Cross-Contact Concern: New State Law Permits the Sale of Food Prepared in Home Kitchens

Microenterprise Home Kitchen

The bill signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown sounds innocuous given the legalese of its title: “AB 626: California Retail Food Code: microenterprise home kitchen operations.” But the legislation – set to take effect January 1, 2019 – may prove to be the bane of food allergy sufferers.

The law establishes a new kind of food facility, the microenterprise home kitchen, defined as a “food facility that is operated by a resident in a private home where food is stored, handled, and prepared for, and may be served to, consumers”.

The law is intended to spur new businesses by helping small scale food establishments gain a foothold in the state’s economy. Prior to enaction, the practice of selling food made at home was illegal due to health concerns. Now, small business entrepreneurs will be able to apply for a permit to sell meals made at home provided they sell fewer than 60 meals per week and have gross annual sales of $50,000 or less.

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The result will be many new food options made in kitchens with fewer restrictions than current food establishments, and that implies additional opportunities for the cross-contact of allergens from other dishes sold by the facility as well as those from the family’s own meals.

It remains to be seen what effect the law will have on the allergic community, but we urge readers with food allergies to be especially suspect of foods made in home kitchens unless they have done their due diligence and are confident of the proprietor’s allergen handling procedures.

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