What the California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616, will accomplish – a summary
The new law will go into effect in January. It creates a new category of food production called a cottage food operation, which, unlike other types of commercial food facilities, can be operated out of a home kitchen. The types of foods that a cottage food operation can sell are limited to “non-potentially hazardous foods,” which are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature. The list of foods includes:
- Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat ﬁllings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas
- Candy, such as brittle and toffee
- Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruit
- Dried fruit
- Dried pasta
- Dry baking mixes
- Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
- Granola, cereals, and trail mixes
- Herb blends and dried mole paste
- Honey and sweet sorghum syrup
- Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
- Nut mixes and nut butters
- Vinegar and mustard
- Roasted coffee and dried tea
- Wafﬂe cones and pizelles
- Other foods that the Director of the California Department of Public Health chooses to add
Requirements for a “cottage food operation”
- Register with your county health department (a small fee may be required), including filling out a self-inspection checklist that includes basic safe food handling practices for direct-to-consumer sales (including at festivals and events, farmers’ markets, through CSAs, etc.).
- Acquire a permit from your county health department that entails an annual inspection by a local health officer ONLY IF the cottage food operation will conduct indirect sales (meaning selling products through local shops, restaurants or other third parties that are not the producer or the consumer) and pay the permitting fee which varies by county but generally would be $200 to $400 annually.
- Attend a class and pass an exam designed by the California Department of Public Health.
- Package and label all food products with the name of the product, ingredients (in order of their prevalence by weight), a list of allergens, net weight of contents, county of production and registration or permit number issued by the local county health department.
- Adhere to sanitary procedures outlined in the California Health and Safety Code, including washing, rinsing and sanitizing all surfaces and utensils before use in food preparation, washing hands before handling food, keeping all ingredients in sealed containers when not in use, and other such standard procedures.
Other Components of the Bill
- Cottage food products can be sold directly to consumers, through the internet or mail order and to in-state retail food facilities (ie, grocery stores) provided that the cottage food operator obtains the proper registration or permit.
- Cottage food operations may not exceed a certain amount of gross annual revenue. In 2013 the limit will be $35,000, in 2014 it will be $45,000 and in 2015 and following years it will be $50,000.
- In addition to help from family or household members, cottage food operations may also have up to one full time equivalent employee.
- Indirect sales (eg sales through local shops, cafes and restaurants) are generally going to be limited to within the county where the food was produced, however, individual county health departments may choose to coordinate and allow for inter-county sales of cottage food products. Direct sales (between a producer and a consumer) may occur anywhere in California (eg at farmers’ markets, in a home, at special events, fundraisers and anywhere else where there is a direct purchasing relationship between the cottage food operation and the consumer).
- While preparing homemade food products for sale, small children and pets may not be in the kitchen (they can be elsewhere in the house). Smoking, other non-commercial meal preparation, washing clothes and other such household activities may not take place in the kitchen while “cottage food” products are being made.