Sunday, September 23, 2012

California Homemade Food Act Passed

Last week, the Governor of California signed the California Homemade Act, A.B. 1616 into Law. That sounds like great news, but my sentiments run more along a bloger's post written on the subject back in July, where he said " thanks... for giving us what we should already have...?"

Here's the text of his post; the bold emphasis is mine.

"The legislation is meant to offer people a bit of freedom taken away by the Department of Agriculture that decided moms and sweet little old ladies who fed their families for generations aren’t as smart as the closed-door factories producing our food on conveyor belts, soaking foodstuffs in preservatives, irradiating and pasteurizing to the point of needing “natural flavors” to make the food product taste like eating.

How ludicrous is the current state of food prep and selling due to restrictive regulation? As of right now, my wife could make a loaf of bread and some blackberry jam. A friend could offer to buy that loaf of bread and jar of jam. But if that bread and that jam are not produced in a professional kitchen, that purchase would be considered a misdemeanor in California. Never mind that both parties know each other. Never mind that Rachel is certified by Sacramento County as a Master Food Preserver. Nor that she is an engineer and “wired” a bit more to the, er, meticulous side. Nor mind our kitchen is as spotless as any professional kitchen. Doesn’t matter. The friend who wishes to buy that jam and bread- no matter how much trust there is in Rachel’s food prep, no matter how confident in Rachel, no matter that the friend sampled a loaf and jam from the same batches- that food is ”bad” and cannot be legally sold. My wife, food bootlegger. Of course, she can give it to the friend, that’s ok. But exchange $10 for it, and the food is unfit to eat because it hasn’t been given the Department of Agriculture’s stamp of approval. Snap on the cuffs. Go to jail. Do not collect $200. (Actually, pay a fine, you incompetent and unsanitary food producer, you.)

It makes you think, “Hey, we need a law that would make such a sale legal.” Hence the The California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616. Many are excited about this. I’m not as excited for the simple reason that I don’t feel grateful to the powers that be for “giving us” (through this legislation) a reduced portion of the naturally held right we once had- the right to sell what we make.  I’m not excited about the CDA holding the underlying assumption that we need to be protected from ourselves and our neighbor’s poor sanitation in the kitchen. It’s insulting, patronizing, if not outright degrading. In its way, such over-reaching regulation has made people frighteningly uneducated about what they are eating- its health and quality.

While I half-heartedly support the spirit behind the bill, the other half of my heart holds onto the outrage of being patted on the head, handed a crouton, and told I should be grateful for the fine loaf of bread I’ve just been given." Source

There are similar laws in at least 33 other states (including my state of Virginia), none of which have reported a food-borne illness from non-potentially hazardous foods. In Virginia, home kitchens have to be inspected, and must have a separate food storage area for all the ingredients used in a product, including refrigeration. 

If a product requires a teaspoon of salt, you cannot use the regular box of salt in your kitchen, but have a separate box in a separate area. Further, each and every product must have the exact recipe submitted for approval, and have a USDA approved label. It is a very tedious process, and probably the fees are high. As much as I might have a market for my biscotti, I'd fail going through the hoops.

I'm all for Food Safety, particularly in my own kitchen for my own consumption. However, I would never buy home canned goods like green beans (which are not allowed by Law anyway) because I'd never know if they were properly canned to prevent botulism.

"Prior to the California Homemade Food Act, outdated statutes and local ordinances strictly prohibited everyone from home-based, artisanal bread bakers to small-scale, jam and preserve vendors from selling their products. Now, cottage food producers will be permitted to produce and sell every-day foods such as breads, tortillas, dry roasted nuts and legumes, cookies, granola, churros, jams, jellies and other fruit preserves to their communities. 

Producers choosing to sell directly to consumers will register with the local health department, and those choosing to sell to local retail shops, such as the neighborhood coffee shop or corner store, will be subject to initial inspection and permitting by the local health department. All producers will also be required to complete a food processor course, verify that the home kitchen meets specific standards, and disclose on the product label that the product was made in a home kitchen." Source


  1. Well, this is progress of a sort... after a career in molding our laws, I still consider "the law" as opposed to justice, a blunt instrument. Looks like somethings never change. A lot like freedom, we will need to win it over and over again.

    1. I labored under the delusion in my early years that the Law and Courts meant Justice... far from the Reality!

  2. Did You Read The Law
    it was also about The Obese problem in this counrty it is about time someone in a power place took a look at how much crap they are tring to pass off as food like glycol and melamine and other crap they put into the food supply in this country not to say anything about all the sugars of many types that they say are good but youbody turns them into a differant sugar after you eat it. I'm dam glad someone in this country is doing something about it!
    Sorry For The Rant! I'm just A Food Rebel I do Make Cheese And Cured Meat For My Own Food Supply
    Maybe If People Stopped buying that Crap Food they may start making it better

  3. Sounds like total bullshit. I don't trust most of the food in the food stores today. I suspect most of the ingredients are hidden poisons (ie: high fructose corn syrup). I guess I'm going to be a food outlaw, making my own. A garden outlaw, having my own food producing garden. Imagine if the the natural foods/organic foods industry held all the $$ and power.

  4. Sadly, the America we live in today is far down the path taken by most other "democracies" in the world where everything that is not expressly permitted is automatically forbidden. It amazes me that Californians are delighted that the state has decided to "permit" them to eat their own homemade food. They ought, rather, to be outraged that their government ever made the consumption of such foods illegal!

    Rather than pursue the course of passing laws to make eating your own food legal, perhaps we ought to be pursuing the course of Alvin Schlangen, the Minnesota farmer who defied the state's laws against selling raw milk. Fortunately, when he was tried for breaking this ridiculous intrusion between farmer and consumer, he was found not guilty on all counts by a jury that knew what their role was in the jury system - not just deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused but also deciding whether or not the law in question is just or reasonable.

    It seems hard that in addition to earning a living, taking care of our homes and families and raising our own food, we also have to spend a great deal of time keeping an eye on our elected representatives and their bureaucratic minions who spend most of their time, it seems, figuring out ways to make our lives more difficult.


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