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California Could Make It Legal To Sell Home-Cooked Meals

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Janet Li prepares sandwiches for a rally at the Capitol in support of loosening restrictions on the sale of homemade food Wednesday, August 22, 2018.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

If you search for the word “comida” on Facebook’s Marketplace, you’ll find underground vendors selling tamales, tacos, and even ceviche from their home kitchens.

It’s illegal and may be punishable as a misdemeanor. But some California vendors are trying to change that.

Home cooks rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday in support of AB 626, a bill that would make California the first state to permit and regulate the small-scale sale of meals from home kitchens.

Oakland farmer Brandi Mac said the bill will provide economic opportunities to women, immigrants, and people of color that live in urban communities.

“We need to figure out what are some of the ways we can be able to get to employ urban farmers,” Mac said. “You can’t make money selling lettuce. But you can [make some money] if you make a Caesar salad.”

082218Home Cooks 2-pFood is given away at the Capitol at a rally to support legalizing the sale of homemade food. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio


Opponents say they’re all for providing economic opportunities, just not from a home kitchen.

“The combination of potentially hazardous food in a home kitchen, that to us is a combination that doesn’t work,” said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California.

DeBurgh said health officers want people to cook these meals in a commercial or community kitchen that can be regulated and appropriately cleaned.

“Home kitchens simply have a lot more variables than a commercial kitchen,” DeBurgh said. “Guests can come in and out family members who haven’t had food safety training, and that’s just not the case in a restaurant.”

The bill says home kitchen operators will be issued a permit after an initial inspection. But kitchens won’t be subject to routine inspections unless they receive a complaint.

The bill still needs final approval in the state Senate before it can be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Nadine Sebai

Former Temporary State Government Reporter

Nadine Sebai was Capital Public Radio’s temporary state government reporter. Nadine is also a co-editor of Local Matters, a weekly newsletter showcasing investigative and watchdog news stories from local publications across the country.  Read Full Bio 

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