Prior to 2012, the California Retail Food Code (CRFC), required all food sold to consumers to be made at an inspected commercial kitchen. With the passage of the California Homemade Food Act known as “cottage food operations” (CFO) in 2013, certain low risk (i.e. shelf-stable, non-perishable) food products such as bread, fruit jams, and dried fruit could be made in private home kitchens and be sold to consumers under limited conditions.
On September 18, 2018, then Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 626 (AB 626), making an amendment to the California Retail Food Code: Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations which established “microenterprise home kitchen operation” (MEHKO) as a new category of retail food facility. MEHKOs are restaurants in a private residence operated by the resident and are allowed to produce a very broad variety of complex food products that the CFO permit does not allow.
MEHKOs have several restrictions. For example, MEHKOS may only sell foods from the permitted residence and not to other businesses, or the resident or their employee can deliver the food to the buyer.
MEHKOs are not allowed to:
1) Produce/sell raw milk or raw milk products
2) Sell or serve raw oysters
3) Conduct processes that require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan.
4) Manufacture ice cream or other dairy products
5) Serve alcohol or food which contains alcohol without an appropriate license from the California Department Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) program.
On October 7, 2019, AB 377, which made minor changes to the original bill in order to provide for more regulatory clarity was passed.
Under this new bill, the County will have the ability to opt in and authorize a local MEHKO program for the entire jurisdiction, including all fifteen cities within the County. The law gives the county “full discretion” to authorize the MEHKOs program in their jurisdiction. Until the county authorizes these types of operations, MEHKOs will not be issued a health permit by the Department of Environmental Health (DEH). MEHKOs are not allowed to operate without a health permit issued by DEH.
At this time, DEH continues to evaluate the options regarding the implementation of the MEHKOs program and potential implementation options within Santa Clara County.
Permitted CFOs are allowed to prepare food in a home environment and need to adhere to the specific regulatory requirements for their permit.
Please check back frequently as additional information is available.
Full details of AB 626 and AB 377 can be found at the links below.
Please contact our office at 408-918-3400 if you have any questions.