County schedules hearing regarding food items sold commercially that have been made in home kitchens

RIVERSIDE (Wire Service) – Riverside County supervisors will hold their first hearing Tuesday, January 8, on a proposed ordinance regulating home-based chefs who sell their goods to the public.

So-called “cottage food” operations were placed on the state’s list of public health concerns with the passage of Assembly Bill 1616, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in September.

The statute mandates that counties establish standards for cottage food makers and require them to obtain permits.

Cottage foods generally include baked goods without cream, custards, meat fillings, candies, dried fruits, cereals, herbs, nuts, roasted coffees and dried teas, according to the county’s Department of Environmental Health.

The agency drew up a proposed ordinance defining two classes of cottage food operators. Class A describes a home-based cook who engages in sales to an established clientele or at events, such as a temporary booth at a sports


Class B describes as an operator who sells indirectly or directly to a “third-party retail food facility,” according to environmental health documents.

County officials said that, under the ordinance, a class A operator would be exempt from inspections unless there are consumer complaints about products. However, class B operators would be subject to an initial inspection of their preparation areas — kitchens — as well as annual inspections.

Class A permits would cost $72.50 each; class B certificates would cost $290, documents showed. Permits would have to be renewed annually.

All cottage food makers would be required to meet minimum basic food safety and handling standards defined in the California Health and Safety Code.

Regulations include keeping utensils and surfaces clean; keeping children or potentially contagious people out of the preparation area; frequent hand-washing and no smoking.

All operators would need to complete a food processor course within three months of registering with the county. According to officials, cottage foods must be properly labeled, using the words “Made in a Home Kitchen” or other such language to be in compliance with the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Permit-holders who commit violations could face fines ranging from $100 to $500, according to documents.

AB 1616 prohibits counties or cities from outlawing cottage food operations. Instead, the law stipulates that local governments must implement regulations related to zoning and food handling permits.

If on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approves the structure and provisions of the proposed ordinance, a public hearing will be scheduled in two weeks to hear any comments on the measure, after which a final vote will be taken.

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