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Baker's Bills: Is My Homemade Food Biz Legal?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on September 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'Baker's Bills' are the cute name for laws that allow individuals to sell homemade food to the public. More formally known as cottage food laws, they permit small-time entrepreneurs to sell food made in home kitchens rather than commercial spaces.

So far 32 states have laws that apply to the sale of home-baked goods. They generally limit the amount of money these businesses can make before they have to upgrade to commercial kitchen space.

California is the latest state to consider implementing laws permitting the sale of homemade food. But not everyone is jumping for joy.

For aspiring food truck owners and farmer's market sellers, baker's bills can be vital. Renting commercial kitchen space is expensive and can be hard to find.

Home baker-friendly laws allow these entrepreneurs to test their ideas at home and build a small following before shelling out big bucks to increase their production. But baking in a home kitchen has risks.

To minimize the potential for food-borne illness, the California law only applies to homemade foods that don't need to be heated, refrigerated, or frozen, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. That still allows breads, jams, candies, and other room temperature foods.

It also means foods likely to spread illness won't be sold unless they're prepared in a commercial kitchen.

But food safety advocates aren't the only ones who are worried about laws allowing the sale of homemade foods. Established business owners are also wary.

Some established food producers welcome the idea because they realize how know how hard it to raise the money to start these kinds of businesses.

But some companies feel like the bills are unfair, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. They think letting small producers work out of their homes will allow them to undersell established companies that need to pay for space and staff.

It's true that small food producers who take advantage of these laws have lower costs for rent. But they must still pay taxes and other business registration costs.

Just because the foods approved by these baker's bills are generally less likely to cause illness doesn't mean the makers won't be liable for food poisoning. Any food producer is held to the same standard of care for ensuring that their products are safe for consumption.

The California law, named the California Homemade Food Act, has already passed the legislature and is waiting for Governor Jerry Brown's signature. If approved it could mean more homemade goods on the market. Sounds good to us.

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