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Health Concerns Prompt Tighter Controls On Homemade Foods In Riverside County

The new county ordinance takes effect in 30 days.

Riverside County supervisors today approved an ordinance regulating home-based chefs who sell their goods to the public, mandating that they obtain permits and undergo basic training on food preparation and handling.

In a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor John Tavaglione absent, the board enacted a measure defining so-called "cottage food" operations and establishing the conditions under which they're allowed to conduct business.

The ordinance takes effect in 30 days.

Cottage foods were placed on the state's list of public health concerns with the passage of Assembly Bill 1616, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in September. The statute requires that counties establish standards for cottage food makers and require them to be licensed.

Cottage foods generally include custards, meat fillings, candies, dried fruits, cereals, herbs, nuts, roasted coffees, dried teas and baked goods without cream, according to the county Department of Environmental Health.

Under the ordinance, there are two classes of cottage food operators. Class "A" is defined as a home-based cook who engages in sales to an established clientele or at events, such as a temporary booth at a sports venue.

Class "B" is defined as an operator who sells indirectly or directly to a "third-party retail food facility," according to environmental health documents.

County officials said that a class A operator will be exempt from inspections unless there are consumer complaints about products. However, class B operators will be subject to an initial inspection of their preparation areas -- kitchens -- as well as annual inspections.

Class A permits will cost $72.50 each; class B certificates will cost $290. Permits will have to be renewed annually.

All cottage food makers will be required to meet minimum basic food handling standards defined in the California Health and Safety Code. Regulations include keeping utensils and surfaces clean; keeping children or potentially contagious people out of the preparation area; frequent hand- washing; and no smoking.

All operators will need to complete a food processor course within three months of registering with the county.

According to officials, cottage foods must be properly labeled, using the words "Made in a Home Kitchen" or similar language to be in compliance with the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Permit-holders who commit violations could face fines ranging from $100 to $500. --City News Service

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