Mark Stambler turned activist after the government shut down his business- selling homemade bread. However, after drafting a food act, he has overturned the decision, making it legal for home based selling of food produce.
In his Los Angeles home, Stambler had been baking loaves of French bread for decades. He used traditional methods, milled the grain himself, steamed the loaves, and even built a wood-fired oven in his own backyard. Although it initially started as a hobby, after winning first place at the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair, Stambler soon came to realise that his passion could be turned into a home business.
From this vision came Pagnol Boulanger, which turned into a successful business in a short space of time as word of mouth spread, and Stambler even got a profile in The Los Angeles Times in June 2011, with a full-page feature. However, the profile soon got the attention of officials, and he claimed that the health department “descended like a ton of bricks on the two stores that were selling my bread…they could no longer sell my bread.” Following this, a health department inspector arrived at his home to make sure that “no bread baking was taking place.” This incident is what prompted him to become an activist.
After researching other states’ cottage food laws, which allow homemade food to be sold, he soon learnt that to qualify as a cottage food, it must be designated by the state as “non-potentially hazardous”, meaning that it has a low risk of spreading bacteria. He then received a phone call from a reader of his profile named Mike Gatto, who reached out to help him and other small businesses. Together they drafted the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) to legalise cottage food, which turned out to be overwhelmingly popular with lawmakers, and meant that it passed the California State Assembly 60 to 16 and then unanimously passed the state Senate in August 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown praised AB 1616 as a way to “make it easier for people to do business in California”.
After the law went into effect in January 2013, Stambler became the first person in Los Angeles County to sell homemade food legally, before gaining back consumers of his bread. Now, there are almost 270 cottage food businesses in the Los Angeles County, and over 1,200 homemade food businesses have been approved statewide. Under the California Homemade Food Act, local governments are not allowed to ban cottage food businesses that are based in private homes. Instead, entrepreneurs simply have to take an online “food processor course” which will allow them to sell their produce from their homes, as long as they are properly labeling their goods and practicing common-sense sanitation when cooking and baking. Those who want to start their own cottage food business legally simply need to register or obtain a permit, as either a Class A or Class B operation.
These two permits distinguish between the types of cottage food business an entrepreneur may want to run, with class A being exempt from routine inspections, but can only engage in “direct sales,” i.e. straight to the customer. Meanwhile, Class B operations require certain inspections, but also allow “indirect sales” to third-party retailers, such as restaurants, bakeries, delis, groceries and food trucks. Both classes of business can now directly sell throughout the entire state.
I am Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer, and writer. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey.