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With Some Opposition, RivCo Sets Hearing On Proposal To Allow Home Chefs To Sell Food


RIVERSIDE (CNS) - The Riverside County Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) set an April 16 public hearing on 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.
   Supervisor Chuck Washington cast the sole dissenting vote against moving Ordinance No. 949 forward, saying he was unsatisfied that the measure contained sufficient provisions to ``protect the general public from health hazards.''
   ``Food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants have to meet higher
standards,'' Washington said. ``This is not a level playing field for them,
when you think about all they have to go through to ensure the public is being
served safe food products.''
   The Department of Environmental Health drafted the ordinance in
response to the passage of Assembly Bill 626, which was signed into law by
former Gov. Jerry Brown last September and created a set of guidelines to
permit the operation of so-called ``micro-enterprise home kitchens.''
   ``This is already happening, has been for decades,'' Supervisor Manuel
Perez said. ``This is an opportunity for us, quite frankly, to regulate and
ensure there's a good system in place.''
   A person who wants to bake or make edibles for profit and serve them
at home -- or deliver them to another location the same day -- is be permitted
to do so, as long as no more than 30 meals are served daily -- or 60 meals
   The cost of obtaining a county-issued 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 parameters established by 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 would, 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 proposed
   Supervisor Karen Spiegel questioned the effectiveness of conducting
just one inspection of the kitchens annually -- and only then with formal
notice given to the proprietor of exactly when county staff will be paying a
   ``That's not really ensuring a fair evaluation,'' she said. ``And we
are putting the county's credibility on the line.''
   Department of Environmental Health Director Keith Jones said AB 626
put limits on what counties can do on the enforcement end.
   Internet-based advertising would be allowed, but posting signs or
other outdoor displays to stimulate business would be prohibited under the
   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 would mandate 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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