Friday, March 2, 2012

Cottage Food Movement

About a year ago, a small town in Maine declared that its residents would enjoy full food sovereignty within the town borders. As long as food was being produced by a local resident, the town declared, it could be sold or traded to any other resident even if such a sale would normally be prohibited by state or federal laws or regulations. You can read more about the food sovereignty ordinance here and here. Sedgwick's ordinance is based on this document.

Four other towns in the same Maine county followed Sedgwick's lead, putting the county at the forefront of the food sovereignty movement in the United States. But many states have taken steps to ease the rules about where food has to be prepared in order to be sold. Thirty states now have some sort of "cottage food" regulations on the books, allowing small-scale producers to sell food products produced in their homes or other, non-regulated spaces. Some limit it to baked goods. Others specify how large the business can grow financially before it can no longer be considered a cottage industry.

(This blog is not advocating for or against passage of the law. We're providing information and this image was available.)

Now California is getting into the action. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, of Los Angeles, introduced the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616), which would allow certain home-produced foods to be sold in California. Not all homemade foods would be legal to sell if the law passes: foods considered to be high risks for food-borne illnesses are not included.

If the California Homemade Food Act passes, we could be seeing a wide range of new producers and products at the Crescent City Farmers Market and elsewhere. There could be local jams and jellies for sale from sea to shining sea.

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