The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Online selling

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Online selling

I've been looking into expanding my very small bakery business.  Right now I'm just selling to co-workers and friends, but have been looking into California regulations for operating a commercial kitchen.  Basically there is no way to convert any home operation to something that would pass the California Retail Food Code.  Has anyone out there been selling at farmer's markets without going through the Dept. of Environmental Health?  I saw some mention of bread being a non-hazardous food product but can't find any exceptions in the CA Retail Food Code. 

Another question:  by using an online service like Etsy, I would assume you are still required to be selling a legal product, which may mean operating from a licensed commercial kitchen.  But since you are potentially selling out of state, under which jurisdiction do you operate? 

I'd love to be able to sell more bread but it seems the regulatory hurdles are just too immense, even if I want to sell a little bread at the local farmer's market.

Thanks for any advice!

-Peter

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Since you are producing the goods in California, you're governed by their rules, regulations and statutes.  California is probably the most over-regulated state in the nation.  

Ohio, on the other hand, has a very friendly attitude towards home bakers, having enacted a cottage food policy which is being expanded.

Per this Texas link, a few other states have cottage food laws.

Sorry....

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Here's a fun article from the WSJ on an incident in Pennsylvania.  I'd retitle it "Protect us from our protectors."

BTW, the FDA regulates all interstate sales, so in addition to state law, you'd have to comply with federal law if going the cyberspace sales route.

 

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

I like the cottage option available for some states, and see that California is indeed tight about food production.  I somewhat agree with Keith that sanitation should be controlled and monitored, but I would love to pay to have my home kitchen inspected and certified once every year or two.  But since I have a full-time job and a young child, I don't have time to rent space at a commercial kitchen.  The only way I'm able to bake so much is that I can do it at night at home, amongst my other chores.  Having to leave the house would pretty much squash any chance of this working.

I already got my food handler's certificate, though I think it's linked to the specific bakery at which I was apprenticing.  It didn't cost $400 so maybe that's something else?

Pamela--the only loophole I found for using a home kitchen is if you run a B&B.  It's buried in the CA Retail Food Code.  I may talk to a restaurant planning company to see if they know of any other loopholes.

Finally, in response to Lindy, I see a lot of people on Etsy selling baked goods and I can't imagine a single one is using a commercial kitchen and complying with state AND federal guidelines.  But saying, "They can do it," is like pointing out speeders on the highway.  Yeah, they're all breaking the law, but it doesn't mean you can do it.

 

-Peter

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

After reading through most of the CA Retail Food Code and checking up on business licenses and other required certificates, it looks like there's no way for anyone in California to sell bread without being a full-on commercial bakery.  Forget any type of cottage industry or even a small bakery.  Based on the costs of renting space at a community kitchen, you'd have to be working at least 20-30 hours a week on bread just to break even with the fees, not to mention the fees to get space at a farmer's market.  At that point you're better off leasing a space and trying to start a full-size commercial bakery.

I understand there are food safety concerns about people selling food made in their homes, but California has built such high regulatory walls that nobody, and I mean nobody, can sell on a small scale.  Anyone who does, or sells online, is breaking the law, at least here in the Golden State.

Sorry to be such a downer, but the law's the law, and us home bakers in California are totally out of luck.

-Peter

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Space at the farmer's market for veterans in Santa Rosa is $10. Community kitchen rental runs about $6 per hour depending on where you go.

--Pamela

Davefs's picture
Davefs

Hard to believe the human race made it this far without nanny overseers!

xaipete's picture
xaipete

You could also develop a clientele among your friends and neighbors, and their friends. People will pay for homemade, high quality bread.

--Pamela

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Hi Pamela,

I'd love to find a community kitchen that rents that cheap, but that may be a NorCal thing.  Down here in San Diego, we don't really have those, and the commercial kitchens are from $16-25/hr.  We don't have a commercial rental kitchen here either, though I saw an old ad for one in SD that said it didn't want bakers or caterers, and I'm wondering what the $#@&! they would allow.

I'm selling to friends, neighbors, and co-workers right now and have joked that I'm waiting for the DEH to come knocking on my door with a fine and a cease-and-desist.  Even now I'm breaking the law, but I don't want to stop baking at home.  I guess it's a moral issue.  Does anyone else here sell home-baked goods without a business license, food handler's cert, and all the other regulatory mumbo-jumbo?

 

Peter

 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Did you check community centers? Churches? Etc.?

I won't worry about the morality of selling to my neighbors and friends. Esp. in California! You can call the money you receive a 'donation'.

