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.