California Legalized Selling Food Made At Home And Created Over A Thousand Local Businesses
For decades, Stambler has followed traditional methods to bake loaves of French bread. The ingredients are simple: distilled water, sea salt, wild yeast and organic grains. Stambler even mills the grain himself. To make it easier to steam loaves, he built a wood-fired oven in his own backyard. Stambler’s loaves came in first place at the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair.
Soon after that, Stambler got the idea to expand his hobby into a home business, which became Pagnol Boulanger. Word of mouth spread. In June 2011,The Los Angeles Times profiled Stambler and his bread in a full-page feature.
Unlike his bread, that profile was bittersweet. He was busted the very next day. As he described it, the health department “descended like a ton of bricks on the two stores that were selling my bread…they could no longer sell my bread.”
An inspector from the health department even showed up at his doorstep to make sure “no bread baking was taking place.” For the next 18 months, Pagnol Boulanger was forced to go on hiatus.
That’s when he “became an activist,” Stambler said in an email interview.
He started researching other states’ cottage food laws, which allow homemade food to be sold. To qualify as a cottage food, it must be designated by the state as “non-potentially hazardous,” meaning it has a low risk of spreading bacteria.
Out of the blue, he got a call from his Assemblyman, Mike Gatto, who readThe Los Angeles Times profile, and wanted to help him and other small businesses.
Stambler helped Assemblyman Gatto draft the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) to legalize cottage food. AB 1616 was overwhelmingly popular with lawmakers, passing the California State Assembly 60 to 16 and unanimously passing the state Senate in August 2012. Upon signing the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown praised AB 1616 as a way to “make it easier for people to do business in California.”
In January 2013, just a few days after the law went into effect, Stambler became the first person in Los Angeles County to sell homemade food legally. Since he’s re-started his business, he hasn’t received a single complaint from consumers.
More home bakers have followed. In Los Angeles County, there are almost270 cottage food businesses. Statewide, over 1,200 homemade food businesses have been approved.
Under the California Homemade Food Act, local governments cannot ban cottage food businesses based in private homes. Instead, home-based entrepreneurs can sell their goods after passing a “food processor course” (which can be done online), properly labeling their goods and practicing common-sense sanitation when cooking and baking. Those who want to start their own cottage food business legally need only register or obtain a permit, as either a Class A or Class B operation.
The two permits distinguish between the types of cottage food business an entrepreneur may want to run. Class A businesses are exempt from routine inspections, but can only engage in “direct sales,” i.e., straight to the customer. That includes farmers’ markets, bake sales and from the home business itself. Meanwhile, Class B operations require inspections, but also allow “indirect sales” to third-party retailers, like restaurants, bakeries, delis, groceries and food trucks.
Both Class A and B businesses can directly sell throughout the entire state. Yet indirect sales are still limited to the county where the Class B operation is based...