Black Markets

Thank God Nobody Died From This Texas Woman's Illegal Tamales

Massive fines over a very common home-based business.


Shellystuart /

Homemade tamales sold on street corners or directly from people's houses are about as common as lemonade stands in communities across the Southwest United States and probably elsewhere. (Actually, I believe I've encountered more tamales than lemonade stands in Southern California.)

It's an avenue for people without a lot of resources to make some scratch on the side. And they're very popular around the holidays in the Latino community. Of course, this is all totally illegal. They don't have business permits. They don't have professional kitchens. There's all sorts of rules and regulations to follow, but attempting to do so would be so costly that it would likely turn it into a money-losing venture.

So because of government fears about food safety, there's a black market for tamales. In Carrollton, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, Dennise Cruz found out the hard way not to do anything that could draw attention from government meddlers. Cruz decided to sell tamales from her home, advertised as such on a community social-media site called Nextdoor, and then the city cracked down hard on her, sending her a $700 fine for selling food without a permit. They didn't send her a warning or come and shut her down. They went straight to threatening her with arrest unless she forked over a ton of money. The local CBS affiliate in Dallas covered the horrific crime:

A director said a fine was issued and not a warning because tamales are considered "potentially hazardous food" due to the cooked corn and meat being used.

"What if somebody got sick from them? What if somebody could have died from them? And I completely understand those concerns," said Cruz.

But she feels the city's actions are a little extreme.

"I've seen so many people doing it. And unfortunately it's me who's having to deal with it," said Cruz. "I'd just rather stay away from that at the moment, making tamales."

Apparently somebody who saw her ad on Nextdoor squealed on her to the city. She wondered why this person didn't come talk to her. My suspicion, looking at Nextdoor, which is a specialized neighborhood-oriented social app, is that city employees have probably joined and keep track of what's going on in the community.

The absurd irony here is that this kind of tactic means that people who are open and likely more careful (and safe) about what they're doing are the ones to be punished, but people are still going to be out there selling tamales without a permit, quietly and secretly outside the city's control. And those folks might not be as careful and as safe as Cruz. As with any black market, government intervention doesn't stop it from happening at all, it just makes it all the more dangerous for those who participate in it.

The good news for Cruz is that she started a GoFundMe page to raise money to fight Carrolton and has already earned more than enough to cover the fine. Sadly, not every citizen who attempts to engage in street vending or home-based businesses gets such media attention and assistance when regulators come after them.

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  1. So that’s what “war on poverty” meant.

    1. Started working at home! It is by far the best job I have ever had. I just recently purchased a Brand new BMW since getting a check for 25470 dollar this 7-week past. I began this 6 months ago and I am now bringing home at least 97 dollar per hour. I work through this website. Go here…

  2. Yesterday I bought two dozen tamales from a guy who drives around our town with a cooler full of them. They are delicious and I haven’t yet died from them, even without Big Brother’s protective gaze.

    1. By your use of “yet” I see that you are still holding out hope for at least bloody diarrhea.

      1. Riley . if you think Scott `s comment is really great… on friday I got a great new Lancia when I got my cheque for $6472 this past five weeks and just a little over 10 grand this past-munth . it’s definitly the best-job I have ever had . I actually started 3 months ago and almost straight away started bringing in over $75 per-hour . see here ……………

  3. Some of them, I assume, are pretty tasty.

  4. I don’t give two shits about terrorism. Entrepreneurship and new business formation in tyhis country are dying, if not dead.

    That’s what scares me.

    1. It’s so frustrating, hearing all those proggie speeches about helping the poor and unskilled but seeing nothing but policies and actions which make it harder and harder for them to help themselves; as if (hoo boy what a stretch) their actual agenda was to control people rather than let them help themselves.

      1. #StrongerTogether

        One person making and selling tamales is not together, and therefore not stronger.

      2. “Helping the poor” is not “enabling the poor to help themselves”, of course!

        If the State doesn’t do it – and the person speaking can’t Feel Good About Doing It* – then it doesn’t count.

