Riverside County to require permits for sales of homemade foods

All food makers would be required to meet minimum basic food handling standards

POSTED: 06:26 AM PST Jan 08, 2013 
boy eating hamburger

Riverside County supervisors will hold their first  hearing today 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 custards, meat fillings, candies, dried  fruits, cereals, herbs, nuts, roasted coffees, dried teas, and baked goods  without cream, 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  venue.
      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. Permits would have to be renewed annually.
      All cottage food makers would be required to meet minimum basic food  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.
      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 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.