Bill would turn homemade food into legal industry

SAN JOSE, Calif.

"This fruit originated in China 3,000 years ago. It's called a 'sweet lemon' in China. It's a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon," Karen Morss explained to ABC7 News. Eight years ago, she planted 40 Meyer Lemon trees on a three-quarter acre lot next to her house. She sells the lemons, but what she'd really like to do is sell home-crafted marmalade made in small batches in her home. "It's an enormous market potential. People want to know that their food is produced with love and when you buy from a small grower or a small producer, there's been a lot of love added to that product," she said.

However, selling home-crafted food products is illegal in California. Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto has crafted a bill to turn homemade food into a legal cottage industry. "This will be a tremendous help, I think, to entrepreneurs who choose to enter the food production business. I don't think it's the job of government to necessarily make a small business into a big business. It's our duty to not hurt that business and make sure that we don't put forth too much red tape for that small business and allow them to grow," he says.

The prepared and packaged foods you see at farmer's markets have to be made in commercial kitchens. John Alonso, who sells tamales and bread, says he will welcome the competition. "I think it'll give some other business a start which they would not have been able to get a start, and maybe create some new businesses in California that we need," he says.

What about food safety? It's not an issue for at least one family. "My home is pretty safe and my friends' homes are pretty safe. And when you have that direct personal contact with the person, I feel like there's more trust," San Jose street market customer Craig Scull says.

The California law will replace a myriad of county restrictions. There seems to be consensus among consumers in California that the bill is a good idea. It already received bipartisan support in the assembly. Maybe if the Senate does the same thing, it might change the whole image of intractability in Sacramento.

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