New law allows homemade food to be sold straight from home, food safety inspectors say buyer beware

Law allows food to be sold out of homes

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - For Charles Angell, selling his dried chilies and homemade chili powder has always been a dream that he could not afford.


"Because of the rent and all the other expenses of running a (storefront) business including overhead," said Angell.


That could change for him this January when AB 1616 takes effect, allowing people to sell their homemade food products straight from home.


The bill also known as the Cottage Food Bill allows people to sell shelf stable homemade food like dried fruit and pasta, trail mix jellies and baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings.


They cannot sell food that must be temperature controlled.


"That means no meat, poultry, dairy, any of those items that if bacteria were introduced would allow it to grow and could cause a food borne illness. So tamales and corn on the cob would still not be allowed," said Donna Fenton of the county Environmental Health Department.


People loking to sell under the Cottage Food bill must be registered with County Environmental Health and meet training, sanitation, preparation and food labeling requirements.


The Environmental Health Department conducts routine food safety inspections at restaurants and markets.


"Looking for hot water, proper refrigeration, making sure the place is clean. That there's no cockroaches or bugs, insects that can get into the food product," said Fenton.


But inspectors are not allowed to do food safety inspections at homes, making it hard to know how clean the cooking area food handler are.


"Washing their hands after using the restroom, washing their hands after they've handled pets  or changed a baby's diaper, there's still a chance they would still have something on their hands that could be transferred onto that baked good or product they are selling," said Fenton.


So buyer beware.


"Norovirus, hepatitis A can be transferred from a person that has it that's not properly washing their hands," said Fenton.


So how do storefront business owners like Anita Tackett feel about the bill?


"I don't like that because I couldn't do it. That's what I wanted to do. I had to put out the money to remodel a building to open it," said Tackett.


Tackett opened her storefront bakery called The Cookie Jar last December, after the county would not let her open a bakery in her home.


"I could've done it at home. I had plenty of space to do it so it could've been so much better for me because now I have all the overhead. And if other people can do it from home, what's that going to do for my business?" said Tackett.


One big reason for the bill was so it could help stimulate the economy with more businesses.


"I'm excited not only for myself but all the other people in the same situation. It's going to open up a lot of doors to be able to be their own boss and make their own product in their own home," said Angell.


The bill takes effect January 1.


People must register with the Environmental Health Department before selling their homemade food.


The department will also tell you where you can sell your product depending on what it is.


Keep in mind, if your food is proven to contain a food borne illness, the county can shut you down.


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