        (* And feel even better about making other people pay for it, as I sometimes encounter.)

      3. Remember progs especially rich white progs love immigrants and minorities as long as they know their place. They are not to buy a used car sign up with Uber and make money that takes away money from our unionized cab drivers and the loyal taxi cartels who donate to our campaigns. They are not to sell tamales from their kitchen cause again that might take jobs away from our restaurant friends and their unionized workforce. If they are able to gain financial traction they may start coming to the progs neighborhoods, share their children’s school and gasp start being concerned with taxes. They will no longer be a voting block to be exploited if they break out. The community leaders won’t get invited to the cool parties fly first class and expense dinners at 5 star places anymore.

      4. If they can’t help themselves, then they are more dependent on the government. That’s what the people in power want.

  5. It sounds like Tulpa has quit his job and moved further south.

    1. He was getting paid to troll here??

    2. He’s been fired from so many jobs (or asked to leave ahead of firing) that he’s basically a nomad. Hopefully, he’ll be homeless, living in his car, and get beaten to death by one of the cops he loves so much, a little bit of enlightenment before he is reincarnated as a dickless cockroach that lives in a Bonnaroo porta-john.

      1. Now, Sugar, that’s a little harsh.

        Living in a van down by the river is more Tulpa’s line, I think.

  6. Instead of focusing on how nobody has been hurt so far from this lady’s tamales, shouldn’t we be thinking of the most horrible thing that could possibly ever happen because of them and then respond accordingly?

    1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Bathroom Visit

    2. The sad thing is that in our litigious society – the new American dream is to win a big settlement – she is just one asshole away from being screwed over by a system that expects perfection in all things. That’s why big government has to stop her! its for her own good!


      1. Nah. No way she isn’t judgment proof.

        And (stereotype alert!), no way she doesn’t have a dozen cousins who could, how you say, intervene, if anyone tried to sue her.

      2. No point in suing someone who doesn’t have any money.

  7. But if she gave them away for free it would be perfectly fine. This isn’t about safety it’s about the state getting it’s cut.

    1. ^ This.
      Same with prostitution… One night, drunken bar sex is completely legal, yet if money exchanges hands, send in the SWAT team.

    2. Profits are evil, and a person can only be cleansed of the evil by paying tribute to the pantheon of local government officials and giving some lip service around campaign season.

  8. “Apparently somebody who saw her ad on Nextdoor squealed on her to the city. She wondered why this person didn’t come talk to her. My suspicion, looking at Nextdoor, which is a specialized neighborhood-oriented social app, is that city employees have probably joined and keep track of what’s going on in the community.”

    I’m on the Nextdoor for my neighborhood. There are a lot of annoying busybodies. And yes, the police hang out there. They mostly post stuff about reminding the public to keep their garage doors and cars parked on the street secure.

    (Related: The police in my ‘hood have been going around putting notes on cars parked on the street rating the security of the car, ie, is anything of worth visible through the window, are the doors locked, etc. I got one such note. Thanks for casing my car, assholes. I assume that if, while going about their do-goodery, they found a cocaine-looking brick on the front seat, they’d do a little bit more than leave a note saying “Hey! Keep valuables, such as $250 K worth of narcotics, out of view of thieves. Thanks!”)

    1. You should put a big bag of flour on the front seat.

      1. On somebody else’s front seat.

        1. Like one of those annoying busybodies.

      2. Are you TRYING to get his neighbor’s dog shot?

    2. I’m on the Nextdoor for my neighborhood.

      So are we. Mrs. Dean periodically posts pix of people being morons in their cars. She asked me if she should blur the license plates, and I told her there really wasn’t any reason to.

    3. Fuck – I like my cops more every day.

      They only time they bother us is for speeding tickets on the main road – when they can be bothered to stay awake long enough – and to knock on your door at 11 at night if you left the garage open.

      We’ve got more trouble from the Sheriff’s office patrolling the route back from the casino and the desert track looking for drunk drivers than we do from the local PD.

  9. Tamales are sort of the prototypical buy from someone else food. You really have to make a shit ton of them to want to bother making them at all.

