California Slowly Unshackling Some Small Food Entrepreneurs

Do California's statewide cottage food law and the possible lifting of the regulatory burden on some farmers markets in the state signal a trend?


California is home to the best and worst of food laws in America. Many people view California as both the nation's culinary and agricultural leader, on the one hand, and on the other as its regulatory trendsetter on matters of food.

As I wrote in a 2010 law review article, The "California Effect" & the Future of American Food: How California's Growing Crackdown on Food & Agriculture Harms the State & the Nation, the state's growing regulatory climate "against food is worrisome across the country, too, since in addition to its place as the nation's breadbasket and culinary trendsetter, California is the country's cultural and regulatory bellwether."

Some of America's most innovative and important food trends have originated in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Yet the latter banned the construction of new fast food restaurants in parts of the city in 2008, and the former banished toys from Happy Meals in 2011. Statewide laws are no better. The state's reviled foie gras ban took effect last year, and lawsuits enabled under Proposition 65, which requires ubiquitous warnings on products of all sorts throughout the state, have targeted grocers and restaurants across the state for years.

Against this significant backdrop of bad news is some good news for small food entrepreneurs in the state.

The state's cottage food law, which took effect earlier this year, appears by any count to be a tremendous success.

Jacqueline Hernandez, owner of the cottage food business Sweet Escape Cupcakes, exemplifies the law's impact.

As the Los Angeles Wave reports, Hernandez works two jobs on weekdays and spends her weekends baking nearly four-dozen types of cupcake and cakes at home that she sells online and to local restaurants.

Sweet Escape has been such a success that Hernandez hopes to open a storefront shop soon.

That's exactly the sort of story that advocates argued the law would write in the state.

That might not have been the case. As I noted here a couple years ago, cottage food laws are often far from perfect.

How does California's cottage food law rank?

An August 2013 Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic report on cottage food laws around the country found that 41 states had such laws in place. According to the Clinic's report, California's law permits some of the broadest cottage food sales in the country—including to restaurants and other retail establishments and at farmers markets.

While California's cottage food law has been an immediate success, the state has a less-than-perfect track record when it comes to facilitating another important venue for small food entrepreneurs—farmers markets.

While California boasts more farmers markets than any other state, its farmers market regulations are imperfect.

For example, a 2012 report on state farmers market regulations around the country, authored by the same Harvard clinic and commissioned by the nonprofit I lead, Keep Food Legal, found California is one of several states that permit local government to enact regulations more stringent than those mandated at the state level.

One county that's chosen to enforce regulations above and beyond those required by the state is San Diego.

The county requires individual vendors at each certified farmers market to go through a licensing process.

But that may be changing.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob calls the requirement "time-intensive and onerous" and has suggested instead that only a market manager be subject to the permit requirement, reports ABC 10 News.

That might be but a small victory in the greater scheme of food regulation in California. But along with the state's cottage food law, it shows that the state is capable not just of recognizing the needless regulatory encumbrances that strict food laws place on its entrepreneurs but also of relieving some of those burdens. That's a trend that's noteworthy anywhere—but especially so in California.

NEXT: Woman Forced Into Treatment Challenges Wisconsin Law That Allows Detention of Pregnant Drug Users

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  1. Once everything is sold on the black market, everyone will be making the black market premium. STIMULUS!

  2. Take the Saturday Pledge!

    Pledge not to respond to any trolls who try to turn the Saturday threads into their own person playground for talking about abortion, circumcision, or deep-dish pizza!

    1. I thought that was what the Saturday food thread was for.. kind of a troll-trap.

    2. Blue Tulpa tried for the animal rights troll. Even if you think it is arguing in good faith and not trolling Bo is most definitely a sockpuppet.

  3. Look, do you want to be protected from decisions with possible bad consequences or not?

  4. OT but this article contains vital information of interest to all Reasonoids.…..ey/309522/

    Even if this article has been posted before it deserves to be posted again.

    1. I was just reading that before getting online. Also the one on “greatest inventions” that left out hay.

    2. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of that Jefferson’s Ocean. This may calls for pirates!


    I posted this in the am links yesterday because I thought some the H&R lawyers might find it interesting.

    Someone responded to one of my comments pointing out that the Court does have the authority to punish her…

    “What a complete pompous ass you are! My point was that our Supreme court should not be ruling at all on matters that do not directly effect them. If they want to keep a lawyer from arguing in front of them, that’s one thing, but to make such a repulsive and egotistic ruling, argues to my point. Perhaps, if your reading skills were sharper, you would have gleaned that. But having read some of your comments, I suppose that is too much to expect.”

    I should add that I also insinuated this particular commenter didn’t know what he was talking about, which is obviously true based on this response.

    1. Also, if any of you are interested read the actual order from the Court because this is about much more that simply not having an email.

      1. Read it. Looks to me like it’s about email.

        By letter dated September 9, 2013, respondent again stated she is retired “as there have been no clients in over thirty (30) years” and she does not have Internet access.

