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Riverside County May Allow Home Cooks To Sell, Serve, And Deliver Their Products

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Riverside County supervisors today (Tuesday) will review a proposed ordinance establishing rules and regulations for home-based cooks to serve hot and cold meals on a daily basis anywhere in the county.
   Ordinance No. 949, introduced by the Department of Environmental Health, would incorporate provisions of Assembly Bill 626, signed into law by
former Gov. Jerry Brown in September, making it possible for residents to operate ``micro-enterprise home kitchens.''
   The board's initial review must be followed by a public hearing, which
will likely be set for April 16 at the County Administrative Center in
downtown Riverside.
   Under the proposed ordinance, a single person who wants to bake or
make edibles for profit and serve them at home -- or deliver them to another
location the same day -- would be permitted to do so, as long as no more than
30 meals are served daily -- or 60 meals weekly.
   The cost of obtaining a permit for a micro-enterprise home kitchen
would be $651 annually.
   Operators would only qualify if their home-based enterprise generates
$50,000 or less in revenue, according to AB 626.
   The law does not impose the same regulations by which general
commercial food facilities, such as restaurants, have to abide, including
having a three-compartment sink, using specific methods of handling certain
products, or ensuring a defined separation between the dining area and
bathrooms or other spaces.
   Cooks, however, would have to obtain ``food handler'' certification
from the county to demonstrate an understanding of basic safe preparation,
storage and service techniques. Cooks would also be required to create a menu
for inspection and maintain regular days and hours of operation, according to
the ordinance.
   Internet-based advertising would be allowed, but posting signs or
other outdoor displays to stimulate business would be prohibited, according to
the Department of Environmental Health.
   Meals could feature stove-cooked meats, green salads, bakery goods and
other products.
   According to Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Indio, the aim of AB 626
was to ``support healthy communities ... and economically empower talented home
cooks with a pathway to attain income self-sufficiency.''
   The legislation was an expansion of the 2012 California Homemade Food
Act, which provided a means for cottage food preparers to make money selling
pies, fruit jams and a range of dried edibles, but little else. To bypass some
of the stricter elements of the California Retail Food Code, the micro-
enterprise home kitchen concept was put forward.
   The California State Association of Counties and other groups opposed
it, based on concerns that the public might face greater risks of contracting
food-borne illnesses.
   Ordinance No. 949 mandates penalties for violations of food handling
and preparation standards. Fines would range from $50 to $1,000, and
misdemeanor charges could be filed, depending on the offense.
   If approved, the ordinance would apply to all unincorporated
communities and cities in the county.

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