A Law That's Nutty Like a Fruitcake

Mr. Melton, I disapprove of what you bake, but I will defend to the death your right to bake (and sell) it.*

Shasta County health officials are cracking down on an 86-year-old disabled World War II veteran who has been selling homemade fruitcakes for more than a decade.

The Department of Environmental Health cites an obscure law banning food businesses in private homes.

Jack Melton of Redding gave away many of his pecan-filled fruitcakes. But health officials saw a small handmade window sign offering some for sale.

Health specialist Fern Hastings says Melton must use a commercial bakery that has passed a health inspection even if he gives his cakes to the public.

Melton says the 10- to 14-dozen fruitcakes he sold each year helped supplement his Social Security benefits.

* Fun fact: The orginial formulation of the phrase was not really Voltaire's, but a snappier paraphrase of his thoughts by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

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  • ||

    He makes and sells fresh fruitcakes? I thought the only ones in existence were just recycled gifts that keep resurfacing annually. Come on, I don't believe it. Everyone knows that all fruitcakes are hundreds of years old.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Dave Barry says that fruitcakes are perfect because they are the one thing the USPS cannot destroy.

  • dhex||

    a fresh, well-made fruitcake is surprisingly good. good luck finding one, though.

    also, these guys have nothing better to do? did he piss someone off? did someone complain about the fruitcake or get sick?

  • Nigel Watt||

    dhex: They are bureaucrats. They are exercising power. This is their life's goal.

  • Ska||

    And to think of all the times I got away with selling lemonade off a folding table on the sidewalk....just think of all the harm done.

  • ||

    All students of molecular gastronomy, such as myself and Ferran Adria, know that fruitcakes can be neither created nor destroyed.

  • Kolohe||

    It's this kind of thing that the Republican's need to concentrate on to regain relevance

  • ||

    Once upon a time Shasta County was the hotbed of California Leave-me-alone-ism. What happened? Too many environmentalists move in?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Shasta County Information:

    ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DIVISION
    Russ Mull, R.E.H.S., A.I.C.P., Director
    Marci McEwen, R.E.H.S., Manager
    1855 Placer Street, Suite 201
    Redding, California 96001
    Phone: (530) 225-5787
    Fax: (530) 225-5413

    I'm feeling a blackfax coming on. :D

  • Flowklahoma||

    Was this fruitcake a feedlot raised, cornfed cake, or was it grass fed organic?

  • ||

    Any fruitcakes received as gifts should be immediately redirected to the address that TAO provided.

  • Ska||

    What about pannetone?

  • Flowklahoma||

    I'm guessing my idea for a statewide bake sale to raise money to pay off California's budget deficit isn't going to go over too well. :(

  • toddb||

    He's just lucky Homeland Security isn't investigating this as a case of domestic terrorism...

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I like JW's idea. I'm in for one fruitcake and a nasty letter. Anyone else?

  • ||

    should be immediately redirected to the address

    The office may be obligated to send it back, as they probably can't accept gifts due to anti-bribery regulations.

    Of course, this continues the endless cycle that is the stereotypical fate of fruitcake, so balance in the Universe will be maintained.

  • ||

    ...keeps USPS employed, if you like that idea.

    In fact, I now expect this to be part of the next economic stimulus package.

  • Ska||

    But is it green fruitcake?

    Not just green cherries.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Counter-economics never tasted so good.

  • ||

    What about pannetone?

    Panettone isn't dense enough. It hasn't reached neutron star levels like regular fruitcake.

  • Brian E||

    a fresh, well-made fruitcake is surprisingly good.

    That's because any well-made fruitcake is soaked with rum until it can't hold any more.

  • ||

    Every fruitcake mailed to ol' Rusty should include a note stating that you had purchased the offending fruitcake as a gift for NEXT Christmas, but your conscience cannot allow you to keep the ill-gotten confection any longer. You feel horrible about supporting an obvious scofflaw and you will take it upon yourself to picket the gentleman's house. And shoot his dog. Because it's a vicious little jack russell.

  • creech||

    I guess it's a blessing this wasn't a Radley post about a swat team blasting into his kitchen.

    Yet.

  • ||

    Looking at the diagram of the cake, I have to ask: What the hell is Rum Extract? Seriously.

  • Fluffy||

    Health specialist Fern Hastings says Melton must use a commercial bakery that has passed a health inspection even if he gives his cakes to the public.

    Fuck you, cunt. If I don't sell the fruitcake, but give it, my position is that I am giving the cake to my friend. Or does the law in your county make it illegal to give a homemade cake to your friend?

  • T||

    Or does the law in your county make it illegal to give a homemade cake to your friend?

    I'll bet some obscure provision does. Any takers?

  • cunnivore||

    I'm thinking those commercial bakeries had a hand in this.

  • Ben P.||

    >Of course, this continues the endless cycle that
    >is the stereotypical fate of fruitcake, so
    >balance in the Universe will be maintained.

    Of course, one could always bake the fruitcake and mail it to Herr Director Mull with *someone else's* return address, thus creating a delivery service with the de facto blessings of the Shasta County EHD -- after all, when they send it back to the return address, doesn't that create the legal assumption that they the person to whom they are sending it is the rightful owner of said fruitcake?

  • JGR||

    Not all of the fruitcakes in Shasta County come out of ovens, it would seem.

    I can just see the Fruitcake Gestapo raiding school bake sales, kids with lemonade stands and little old ladies who bake cookies for the neighbor kids.

  • Ed Bejarana||

    Ah come on! With out home made fruitcake how will we prop open doors, re-gift, and keep the never ending joke going? Just like those bahumbug anti-Christmas folks. Next they'll outlaw over eating and popcorn. Oops, didn't mean to give anyone any ideas.

  • ||

    It isn't obvious to me, on the face of it, that there isn't some actual public health concern here. The levels of contamination required to screw up a 150+ fruitcake production line is a lot smaller than that required to screw up a three fruitcake session. It *is* quite possible to make people sick with food prepared in a home kitchen, when the home kitchen is used in a bulk production mode for which it was not intended, and during which it cannot be properly cleaned. There is a reason for all those funny food prep regulations. Well, at least for some of them.

    (Except for the fact that no one would ever actually *eat* a fruitcake, which argues that they shouldn't be governed by food safety regulations at all.)

  • Fluffy||

    It isn't obvious to me, on the face of it, that there isn't some actual public health concern here. The levels of contamination required to screw up a 150+ fruitcake production line is a lot smaller than that required to screw up a three fruitcake session.

    Then why not institute a system of penalties that are applicable if one uses a home kitchen for a quasi-commercial use and someone actually gets sick?

    Doesn't that make more sense than punishing someone for using their home kitchen to prepare food that hasn't made anyone sick?

    Isn't saying, "We're going to punish you because your fruitcakes might make people sick" a lot like saying, "We're going to punish you because you might commit a burglary some day"?

  • Daniel Reeves||

    It isn't obvious to me, on the face of it, that there isn't some actual public health concern here. The levels of contamination required to screw up a 150+ fruitcake production line is a lot smaller than that required to screw up a three fruitcake session. It *is* quite possible to make people sick with food prepared in a home kitchen, when the home kitchen is used in a bulk production mode for which it was not intended, and during which it cannot be properly cleaned. There is a reason for all those funny food prep regulations. Well, at least for some of them.


    The risk is part of what you're buying, and this is no secret to anyone. Don't like the risk? Then DON'T BUY IT. Yeesh.

    Therefore it's a stupid regulation.

  • Andreas Kyriacou||

    Looks like they learnt something from the Brits.

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