Food entrepreneurs in California cannot currently sell products to the public that they’ve cooked in a home kitchen. The recently proposed California Homemade Food Act, or “cottage food” law, introduced last month in the California legislature would change that. The reform would allow individuals, like their counterparts in 31 other states, to sell “non-potentially hazardous foods” produced in home kitchens directly to consumers.
The proposed legislation, backed by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, would open up the market for aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to test the market, establish a customer base and incubate their business without the high overhead costs of renting commercial kitchen space. Especially with the current lack of appropriate commercial kitchens and the increasing number of passionate food crafters looking to enter the industry, this legislation would be welcomed by aspiring picklers and bakers alike.
Alongside the excitement from the craft food community, exists concerns from established food businesses who have made the investment in commercial spaces. In addition, despite the restrictions on permitted food products and sanitation regulations, there exists further concerns from public health officials who worry about the safety of foods produced in a home kitchen. And so the legislative discussion continues.
Richard Lee is the Director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs for the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health. In this position, Mr. Lee directs routine and complaint inspections of the 6900 permitted food facilities in San Francisco. These faciliites include restaurants, bars, stadium concessions, fast food, grocery stores, food trucks, commissaries and caterers. His inspectors work with the operators to ensure that they are in compliance with the Calif. Retail Food Code.
Christina Oatfield is the Sustainable Economies Law Center‘s Food Policy Research Associate, who researches and advocates for laws that create opportunities for community-based food businesses and the hobby baker or backyard gardener seeking to supplement their income. Christina is also pursuing an attorney license as an Apprentice at Katovich and Kassan Law Group in Oakland, which serves mission-driven social enterprises, co-ops and nonprofits.
Shakirah Simley was the founder and creative force behind Slow Jams, a socially conscious artisanal jam company in Oakland. She recently graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences with a Masters in Food Culture and Communications. She has previously worked at the Prevention Institute, was a Human Rights Fellow for the City of New York, and volunteered as a volunteer chef for Just Food in NYC.