    1. I dunno, I make a couple dozen now and then.

      That’s not a shit ton, since they’re small and … well, tamales.

  10. Not a big tamale fan.

    Now if it was taquitos…

    1. One of my best memories as a kid is eating taquitos made by a little old lady at a Baja campground. God damn those things were tasty!

  11. Disproportionate impact on persons in a protected class.


    Besides, tamales matter.

  12. Me buying tamales from a store instead of from someone with a cooler full of them on the side of the street would be me surrendering to the State. Unless the store had really, really good tamales for cheap. But I don’t think people with store overhead can compete on price.

    1. Price, schmice.

      Random Abuela’s tamales are better than store tamales.

    2. Let’s face it – if they’re fresh tamales then they’ve simply contracted with someone to make them batches in their home anyway.

      Or you could *shudder* get the ones in a can.

      1. NO ONE who has ever had real tamales would deign to subject themselves to canned tamales.

        1. Worse yet were the MRE tamales.

  13. So long as there’s not a rash of missing pets in the area, what’s the problem with homemade tamales?

    1. No, that’s how you know you’ve got good Chinese nearby.

  14. Better raid every Catholic church in the state of Texas to be sure to rid us of this scourge.

  15. If people start getting the impression they can make money without Govt “help” or “permission”, people might start wondering why they need the govt agencies in the first place. Can’t have that.

  16. How do people like the idiot in charge of their Health Department get and stay elected. I mean, even if it weren’t for my political views and principles, somebody telling me they’d shut down the mad tamale menace would probably lose my vote. If nothing else because I’d feel they’d actually made my life a little worse.

    1. Folks at the Health Department are appointed/hired, not elected. The folks doing the electing of the officials who do the appointing/hiring often can’t connect the dots.

    2. Because some people can’t think for themselves. They need the government to make laws to protect them from the worst case scenario… Which, doesnt protect them anyway. Look at Chipotle. Even with all of the laws and regulation people still caught EColi.

  17. When I was a kid and we lived in Southern Cali, some of my best memories from those years was the fantastic Mexican food sold by street vendors on many street corners in our neighborhood.

    This country has gone straight to fucking shit courtesy of our corrupt politicians. I have a deal to propose. We open the borders and anyone who wants can come, on the condition that we round up every single elected official and bureaucrat in the country and permanently deport them.

    1. I’d take that deal, with this proviso:

      The homes of the deported officials and bureaucrats are given to our new immigrant friends.

  18. “And the absurd irony here is that this kind of tactic means that people who are open and likely more careful (and safe) about what they’re doing are the ones to be punished, but people are still going to be out there selling tamales without a permit, quietly and secretly outside the city’s control. And those folks might not be as careful and as safe as Cruz.”
    Seems to me that Shackford is almost buying into the bullshit idea that the government is keeping everyone safe, doesn’t it??

  19. whenever some official says “what if”, the only answer is “fuck off, slaver”

  20. Isn’t somebody going to say, “I’d buy *her* illegal tamales any day!”

  21. Meh….It’s not that easy a question.

    Government oversight of food safety started because of serious issues. There is always someone willing to use rancid ingredients, spoiled meat, etc, etc, to make an extra buck and folks get sick and die. There is always someone who doesn’t maintain proper kitchen hygiene (looking at you Chipolte) and folks get sick and die.
    Is anyone going to argue that food safety oversight has no net benefit?

    If we agree there is a place for Govt oversight, then where do we draw the line? I think the issue in this case is that the local Govt is drawing the line at “if you are advertising, then you’ve reached the level we have to look at”. Seems like a reasonable line to me. doesn’t look like they are going after the street corner folks.

    1. Perhaps Ms. Cruz is just selling a sob story to boost her GoFundMe take.

      1. You know what we ought to do? Make it illegal to sell spoiled meat, or otherwise endanger the public.

        And yes, she probably conspired with municipal authorities to get herself fined and threatened with arrest.


        1. Funny. What you seem to not understand is that food safety is problematic for an individual to handle.
          Often can’t tell before eating it if the food is dangerous.
          Effects can be delayed for hours or more.
          Determining the source is difficult, and virtually impossible to prove to collect damages.
          So yeah, someone sells you a hamburger made with spoiled meat. Two hours later you get violently ill, leading to death. Your spouse, fortunately, knows exactly what you ate and files a wrongful death suit to collect damages. But, all the evidence is long gone. Stomach contents can’t ‘prove’ where the toxin came from, unless there were other victims that can triangulate a source. But, unfortunately, no one else came forward. so…you’re screwed.

          This is exactly the type of activity that the Govt is best to handle. Sure, one could argue for private certification companies, but that will add cost and inevitably the poor will chose food sources for the lowest cost and thus with the least oversight.

          This isn’t statism. This is the proper role of the Govt, providing oversight to private transactions to protect the parties involved.

          1. Just tell me how the government prevents a business from selling tainted food?
            And before you answer, tell me how it worked for Chipotle and their EColi problem…

            1. You have a logical disconnect.

              You hear about XX number of sickenings and death from the ‘big chains’ that are regulated. but you don’t hear about it from the unregulated food kitchens/sales. you are falsely making the assumption that then the regulations to nothing. this is a logical failure.
              Government mandates for food preparation are based on a number of very simple and common sense guidelines. yeh, there is a lot of fluff and crap mixed in, but it is laughable to think they don’t help eliminate food poisoning rates.
              Issues happen, like with Chipotle, but it is childish to then assume that the regulations and oversight are meaningless. What you should be asking yourself is how bad would it be if there wasn’t oversight?

              1. correction..”eliminate food poisoning rates”….should be “minimize”

        2. I prefer not to assume Ms. Cruz is a victim. I have no evidence either way. She could be, or she could have intentionally ignored the regulations and is now looking at a potential payday from GoFundMe, so she is pushing the story out to the press hoping for bleeding heart schmucks to throw her some fundage.

    2. Where do we draw the line? Should the line be drawn at your own kitchen? You might eat old soup! You might keep milk past its use-by date! You might decide to cut the little bit of mold off the cheese instead of throwing it away! You might not cook meat to the proper *government determined* temperature! You might store dairy below meat in the fridge! You might not do the dishes every day! You might wash your hands in the same sink used to rinse vegetables!

      1. Yeh, funny. Your cluelessness of the risks probably come from being spoiled in one of the safest countries on the planet where we have largely eliminated food safety issues. Guess how we eliminated them?
        I personally have no desire to have a wild and free food industry that isn’t forcibly held to a minimum standard.
        It’s next to impossible to tell in advance if food is dangerous, and its next to impossible to hold the parties accountable after the fact. Exactly the type of commerce that needs oversight.

        1. “its next to impossible to hold the parties accountable after the fact.”

          Except for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, need I go on?

        2. Your cluelessness of the risks probably come from being spoiled in one of the safest countries on the planet where we have largely eliminated food safety issues.

          If we’ve eliminated food safety issues then why the fuck do we need to regulate private kitchens?

          You ask where we draw the line as if there’s some *objective* place to draw that line and that place just so coincidentally happens to be where you want it drawn. There is no objective place to draw the line. If you can draw it where it is now you can draw it a little closer. And a little closer. And a little closer – until the line is between you and your kitchen. And everytime its moved the justifications used to move it will be the exact same as the one’s you’ve posted here.

          Look – you don’t think food being sold like this is safe, don’t buy it. If you don’t consume it, it couldn’t possibly hurt you. Teach your kids to distrust the roach coach. Whatever – you do you.

          But I’ve purchased this sort of stuff for the majority of my life – and all over the world – and not even gotten so much as a tummy rumble. Which you can’t say for the legions of people in ‘regulated’ and ‘inspected’ commercial kitchens who are getting food poisoned fairly regularly.

          So don’t tell me they need to be banned because they *might*, they *possibly*, they *could*.

          Let me give you a hint, if Maria is passing bad tamales then people stop buying from Maria and start buying from ‘Lupe. Brand matters.