Churches often host crab bakes, etc. How do they do it? They must have some kind of certificate of sanitation, or whatever it is called.

--Pamela

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I hate to add more rain to the thunderstorm, but even selling to friends/neighbors/co-workers can put you in a very precarious liability situation. If any of those people get sick (for ANY reason whatsoever) and think it might have been something you sold them, it is going to get really ugly, really quick. I think family is safest, followed by friends. Neighbors? Well, I've seen neighbors who lived peacefully for decades erupt into wars over very stupid things. Very risky there... Co-workers? Wow, that the biggest risk of all, because now you are also involving your employer, who might get drawn up into civil liability if you did any transactions on their property. This is 2009. It can happen. People are crazy.

- Keith

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

After reading everyone's comments, it sounds like what I need to do is slap a label on every one of my loaves of bread with the following:

This bread is made from flour with uknown provenance and the baker has not personally certified the milling, processing, and packaging of each grain of wheat.  Furthermore, the enamel baking process to line the inside of the baker's oven was not personally certified by the baker to be in compliance with SCAQMD guidelines for low-VOC processes.  Any ingredients handled by the baker were touched by hands that while washed with soap and hot water, did not undergo Stage Five nuclear decontamination procedures, thus leaving the possibility of contaminants of cancer-causing origination at some point during the baker's lifetime.  Anyone consuming this bread does so at their own risk and will not hold the baker, the baker's family, pets, relatives, co-workers, childhood friends, preschool teachers, or subway-riding companions liable for any damages, accidents, mishaps, or upset tummies.  Furthermore, anyone who even looks at this bread will pretend they did not see it and will not pursue legal action.

If this sounds reactionary, you haven't seen some of the warning labels on kids' toys recently, which unfold as a three-foot long rap sheet.  While I admire the intention to protect each American from personal injury, I can't help but wonder how cottage baking laws have passed in some states, while California works as hard as possible to prevent anyone from making, selling, or consuming food.  I plan on continuing to sell my bread to folks, but am going to change the description to 'day-old bread' and will request donations rather than charge a fee.  Hooray capitalism!

-Peter

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

I don't know CA law, but in Iowa, the one food exception is non hazardous baked goods at a farmer's markte. Otherwise, you need a commerical kitchen.There are options out there as far as rentals go, although that is an added expense. WE've looked around a little, and it just isn't cost effective for us.Unfortunately, other things my wife would like to do to expand (sell to restaurants and such) can't be done from home.

 

Farmer's market policies are all over the place. Here, it is 100 bucks a year for the spot, and you get to keep all your income.

 

I think selling over the net would be worse, as you are basically tapping into federal regs if you cross state lines.

 

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

No, I didn't pursue it further.  But that has mroe to do with my schedule and interest.  I'd love to sell bread at our farmer's market but right now I can bake at home, on my own schedule.  If I go to the next level I will be spending more time away from home.  Working full-time and having kids makes you value time at home!

-Peter

Karen Guse's picture
Karen Guse

It took me two market season's to get into our local market in Morgantown, WV.  After another rejection I appealed, brought Bob and Lola (my starters) and pled my point.  I pay $150 Association fees.  There are smaller markets around, in our town alone there are 5, and we are not a big city.  I sold at the smaller markets, untill I gained a reputation.  Good luck with the California laws.  I made the plunge and built a small commercial kitchen in my basement.

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Yeah... There's no real loop hole to get around food regulations. Although, you can rent commercial kitchens for a couple hours a week to a few days. If you have friends that have their own commercial kitchen, you can always use theirs.

Bixmeister's picture
Bixmeister

Greetings, I have been away from the forum for quite a while.  I had to rebuild my Kamado which was shedding it's tiles in sheets.  My Kamado is a tiled Big Green Egg outdoor cooker.  The Kamado is equivalent to an outdoor brick oven but quite a bit more versatile.  I will be breaking it in again by doing low and slow barbecuing.  After the break-in period I will resume baking bread and pizzas.

Other things like gardening and starting a Cheese Workshop business in San Diego have been filling my time.

Even though off topic, I want to know more about Farmers' Markets regulations in San Diego and the State of California.  Also are their any prospective cheese makers in the San Diego area.  Cheese making is a hobby turned business with me.  I have had advanced training in cheese making recently.  I want to hold a cheese making workshop in San Diego area before Christmas for IRS write off reasons.  I have some large startup costs.  I am creating moulds and other equipment for cheese making.  I have purchased power tools to expedite my equipment making.

All suggestions are welcome

Bix