs from other counties. Marin County says yes, Sonoma County says no. Seems limiting when your nearest communities may be in another county.
    But I am optimitistic that through advoacy and coordination, some changes can be made to improve the law. Overall, its a great thing for californians.
    Fred