Riverside County First to Implement California Home Cooking Legislation
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Riverside County First to Implement California Home Cooking Legislation

In September 2018, the California legislature passed AB-626, The Homemade Food Operations Act. The law was passed with widespread bipartisan support. AB-626 created a framework under which small-scale home cooks could legally sell food made in their kitchens to the public. The law defines a microenterprise home kitchen as a “food facility that is operated by a resident in a private home where food is stored, handled, and prepared for, and may be served to consumers” with no more than one full-time employee. Microenterprise home kitchens could generate up to $50,000 in gross sales a year.

In October 2019, California passed a second home cooking bill, AB-377, which allowed third-party delivery for disabled customers and clarified uniform standards for inspections and permitting. The law also prohibits a microenterprise home kitchen operation from “producing, manufacturing, processing, freezing, or packaging milk or milk products, including, but not limited to, cheese and ice cream.” 

The language of AB-626 gives discretion to county health departments to actually create the permitting framework for approving microenterprise home kitchens. Although microenterprise home kitchens are now legal in California, individual counties have been hesitant to "opt-in" to the permitting process and grant licenses to microenterprise home kitchens. Some county and city governments expressed opposition to the home cooking bills. For example, the County of San Bernardino sent a letter to the California State Senate claiming that AB-626 would create a risk of an “upsurge of complaints and increase the risk of hospitalizations and potential deaths due to foodborne illnesses...”.

In May 2019, Riverside County became the first county to opt-in to AB 626’s program and create a way for home kitchen entrepreneurs to get permits. Riverside launched its MEHKO (Micro Enterprise Home Kitchen Operations) permitting program in May of 2019 and has granted dozens of MEHKO permits to date. Riverside’s permitting fee is $651 annually. The future of microenterprise home kitchens across California remains in limbo while other counties monitor the progress of Riverside’s program.

  • Pooja S. Nair
    Partner

    Pooja S. Nair is a business litigator and problem solver with a focus on the food and beverage sector. She advises food and beverage clients, startups and other businesses on a comprehensive range of issues, including employment ...

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