        Also, I love the email address she provided,…..3-10-17-01

        1. “Respondent has repeatedly refused to comply with the explicit directives, orders, and rules of this Court and of requests by the Clerk of Court by refusing to maintain and monitor an operational email account. Moreover, in spite of the Court’s order of June 19, 2013, specifically prohibiting her from filing additional motions with the Court until the underlying disciplinary matter has been considered by the Commission, respondent has nevertheless attempted to submit further motions with the Court. As a result of her persistent refusal to comply with this Court’s directives, the Court finds respondent poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public and to the administration of justice. “

          1. Yeah, like I said, I read it.
            She’s been retired for 30 years. She doesn’t have internet. Without internet she cannot have an operational email account. The rest amounts to the court wanting to force her to get internet and use her email.
            Maybe next the court will require a teletype, telegraph, Morse proficiency, and the full set of 40 International Maritime Signal Flags.

  6. All of the measures discussed in the post are fairly straightforward violations of the NAP, except for the ban on foie gras. Somewhat like a fetus I think libertarians could reasonably differ on whether animals (or at least certain animals) might deserve some protections from cruelty and so some prohibitions in that area could be allowed.

    1. Translation – Bo thinks geese deserve better legal protection than human infants.

      1. I don’t think that animal protection from cruelty is a black and white issue. Foie gras is an ironic contender for this, though, as it is simply replicating with some exageration a goose’s natural impulse to bulk up and store fat including the liver. These geese simply aren’t the tragic victims the PETA mafia makes them out to be.

        1. -as it is simply replicating with some exageration a goose’s natural impulse to bulk up and store fat including the liver

          Some of the methods used to obtain this exaggeration strike me as quite cruel.

          1. A lot of husbandry practices appear cruel and in fact may be.

      2. Yes–the “NAP” is transparently rationalistic and goofy. These Rothbard types act like they’re on Star Trek, boldly deducing from the a priori directive that it is only in a state of anarchy that men will finally be free from force and coercion lol.

        Rationalization ain’t just a word in a book! Their true desire is project their childish subjectivism onto reality. The “NAP” was Rothbard stealing one principle of the Objectivist ethics, taking it as an out-of-context dogmatic commandment, and then deducing a bizarre theory of market anarchy from it.

      3. Of course, that is exactly what I said. Are you incapable of good faith argument?

        1. I was being a dick – but there is some truth to the point that lefties care more about the welfare of animals than they do the unborn,

    2. Humans are a certain animal. So your argument is that libertarians could reasonably disagree on whether food should fall under the NAP, while humans do not.

      I won’t argue the point, but just say that the solution then would be to eat people.

  7. Pledge not to respond to any trolls who try to turn the Saturday threads into their own person playground for talking about abortion, circumcision, or deep-dish pizza!

    Can we talk about what an incoherent smirking dimwit Melissa Harris Perry is?

    I tuned in for about two minutes, and was treated to an outraged diatribe about the hateful mouthbreathing racists doing their damnedest to ruin the Great Works of the Empathizer-in-Chief.

    It’s like a Greek tragedy, it is.

    1. Can we talk about what an incoherent smirking dimwit Melissa Harris Perry is?

      Sure, if it’s properly threaded!

    2. It’s shocking (actually not really) that a race-baiting, irrational pos like her is a university professor – molding young minds.

  8. Of course, removing one regulation from tens of thousands counts as “deregulation” and will be reported accordingly.

  9. California is home to the best and worst of food laws in America.

    What’s an example of a CA good law that is one of the “best”?

    Can’t be the cottage food law; the linked article says 30 other states have those.

    So, what’s an example? Of course the best kind of food law is generally one that isn’t on the books. Is there anything other states tend to regulate that CA doesn’t?

    1. You can buy wine, beer and spirits at grocery stores; wine & beer at gas station mini markets and convenience stores.

  10. Sure, if it’s properly threaded!

    That would depend on one’s definition of “proper” I suspect.

    1. It likely includes nothing you post.

  11. I watched Alec Baldwins show on MSNBC last time to witness the train wreck live. And was shocked that I actually liked the format and his prime guest – Chrissy Mathews was mostly rational and didn’t lose control in the 45 minutes or so that he was on.

  12. I saw a couple of snippets of the Russel Brand “Profits iz EEEEEVUL” interview.

    What a fucking imbecile. Give all your money and possessions away and go live in a hole in the ground, you dirty hippy.

    1. It’s even worse when you watch the interview.

      He’s a complete moron, a raving loon.

      At one point he says profits are evil because they lead to deficits. I can’t tell what the fuck that is even supposed to mean.

  13. At one point he says profits are evil because they lead to deficits. I can’t tell what the fuck that is even supposed to mean.

    I suspect he is caught in the lefty logic trap of either not seeing or willfully ignoring the exchange of value in every fucking business transaction. All he sees is money flowing from the customer (deficit) to the evul business profiteer.

    “OMFG taking all teh munnys out of teh COMMUNITEEE, shame shame shame.”

  14. California! Libertopia is upon you! DUCK!

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    1. You couldn’t steal more than $30h -$72h from shoprite?

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