California Homemade Food Act in Trouble

UPDATE:Good news! Governor Brown signed the bill into law yesterday, September 21, 2012.

The California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616 would make it legal to produce non-hazardous foods such as bread and jams in a home kitchen and sell them. The bill is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk awaiting his signature. Unfortunately, the bill is under attack by lobbyists who want to stop entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses. The League of Cities is itself in league with these anti-small business lobbyists and sent out the following letter:

August 31, 2012

The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor, State of California

RE: AB 1616 (Gatto) Food Safety: cottage food operations.
Request for Veto

Dear Governor Brown:

The League of California Cities respectfully requests your veto on AB 1616 (Gatto), which would require cities to issue permits to cottage food operations and require those operations to be deemed a permitted use of residential property for zoning purposes, local building, and fire codes.

While the League applauds the author’s attempt to encourage the growth of small businesses, this measure would single out these specific types of businesses for special treatment that other businesses do not receive. The League has a longstanding policy of protecting local zoning as a primary function of cities and an essential component of home rule. State policy should leave local siting and use decisions to the cities and not interfere with local prerogative. Unfortunately, AB 1616 would do just that by requiring local jurisdictions to either classify cottage food operations as a permitted use of residential property for zoning purposes or granting a nondiscretionary permit to use a residence as a cottage food operation. Given that this bill would allow businesses to be conducted out of the home, overall safety and particularly fire safety should be considered, but AB 1616 would deem these businesses residential for the purposes of the State Uniform Building Standards Code and local building and fire codes. This bill threatens to disturb neighbors that did not intend to locate their families next door to a business, deal with the traffic associated with a business, nor the smells that would permeate from a house. Local governments should be able to protect neighborhoods by regulating: hours of operation, the hours of on-site sales, inspections and advertising.

While many jurisdictions would welcome the opportunity to have cottage food businesses in their communities under the right circumstances, this bill wouldn’t give cities the ability to deny those operations permits and would limit the authority of cities to impose restrictions based upon health and safety considerations, such as the fire code. If the author could address the issue of local zoning by reintroducing this issue next year, then this legislation might have some beneficial policy effects.

We urge you to closely review the arguments we advance in opposition to this measure, and respectfully request that you Veto AB 1616.


Kirstin Kolpitcke
Legislative Representative

Lark Park, Deputy Legislative Secretary, Office of Governor Brown
Gareth Elliot, Legislative Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Jerry Brown

The League apparently wants to stand in the way of individuals, in a period of high unemployment, who want to start small businesses. We need to stop them. I urge you to take a moment and write a letter to Governor Brown saying that you would like California to join many other states around the nation that have made it possible to run a cottage food operation out of a home kitchen. Incidentally, many of those other states, such as Ohio, have far more liberal cottage food bills than the one proposed in California. You can write Governor Brown at:

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Actual letters are better than emails in this case.

Leave a comment


  1. Thank you SO much for this update. I’m a home baker and have been anxiously awaiting for the bill to pass. Not surprising that the lobbyists are trying to take it down. I’m writing my letter right now!

  2. I have sent a letter as well as an amazing homebaked carepakage to the Governor pleading with him to sign. As I have said before there is NO reason that California cannot join 32 other states in signing this law.I am a professional baker and I make NON HAZARDOUS desserts.We should have the same opportunity that larger buisnesses have and not have to suffer because we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars behind us.

  3. You know… I used to be 100% in favor of this bill, but now after examining it a bit more Im not 100% convinced now unless someone has some good counterpoints to what Im going to mention.

    The only apartment my wife and I lived in was connected to a family that used garlic apparently as their only food source. Im pretty sure they ate garlic for breakfast, lunch and dinner, drank garlic juice, at garlic ice cream (which is good) shampooed with garlic and probably brushed their teeth with garlic. People used to ask us if we had just eaten garlic thats how well the smell permeated. Its one thing to have someone baking cakes next door and smelling sweets, but what if it was something else, like say garlic 24/7? I know I sound like Im over exaggerating but you dont know these things unless you’ve lived next door.

    The next point is the fire code. Hey, no prob for people with education levels above 6th grade, but then you get these numskulls (how often do i get to say that!) who think they can make some extra cash but all they have is a charcoal grill which they decide to bring indoors. Again, an extreme, but they’ll come out of the woodwork.

