Planners set eyes on home cooks

People who sell will need to register with the city

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 14, 2013 

People in Los Banos making non-refrigerated foods for sale in their home will soon have to register with the city.

The California Homemade Food Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, mandates that cities set up regulations to allow cottage food operations.

On Wednesday, the Planning Commission gave city staff direction on how to begin crafting an ordinance regulating the cottage food industry.

Cottage food operations are permitted to produce baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, tortillas, brittle, toffee, fruit empanadas, fruit tamales, jams, jellies and other such foodstuffs.

City Attorney William Vaughn said the city has limited oversight.

"This is state law and they decided cottage food operations are appropriate in residential areas," Vaughn said. "Certain areas where you do have power are noise control, parking, traffic, concentration (crowd control)."

Vaughn also gave specific examples of what the city can control.

"No exterior alterations can be made to your house advertising a jam and jelly shop, limit walk-up customers, make sure you have people cooking in the kitchen so you don't have people cooking in the back yard on the barbecue," Vaughn said. "We want to expand the areas we (can) expand."

Cottage food operators are permitted to sell the food themselves or sell their goods to business people who offer it to the public. The food can also be sold directly from a cottage food operator's home.

Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald said under state law, the health department will regulate food safety standards. But, Fitzgerald said, the health department likely will only investigate a cottage food business if there is a complaint.

The commission directed staff to set up a process that would be a hybrid between vendor and land use permits, meaning applicants would have strict criteria that will be reviewed regularly but the home only has to be approved as a cottage food operation once.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Chandra Lee said she knows there are many cottage food operations that already exist in Los Banos. Fitzgerald said once an ordinance is written, the city will have to conduct an outreach campaign to get cottage food operators to register with the city.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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