          1. Exactly. If you don’t want to eat a delicious Tamale because you are worried about food poisoning, don’t answer an ad an buy from a lady in her house… How hard is that? Do we really want the government protecting us from ourselves?
            And a second point, this guy, MikeP2, won’t buy from “Maria’s taco truck” because it’s unlicensed, but he’ll go eat at Chipotle (licensed and regulated) and get EColi. The government regulations just increase the cost of doing business and they don’t fix anything.

            I have personally been very ill after eating spolied hamburger at a restaurant. It tasted bad, but it was a timed food challenge, so I ate it anyway. That whole entire night I was going from butt over the toilet, to face over the toilet and repeat… The government didn’t help me.

            1. “The government regulations just increase the cost of doing business and they don’t fix anything.”

              that is a laughable statement. Government regulations/inspections/standards trim out the worst of the worst. To assume they have no net benefit is just ridiculous.

              I’ve worked in kitchens. I’ve seen the stuff that goes on that would make most people vomit up the food they just ate. most people enjoy their blissful ignorance of food preparation practices…which is why I do most of my own cooking. The fact that people aren’t keeling over weekly has more to do with the wonders of the human body’s resilience than anything else.

              And BTW, I have no issue with taco trucks….because 9 times out of 10 they are licensed. But the guy selling on the street corner. no thanks. That is just childish ignorance of risk.

          2. “why the fuck do we need to regulate private kitchens?”

            No one is talking about private kitchens. Ms Cruz was running a business.

            “But I’ve purchased this sort of stuff for the majority of my life – and all over the world – and not even gotten so much as a tummy rumble”

            Yeh, your anecdotal evidence really means a lot.

    3. How long can you make an extra buck by making your customers sick? Maybe in the old days but now with the internet you’d be out of business in hours.

    4. There used to be a lot of contaminated food in the supply because people didn’t care – they were more concerned about finding enough food to stay alive. When food security improved, THEN people started fretting about whether or not a piece of it might have touched the floor.

      Food safety oversight has a great benefit. But there’s no reason that it must be done by the government and nobody else. There are already several private entities that inspect food production processes.

      1. Food regulations came about from mass poisonings from centralized food production. Prior to that it was just small businesses and no one cares because the incidents were isolated.
        Once one facility could reach outside one community, the risk went up and the government stepped in to mitigate that risk.
        Ms. Cruz stepped into that arena by advertising. If she had stayed word of mouth, no one would care because her potential impact was small.

  22. She should have offered a tamale to anyone who donates, not as food in exchange for money but as a donation “premium”. Wonder what the city would have done with that.

    1. Oh, giving them away for free is perfectly fine.

  23. I was killed by eating some tamales I brought home from Mexico that I bought from some old lady standing on the side of the street.

  24. I got my very first crooked (and first) ticket in Louisiana. No fucking way was I going faster than 65 – POS car was overheating and I had to slow down several minutes prior.

  25. City wasn’t gettin’ their cut. Can’t havz dat.

  26. Tamales are the gateway food and without the guidance of the all-wise state, our children might be exposed to burritos, mole sauce, even tlayudas…

  27. Yes, the local Sherriff’s department has joined NextDoor where I am. There are some good things and bad things about that. The good thing about NextDoor is the chance to resolve issues in the neighborhood face to face (or at least message to message). Only locals in the neighborhood are allowed onto each neighborhood site. We’ve already got a bead on burglars and mail thieves and lost pets.
    I know a restaurant owner with horror stories about OSHA and the Health Department and the rock and hard place they put her in (do it my way or be shut down; do it my way or go to jail). She dislikes the farmer’s markets because the vendors get special exemptions from the rules. I’ve tried to explain that she should be exempt, too. (Really, shouldn’t their insurance companies handle their safety standards?)
    BTW, Chipotle’s loyalty card program is a good deal: basically better than 25% off. You know it’s safer than your own kitchen at home, don’t you?

