Mariza Ruelas only wanted a recipe for a cake. Now, the single mother of six faces a year in county jail.1
According to the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office, Ruelas and several others belonging to a Facebook group frequently broke the law by selling homemade meals without a license. Could this really be a crime?
The California Homemade Food Act of 2013
California law allows people to sell certain foods made in their own kitchens. These operations are called “Cottage Food Operations” (CFO), and are strictly governed by the California Homemade Food Act of 2013 (AB 1616).
The group of laws that make up the act contain several regulations, including:
- Restricting the kinds of foods that can be sold
- Requiring operators of CFOs to complete a food processing course from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and
- Approval from the local planning and zoning department in the city or county where you plan to offer food for sale.
Under the Act, the types of foods that can be sold are generally those that do not need refrigeration, and are not made of animal products, such as chicken, fish or beef. So, while you can sell baked goods like cookies or breads, you cannot sell chicken teriyaki or, as Ruelas is accused of selling, a dish like ceviche, which is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with chili peppers.
Additionally, all cottage food products must be properly labeled in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sec. 343 et seq.). The label must include information about who sold the food, what its ingredients are, and warnings to people with food allergies such as shellfish, wheat, or peanuts.
What Happens If I Sell Food Without Following the Homemade Food Act? (HS 114381)
Violations of the various laws that make up the California Homemade Food Act are considered misdemeanor offenses. In most cases, if you are convicted of violating the Homemade Food Act, you face serious consequences.
Ruelas, for example, is facing up to 364 days in county jail for selling food that is not allowed under the Act. Additionally, violations can result in fines and other penalties.
Contact the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich for Help
If you sell food you make at home, you could be charged with violating the California Home Food Act. Should that happen, you will need an experienced an aggressive attorney to defend you against these charges. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been defending clients against all types of criminal charges for more than 35 years. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina and Torrance, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you nearby no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/07/undercover-sting-nabs-california-mother-selling-ceviche-through-facebook-group/. href=”#ref1″>↩