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ABA 1616, The California Homemade Food Act: What You Need to Know

Bread for sale

Chris Gold, via FlickrBread for sale

On Saturday, Jan. 5, the Silverlake Library held a public meeting for people to learn more about the new cottage food law, ABA 1616. The law allows homemade, non-potentially hazardous food to be sold by home cooks to the public.

When bread baker Mark Stambler's homemade bread operation -- he was selling in a few local markets -- was shut down by health inspectors in 2011, Stambler decided to do something about it. Instead of crying in to his spilled spelt, Stambler researched cottage food laws, which led him to the Sustainable Economies Law Center. After some discussion, Stambler and the folks at the Center decided that a California cottage food law needed to be written. More than 20 other states have cottage food laws, why shouldn't we?

Thanks to the help of Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-CA) the law -- which includes two types of permits -- was written, passed and went in to effect on Jan. 1.

ABA 1616 is being implemented on a county by county basis and this information only applies to L.A., the only county to have enacted this so far.

So what does the law mean to you, the aspiring Cottage Food Operator (CFO) and which type of permit should you get, if any? There is a lot more to it than what we are able to cover here, but this is a good place to start. The Department of Public Health has a FAQ page with lots of additional information.

The "Class A" CFO can only sell cottage foods directly to the consumer and is required to register with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and submit a "self-certification compliance checklist". - LA County of Public Health.

Simply put, you can sell non-perishables at bake sales, farmers markets, from your home and at temporary events. The Class A permit can be obtained by simply filling out a form and checklist online. They do not accept credit cards, so you need to mail in the form and a check for $65, or go in person to the Department of Public Health. The permit stipulates that you are only selling approved foods made in your personal home kitchen (no other rooms, and not outdoors) and any related storage must be specifically for the business and nothing else.

You cannot sell your food outside of Los Angeles County (until we have reciprocity agreements with other California counties, which have not yet been established) and you, personally, must be the person selling it to the end user.

With an A permit, you cannot sell wholesale, online or have more than one employee. You also cannot have more than $35,000 gross sales, annually. That number will increase next year to $45,000 and will be capped at $50, 000 in 2015.

A cottage food law course is being created, and when it is implemented, all permit holders will be required to take it within 90 days of the permit being issued.

A "Class B" CFO can sell cottage foods directly to the consumer, as with Class A and may also sell indirectly to consumers within Los Angeles County. A "Class B" CFO is required to register and obtain a permit from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The B permit allows for wholesale sales. Meaning, you can sell your product to restaurants, bakeries, food trucks and retail stores, including grocery stores, in Los Angeles County. The current cost for the permit is currently $194 and requires a home visit from the health inspector.

All products need an approved label with the common name of the product, the words "Made in a Home Kitchen" and an address. If you have a business phone number that is listed in the phone book with an address, you can put that number instead of your home address. Your permit number and the ingredients must also be included.

Once you have all of that established, there is still the matter of being a real, registered business. You need to be paying taxes. If you rent your home, the lease must allow for a home business. You should check with your municipal zoning office to make sure home businesses are allowed where you live. You should also be insured and have a food handlers license. None of those are prerequisites, but without them, the permit won't help you much.

No one said starting a business is easy, but this new law allows you to start small and grow.

See more:

Governor Brown Signs California Homemade Food Act Into Effect

Mark Stambler Hosts Cottage Food Educational Meeting


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