Home Chef Revival! California Prepares to Legalize Homemade Food
March 28th, 2012 – Jill Ettinger
The California Homemade Food Act, a bill that was proposed last year, is up for vote by the California State Assembly’s health committee on April 10th. If approved, the bill would make California the 33rd state to allow the sale of certain homemade food items without the costs of permits or the rental of professional kitchens imposed on the purveyors. The bill would also encourage locally produced food, while keeping money circulating within local communities.
Introduced to the Assembly by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, the bill is being supported by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, the Los Angeles Bread Bakers and a community garden project called Proyecto Jardin; and, it comes just as industrialized, processed foods containing questionable ingredients—like the ammonium hydroxide drenched pink slime beef product that was intended for distribution to schools across the nation—have spurred a movement geared towards healthier, lower-impact food options. Processed, genetically modified and unhealthy fast/junk food products, like pink slime, have been linked to a rising number of food-borne infections, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
And even though the mainstream food options are sold at a fraction of the cost of what a home baker might offer, interest is certainly there. The move towards small-scale food has emerged en masse: Restaurants now feature locally grown or wild foraged ingredients, and a record number of regional farmers markets are cropping up, as is interest in cultivating sustenance from home, rooftop, urban and indoor gardens.
While the incidences of food-borne illnesses emerging out of factory farms and industrialized foods are on the rise, the homemade food cottage industry has been targeted as a potential breeding ground for bacterial outbreaks and health risks as well. If approved, the California Homemade Food Act would restrict the sale of homemade food items to less risky foods such as bread, fruit preserves, honey and other dried goods, but could pave the way for access to more foods made by people within the community, rather than factories. According to the petition, “Given the large and growing ‘eat local’ movement in California and the environmental and economic benefits of local-community-based food production resources, a Cottage Food Law is long overdue in California.”
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