Home Kitchen Operations

home kitchen

 

Prior to 2012, under the California Retail Food Code (CRFC), food sold to consumers was required to be made at an inspected commercial kitchen. When the California Homemade Food Act, known as “cottage food operations”, was enacted in 2013, certain low-risk food products that do not require refrigeration, such as bread, pie, fruit jam, and dried food, could be made in private home kitchens, and sold to consumers under limited conditions.

On September 18, 2018, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 626 (AB 626), California Retail Food Code: Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations. This bill established a “microenterprise home kitchen operation” (MEHKO) as a new category of retail food facility and required a program to be approved by local jurisdictions prior to MEHKOs being able to operate or be permitted. 

 

 Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO)

On September 18, 2018, Assembly Bill 626 (AB626), California Retail Food Code (CRFC): Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO), was signed by Governor Brown. This bill amends state law, the California Retail Food Code, and establishes a “microenterprise home kitchen operation” as a new type of retail food facility. Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations, referred to as MEHKOs, are like a mini restaurant in a private residence operated by the resident.   

In 2019, Assembly Bill 377 was signed into law and introduced amendments to the existing law pertaining to Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (Assembly Bill 626, 2018). Previously, under AB 626, individual cities and counties had the ability to opt-in or opt-out of a program at their discretion.  AB 377 changes the authorizing agency for MEHKOs to only the governing body of the local enforcement agency.  In the San Diego region, the Department of Environmental Health, Food and Housing Division is the local enforcement agency, and the governing body is the County Board of Supervisors. This bill does not allow for an individual city jurisdiction to decide whether to opt-in or opt-out of a program for their own jurisdiction.  To date, MEHKOs have not been authorized in the San Diego region.

AB 377 also added some food safety provisions for MEHKOs including: requirements for cleaning and sanitizing of utensils and equipment, oversight by the facility operator to ensure no cross contamination occurs by individual in the food preparation areas that are not part of the MEHKO operation, restrictions to prevent outdoor food storage, and requirements that any advertising specify that food was made in a home kitchen. However, the newly enacted law did not address potential health and foodborne illness risks, placed restrictions on the number of inspections that can be conducted, and did not address community impacts that could result from the authorization of a MEHKO program.

For questions regarding the new law, please refer to the MEHKO FAQs  or contact Heather Buonomo at (858) 505-6851 or by email at heather.buonomo@sdcounty.ca.gov

 

 Cottage Food Operations (CFO)

Prior to 2012, under the California Retail Food Code (CRFC), food sold to consumers was required to be made at an inspected commercial kitchen. When the California Homemade Food Act, known as “cottage food operations”, was enacted in 2013, certain low-risk food products that do not require refrigeration, such as bread, pie, fruit jam, and dried food, could be made in private home kitchens, and sold to consumers under limited conditions.

The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) has recently implemented operational changes to our Cottage Food Program.  These changes were made to help maintain low registration/permit fees and to further streamline the application review process for potential operators.  New applicants are required to submit at least one product label for each food category sold and the initial fee includes the review of up to ten (10) product labels.  Once a registration or permit is issued, operators can add products throughout the year without prior product label review by DEH.  For those vendors who wish to ensure that all of their product labels meet the Cottage Food Labeling Requirements, DEH will review product labels beyond the initial ten (10) labels or as new product labels are added throughout the year to verify product labels meet the labeling requirements.  The fee for this optional label review of any labels beyond the initial ten (10) labels will be assessed at our current hourly rate, available in ½ hour increments. 

Cottage food operators must ensure that all of the products they are selling are on the Cottage Food Operations (Approved Food List) as maintained by the California Department of Public Health, and meet the labeling requirements for all products beyond those reviewed by DEH.  Additional fees will apply for investigation of valid complaints and re-inspections related to improperly labeled products or unapproved products offered for sale.

All cottage food operators will have to meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health & Safety Code related to preparing foods that are on the approved food list. A food processor training course must be completed within three months of approval of the cottage food operation (CFO). The CFO must implement sanitary conditions, maintain food labels in accordance with federal and state regulations and comply with established gross annual sales limits.

Additional information from the California Department of Public Health may be found here.

 CFO Application Submission
Please complete the appropriate application packet and either submit in person at our Kearny Mesa Location (5500 Overland Ave. San Diego, CA 92123), or by email FHDCottageFood@sdcounty.ca.gov
NOTE: Please remember to submit all necessary application information to avoid delays in the approval process.

 How to Pay Online
Pay Online at www.dehpay.com - click on the DEH tab. If you have any questions regarding payment instructions, please contact (858) 694-3614.

Please DO NOT submit payment with your application. Once the application is approved, DEH will send you a payment invoice with instructions for making payment.

 

 Documents and Resources

Fillable documents may not work in all browsers. To ensure proper functionality of the fillable PDF application packets, please download the PDF to your computer prior to filling it out. Ensure you have the most updated version of Adobe Acrobat. Once completed, email the documents to FHDCottageFood@sdcounty.ca.gov


Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKOs) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):  PDF
Alcoholic Beverage Control FAQs: PDF
(More documents to follow pending city/county program opt in.)

Do You Qualify as a Cottage Food Operation?   Flow Chart Screening PDF
Application Submittal Requirements Checklist: PDF
Class A CFO Registration Packet: Full Packet   |   Application Only
Class B CFO Permit Packet: Full Packet   |   Application Only
Class B Pre-Inspection Checklist: PDF
Cottage Food Operation Inspection Report:  PDF
Label Requirements Guidance Document: PDF
Label Requirements for Allergens:  PDF
Additional Label Submittal Application:  PDF
San Diego Cottage Food Potable Water Requirements:   PDF
San Diego County Cottage Food FAQs: PDF
Training Options:   State Food Processor Course  or  San Diego County Approved Courses
Zoning Requirements:   Permit/License Requirements from your City of Residence

California Department of Public Health:  Cottage Food Operations (Approved Food List)
California Cottage Food FAQs:  English   
Cottage Food Law:
  California Health & Safety Code §114365-§114365.6


Should you have any questions or comments, please contact our Food and Housing Duty Specialist at (858) 505-6900 or email FHDCottageFood@sdcounty.ca.gov.