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Board paves way for legalization of small home kitchens

 

Last updated 9/23/2021 at 5:35pm

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Home-based food operations, like tamale making, will be legal under a new program in San Diego County.

Katie Cadiao

County of San Diego Communications Office

The County Board of Supervisors voted today to move forward with plans to legalize microenterprise home kitchen operations, or MEHKOs. MEHKOs are defined by California law as a small retail food facility, operated from a private home.

The state allowed local jurisdictions to begin authorizing MEHKOs in 2018. So far, seven California cities and counties, including Santa Barbara and Riverside, have legalized these home-based food operations.

The ordinance would legalize local home kitchens that prepare, sell and serve up to 30 meals per day, or 60 meals per week. MEHKO operators would be allowed to earn a maximum annual revenue of $50,000.

MEHKO menus would be restricted to items that can be prepared and sold the same day and would exclude items that contain raw milk or raw shellfish. Meals could be served in the home, picked up by the customer, or delivered by the MEHKO operator.

MEHKO operators would be required to obtain a valid health permit from the county and submit to an initial inspection and annual inspections afterwards. MEHKO operators would also be required to obtain a Food Manager Certificate and any of their employees would be required to get a Food Handler's card.

The ordinance would create economic opportunities for small-scale, home-cooking operations, which are primarily operated by women, immigrants, and people of color. It would also legalize food businesses that have been making and selling food from home illegally.

The item was brought to the board by Vice Chair Nora Vargas and Supervisor Joel Anderson. County staff now have 120 days to return to the board with a draft of the ordinance.

 

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