Dinners from home now legal

Several bills Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed last week will affect food and restaurant businesses.

Plastic straws

On Thursday, Brown, signed Assembly Bill 1884, which “Prohibits dine-in restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws.” The diner must request the straw and more than two violations of the law can result in $25 fines for succeeding violations.

The bill specifically exempts straws made from “… non-plastic materials, including, but not limited to, paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood, or bamboo.” Fast-food establishments are exempt from the law, too.

In his signing statement, after noting, “Plastics, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking our planet,” Brown said, “It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it. And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.”

Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-57, who authored the bill, said in his press release after Brown signed it, “The California Coastal Commission has recorded roughly 835,425 straws that were picked up from our beaches between 1988 and 2014. Straws are the [sixth] most common item found during organized beach cleanups. However, this data doesn’t include straws picked up inland or around California’s lakes and waterways.”

Home kitchens

Assembly Bill 626 establishes “microenterprise home kitchens,” which cities and counties will regulate. MHKs will be authorized to sell food directly to consumers and the bill specifies that “an internet food service intermediary” will be considered a sale directly to a consumer.

As the name implies, MHKs will be able to prepare food in a private residence for sale to consumers. The “micro” prefix limits the number of full-time employees to one. Family or household members are not included in the count.

If these individuals are involved in the preparation, storage or service of the food, they must obtain a food-handler card.

Preparing the food, cooking and serving it must all occur on the same day. But, raw oysters, raw milk products and processes that may require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan are forbidden.

Other “micro” restrictions include a limit of 30 meals per day and 60 meals per week; however, the local agency may waive this limitation. And, total “verifiable” gross sales are limited to $50,000 annually.

“In 2012, California enacted the California Homemade Food Act, also commonly known as the cottage food law. This Act only allows certain non-potentially hazardous foods such as breads, pies, fruit jams, and numerous dried foods to be made in a home kitchen and offered for sale. Selling hot meals, green salads, frozen foods, and many other foods prepared in a home kitchen are not allowed under the law,” according to the Assembly Analysis of AB 626.

“The success of AB 626 will propel California into the new food enterprise frontier, one that is just, inclusive and contains opportunities for all. Legitimizing these home businesses will offer a means of economic empowerment and pathways for many to achieve the ‘American dream’ of success and income self-sufficiency,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-56, who proposed the legislation. Garcia’s district includes a portion of Palm Springs, Indio, Coachella and south to the border with Mexico.

The bill was introduced in response to feedback from his constituents experiencing difficulties navigating through the state’s stringent cottage food laws, he added in the release. Both the state Assembly and Senate unanimously passed AB 626.

Street food vendors

Senate Bill 946 authorizes cities and counties to establish programs to regulate sidewalk vendors. SB 946 allows municipalities to establish permit programs for vendors, and they may require sidewalk vendors to obtain a business license and abide by state tax laws, just like other businesses.

But the law limits some of the practices that discouraged street vendors. For example, limiting the placement of their carts to the public right-of-way or the total number of vendors in an area must be based on health, safety or welfare criteria. Also, prohibition of selling within a public park will be limited to park areas where the local agency has already signed a concessions agreement that provides exclusive-use sales of food or merchandise.

This bill had more opposition, especially from Republican legislators. The bill removes the criminal penalties and potential convictions for sidewalk vendors.

“With Senate Bill 946 we can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are — women and seniors, single parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.

Both Sen. Jeff Stone and Assemblyman Randy Voepel voted “no.”

Kids’ beverages

Currently, restaurants, particularly fast-food operations, offer children’s meals. With the meal comes a drink, usually a soda. SB 1192 will now require that these drinks be water, milk or a nondairy milk alternative.

Advertisements of the kids’ meals will have to display water or milk as the default beverage.

Fines for violations will be classified as an infraction and the first violation will be a written notice. The second violation within five years after the first will be a fine of up to $250. Subsequent violations within a five-year period may be fines of up to $500.

“Our state is in the midst of a public health crisis where rates of preventable health conditions like obesity and Type-2 Diabetes are skyrocketing, due in large part to increased consumption of sugary beverages,” Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said when the bill passed the Legislature. “SB 1192 is one piece of a statewide public health strategy to better inform consumers about the unique impacts that sugary beverages have on their health and that of their families.”