    Finally, do I really want a bustling cottage business or businesses next door to me? I live in a relatively peaceful community and we have zoning that forbids companies being run out of homes in my city. Will this override that? I think the Dervaes family is an exception to this cottage business idea as they put a lot of thought and effort into what they do and should be applauded. This bill could again bring quick buckers out of the woodwork. One example… since I live in an old district the streets are super narrow. When cars drive by someone has to pull to the side of the street to let one or the other pass. About two years ago some trashy people a block down decided to have a weekly yard sale in their front yard. This already violates city code which allows for, I dont know, 2 to 4 yard sales a year. The traffic jam this created every saturday and sunday morning has been terrible. The city didnt do anything. So the family got greedy and extended their weekly yard sales to thursday through sunday. Still, the city did nothing. It wasnt until recently when neighbors got together and we brought it up at a city council meeting. The problem went away. BUT… what if a DAILY cottage business was right there in place of the yard sale? What if a few of them were right there? I dont know if I would enjoy living where we do, the one opportunistic yard sale was bad enough.

    Im all for what the cottage bill premise of being able to make breads, jams, etc and sell them. I have zero prob with that. I do think allowing cottage residential businesses like these could create more problems that people dont fully realize. From my angle I say bake, create, stir and then have a central place to sell them… weekly at the park, at the farmers markets, etc. Logistically it makes a lot more sense.

    • Selling at a Farmers Markets logistically may make more sense. BUT you CANNOT sell at a Farmers Market unless your food is prepared at a commercial kitchen. By the time you make it to the Farmers Market to sell you have already paid $25-50 an hour to prepare it. Hence you are already in the hole unless you really sell A LOT. I ‘m sorry,it sounds like you have had some BAD experiences. But, this is the age of internet purchase and delivery. I personally am not planning on making “pick up” my mode of delivery. In fact MOST of the stuff I sell will be delivered by a professional delivery company. There are 31 states that have a cottage law. There have reportedly NOT been any hazards or complaints. At some point people need to be trusted that they will be responsible with this bill and let people like myself not have to pay an arm and a leg to make a profit off their passion. We will always have numbskulls. But I hope they’re bad reputation won’t ruin it for the rest of us.

  4. I make jam and bake bread like no one’s business. In fact, I thought about starting my own business doing just that. But in the end, I decided to make soap instead because it didn’t require a certified kitchen nor all the government interference that seems to prevail in the food industry.

    I really wish that such a bill would be passed in my state!

    PS: To, you probably already have a cottage industry right next door and don’t even know it. With the extreme popularity of Etsy and other homecraft online stores and auctions there are more and more people who are trying to make a go of their own little cottage industry. My soap business is small, but almost entirely online. The only way my neighbors would know what I was doing is if I told them. How do you think a jam or bread baking business would be any different?

  5. Sure… Etsy products, website design, etc can easily be done at home… I have no problem with things like this. You and I probably dont have a big sign on our house with a 7am to 6pm store front with cars and people coming and going all day long. Totally different then a semi-permanent yard sale.

    You said it yourself.. you are almost entirely online. This is awesome. Whether its soap or breads… besides the internet, having a place to sell like a park or farmers market for cottage industry people like you and I makes more sense than accepting people to our front doors.

    Again, Im not against jams or breads… Im against a bunch of “stores” popping up on all sides of me creating a traffic nightmare. Residential should remain for residents.

  6. The zoning issue is a red herring. It’s already illegal to have more than one business oriented visitor an hour to your house in most places. The Cottage Food Bill does not change this. People using their kitchen to make and sell goods would not be selling out of their house.

  7. As someone who already owns a home business selling Avon, I can say it can be done with little to no traffic to your door. I, personally, don’t have anyone into my home as I have a son on the spectrum and my home is rarely presentable to those who don’t live the same life.

    I would love to expand my business to include jams, produce, etc… all without customers coming over~ I’m happy to deliver~ personal service to their doorstep!!!

  8. I have been baking and selling artisan breads for almost a year from my home and fortunately I have not been hassled by our local health department even though they know about it. From speaking with the health inspector, I got the impression that they have more concern over how the new law will be enforced and how it will impact their already over-worked dept. than anything else.

    • Mark Stambler, who was one of the main people behind this law, has already said that he wants to work with our local health department (LA County) to develop a good working relationship. I’ll post more about this in the coming months.

  9. I’ a little confused here. It states no cream. Where does milk or even half and half fit in? Breads, cookies etc do not require these ingredients for the most part but cakes do. I know for a fact a large number of cake bakers have been chewing at the bit for this law so they may start legally baking and selling there cakes to individuals not farmers markets or Internet. Weddings etc. Is this law approving these type of operations and ingredients?

    • Hi Wittylorrie–sorry to take so long getting back to you. As of now the bill (signed into law last week) states, “Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas.” It goes on to say that the State Public Health Officer, “may add or delete food
      products to or from the list.” No mention of milk, so this will, no doubt, be an issue in the coming months as the health department figures out how to enforce the rules. I’ll keep you posted and pass on your question to my friend Mark Stambler who is keeping an eye on the situation.

  10. The law has passed!! It becomes effective 1/1/13. Thank God! Gives us bakers a chance to make some extra money to help support out families.

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