  28. The reason for regulation should be to ensure public safety. But how does having the proper paperwork ensure public safety? How often are “legal” food distributors physically inspected?

    1. not often enough. When is the last time you read about someone’s home made whatevers making hundreds of people sick? When was the last time you read about some large, inspected, licensed regulated permitted inspected nannied commercial volume production facility’s food products making people sick?

      1. Just because you didn’t read about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That is a sad, logical disconnect you got going there.

        Do you think the media gives a crap if Juan’s taco stand poisoned the dozen customers he served lunch to last Tuesday?
        They make their money reporting on Chipotle and McDonalds.

        What you read in the news is not the totality of reality.

  29. I bet she could have given away tamales, like to family and friends and gotten away with it, as people I know have done with me. Mexican-Americans make tamales all the time (but mostly around Christmas) and eat them and give them to family, or neighbors, or friends. And, for the most part (it’s never happened to me or anyone I know) no one gets sick. But if you try to sell them, well then, yes, the City/County/State must step in because obviously people will get sick.

  30. This is one of the things that really sucks in our bureaucracy-idolizing society today … big corps will support every sort of insane regs and other business strangling programs knowing that – even though it hurts their bottom line, they can afford them and the little people can not – granting them government-supported monoplies over businesses that literally cannot afford to comply with the regulatory tsunami.

  31. Somebody COULD get sick from eating one of those tamales. Somebody COULD get killed “jaywalking”,. Somebody COULD get serious brain damage riding a bike without a helmet. Somebody COULD…….

    Nanny MUST take great pains to prevent ANY untoward consequences from people being people and living their lives according to their own preferences.

    Stupid nannies.. go away and let us live our lives. Why not wait until someone DOES get sick? Remember when the Odwalla company had to recall a whole bunch of their drinks because coliform bacteria contamination from their inspected, regulated, managed, nannied production facility made some people sick? Or when the spinach from near Salinas was putting folks in the hospital… a large commercial farm? Or now about the commercially produced raw almonds with bacterial cotamination made some folks sick.. a carefully regulated frequently government inspected production facility producing them> Now no one can get truly raw almonds… only irradiated ones that lack in cricital nutrients.

    And someone making tamales at home must be punished? Haven’t folks been making food for their families at home for hundreds of years, and hardly anyone ever gets sick?

    What is sick is such government hooh hahs taking it upon themselves the burden of “keeping everyone safe”.

    1. My first frustration with the state of food freedom in this country was when I got into cheesemaking but realized that I can’t get raw milk anywhere.

      The justification is that it “could” have dangerous bacteria in it. Well then, why am I free to buy a raw steak or a raw chicken? It’s understood that you can buy meat in whatever state you want, but if you cook it rare and get sick, it’s your own fault. Why doesn’t that hold true with milk? Oh yea, probably because the small dairies can’t afford the equipment to pasteurize and homogenize the milk, but the big food corporations can.

    2. “Haven’t folks been making food for their families at home for hundreds of years, and hardly anyone ever gets sick?”

      wow. that right there is a clear statement of your ignorance.

  32. Too bad us people are too dumb to make our own decisions about what to eat.

  33. I’d trust food made by an abuelita before I’d trust some high school kids in Chipotle, Qdoba or Moe’s.

  34. This is about raising revenue first, deterrence second, and safety third. Since raising revenue and deterrence conflict with each other, you can drop deterrence from the list and keep safety a distant third. Whenever a government official gives you a reason, an explanation, or any piece of information, just discount it. It is the easiest, most efficient path to the truth. Once you have the government’s line on anything, just look elsewhere for the real story.

    If government’s efforts to protect us from food borne illnesses were so successful, why do we have outbreaks of food borne illnesses again and again and again? It’s easy to see the answer to that one. Once you comply with government rules, you’re set. You don’t have to do more. Customers feel safe, food vendors stay out of trouble, government officials chalk up another day’s work. What’s the result? Repeated outbreaks and problems, because no one has an incentive to check for, or prevent problems unique to particular circumstances. The only incentive is to comply with general rules written for _all_ circumstances.

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