Legalize Baking!

Did you know that in California and many other states it’s illegal to hold a bake sale? That a synagogue in Los Angeles got busted by the Health Department for hosting a bake sale? That you can’t bake bread in a home kitchen and resell it?

Obviously, we need to change this. In what looks like an economic climate that won’t change for the better anytime soon, we need to encourage micro-business enterprises, foster a entrepreneurial spirit and make it easy for non-profits to raise money. We may not be able to fix the federal deficit but we can certainly take on this this easy to mend legislative issue. To that end, I encourage all of you to take a moment to sign a petition in support of a California cottage good law put together by the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Please spread the word about this petition!

From the text of the petition:

As part of a growing movement to localize food systems and stimulate small-scale food production, we are proposing that the California State Legislature allow for the sale of certain home-made food products, namely: baked goods (but with no cream or meat fillings), jams and jellies, candy, granola and other dry cereal, popcorn, waffle cones and pizzelles, nut mixes, chocolate covered non-perishables (such as nuts and dried fruit), roasted coffee, dry baking mixes, herb blends, and dried tea.

Many states already have cottage food laws making it possible for folks to start small businesses out of their homes and to allow religions organizations, charities and schools to put on bake sales. You can see what states have cottage food laws here.

My interest in politics extends only to issues that can be influenced at the grass roots level. This is a great example of a problem that we all be a part of fixing.

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  1. Well that’s good to know. I was just about to organize a bake sale to raise money for toddler swings at our neighborhood park. Would never have guessed that’s illegal 😛

  2. Use to be when we were younger only one of our friend’s home was was considered messy or on the verge of dirty, now when I go to friends or acquaintance’s homes it’s more the norm. Having a clean home isn’t as important as it was back in the day. There are just allot of people who I would never eat any food that they produced out of their homes.
    Seriously, sometimes I am very thankful for my local health department (who signs off on church kitchens & home producers).

    But I do agree that there should be measures in place to allow greater freedom in having a commercial kitchen in one’s home. Perhaps tax incentives.

  3. If you really want to start a small business selling consumables, it might be possible to find a state inspected kitchen you could rent by the hour. Ask at a nursing home or large church that hosts a soup kitchen, they’re probably inspected and may be interested in renting you some space at a time when their kitchen isn’t in use.
    On one hand, I strongly support the right of people to start businesses in their homes, but like pelenaka, I’ve seen some kitchens so dirty that it makes me queasy to imagine eating food prepared there. Maybe we need to start thinking of ways to ensure the safety of home prepared food without bankrupting those who want to produce it, something that will speak to all of the concerns.

  4. Donna–I would support this approach, but the County of Los Angeles forbids renting time in an inspected kitchen. Not even a restaurant, in LA County, can sell food wholesale though many do. An inspected facility just opened in Pasadena, CA where you can rent time, but that’s the only place here and you can’t sell what you make in this facility outside of Pasadena.

  5. About three years ago in Alabama the state passed measures to allow home-baked goods to be sold at farmer’s markets. The kitchen does not have to be inspected or clean. Sellers sell under the umbrella of the farmer’s market. That umbrella has no standards. It seems like a silly way to circumvent the Health Dept’s attempts to keep food sanitary. However, when I go to bake sale or craft show, I buy anything I want to eat. I even sold my jelly on the internet before I figured out I was breaking the law!

    Oh, I would never buy from anyone who kept cats in the house.

  6. I find this interesting considering all the fun stuff in most baked goods (GMO, perservatives, partial-hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, etc) not to mention the fact that the FDA has an allowable amount of rat feces among other fun stuff and we are constantly hearing about cases of food posioning, you would think home baked would be more likely to be better for you…. Besides isn’t it up to the consumer? I would think it’s obvious it was home baked, no need to label. Just like the raw food raids we have seen recently. If consumers know what they are buying they should have the right to chose what they eat. It would be nice if GMO was labeled too….

    This doesn’t surprise me since they fine kids lemonade stands, and some cities apparently don’t allow you to grow vegetables in your yard or to sell vegetables to neighbors. What would Thomas Jefferson think about that?

  7. Are you sure? I rent out a mobile commercial kitchen and there are plenty kitchens advertising they are for rent by day all over California…including L.A.

  8. Michigan’s doing it; you certainly don’t want Michigan to be more progressive than California do you? (Although at this point, CA is kinda late.)

  9. Lynda–my understanding is that to do wholesale food (in Los Angeles County) you need a completely dedicated kitchen, i.e. not time in a restaurant kitchen. A friend, Mark Stamber is looking into the details of the law which is somewhat confusing and ambiguous. I’ll post more on this issue as I get info.

  10. CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. (from CDC website)-
    The majority of people these statistics represent eat an “American diet” heavy in processed foods and meat and these statistics reflect the present food safety monitoring system. I’d enjoy having the right to take my chances eating food prepared by people I know, messy kitchens, cats and all. Then at least I’d know who to blame if I ever did get sick.

  11. Here’s some information on home food processing initiative California:

    The type of food you want to produce and how it is process really determines which rules and regulations are applied in cottage food laws and unfortunately locating the information in CA is like finding a needle in a haystack, but it is that way for many states, since the rules and regs can change or not be recognized depending on zoning and what county or city you live in. This is why it is important when drafting your cottage food bill that you keep it simple and keep food processing restricted to non-potentially hazardous food products. There are some states that really got it right and you might want to check out their cottage food laws, i.e. North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, I think North Carolina’s is the best in the nation however!!! They are “pro” local sustainable food processors and even offer workshops for food crafters. NC allows you to build an open hearth on your property, and there’s a guy who bakes bread in a brick oven attached to his home; selling at the local farmers market on the weekends. Abe’s bread is amazing…he calls himself the Box Turtle Bakery in Carborro, NC. I’m wishing CA food crafters the best of luck.

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