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Local Food and Culinary Culture

Riverside County Now Allows Home Cooks To Sell Meals To The Public

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   RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved an ordinance establishing regulations for home-based cooks to serve hot and cold meals on a daily basis anywhere in the county.
   The 4-0 vote in favor of Ordinance No. 949 included an abstention by Supervisor Chuck Washington, who said he could not support the measure without feeling as though he were compromising ``the safety of our residents.''
   Washington complained previously about the disparities between the high standards set for brick-and-mortar restaurants and the lower ones
applicable to home kitchens.
   Supervisor Manuel Perez lauded the concept, saying ``home kitchens
have been happening for generations,'' and now at least they will be monitored,
with operators subject to safety guidelines.
   ``This is an opportunity for home chefs to start a business and
potentially transition into a commercial kitchen or restaurant,'' Perez said.
   The Department of Environmental Health drafted the ordinance in
response to Assembly Bill 626, which was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry
Brown in September.
   The law created a set of parameters to permit the operation of so-
called ``micro-enterprise home kitchens.''
   Under the 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
will be $651 annually.
   A home-based enterprise can only generate a maximum $50,000 in annual
revenue.
   The ordinance 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 will, however, have to obtain ``food handler'' certification
from the county to demonstrate an understanding of basic safe preparation,
storage and service techniques.
   Cooks will also be required to create a menu for inspection and
maintain regular days and hours of operation, according to the ordinance.
   Kitchens will be subject to only one inspection by the county annually
-- and then with formal notice given to the proprietor of exactly when
environmental health staff will be paying a visit.
   Department of Environmental Health Director Keith Jones said AB 626
put limits on what counties can do on the enforcement end. Internet-based
advertising will be allowed, but posting signs or other outdoor displays to
stimulate business will be prohibited under the ordinance.
   Meals can 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 will range from $50 to $1,000, and misdemeanor
charges may be filed, depending on the offense.
   The ordinance applies to all unincorporated communities and cities in
the county.

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