Been Fined?

Business By cakelady99 Updated 9 May 2010 , 8:25pm by Carolynlovescake

cakelady99 Posted 6 May 2010 , 3:15pm
post #1 of 80

I am curious about all of the posts where people refer to a home baker being fined. While I am aware of a couple of individuals who have been questioned or warned by their local health department, I only know one person in Texas who received a fine. And she was operating a pretty large business. So, what's the real deal? Does the health department have enforcement officers that can write tickets? Is there a court date like a speeding ticket? Is there an appeals process? By what means can the Health Dept. enforce payment of the fine? Does anyone have a picture of a fine that they would be willing to share?

One person I talked to said the first fine was $300 the second $600 the third $1500 and possible jail time. Has anyone heard of an actual case where a cake decorator was thrown in jail? I heard the Ace of Cakes himself ran his business illegally for many months until the Health Department showed up. Even then he said he wasn't selling cakes, that he was an artist. What could they do? Run a sting operation?

I'm asking these questions not to skirt the law, (I bake for a hobby); but rather to understand how much of this is fear-based and how we can understand the motives and methods of the health depts. For example, how does a government agency have the authority to pass on fines without an appeals process or legal review.

Anyone who can offer insight to this is much appreciated.

79 replies
metria Posted 6 May 2010 , 3:36pm
post #2 of 80

I'm curious too! I was telling my DH about the other thread talking about Houston being saturated with legal and illegal bakers. He asked how the illegal ones get caught and how much was the fine. I could only shrug and guess that they got tattled on by customers or competition. I could only assume the fine would be significant enough to shut them down.

tiggy2 Posted 6 May 2010 , 3:45pm
post #3 of 80

I think leahs said she got caught but I don't know if she was fined or not.

kelleym Posted 6 May 2010 , 3:51pm
post #4 of 80

This subject has come up before and tends to become heated. Here is another thread:

http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=224761&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0

Bottom line: yes people have been caught and fined. The amount of the fines and degree to which your local health department cares or follows through depend on the laws in your state and county.

mamawrobin Posted 6 May 2010 , 3:54pm
post #5 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggy2

I think leahs said she got caught but I don't know if she was fined or not.




I think what Leah_s said was that she didn't have the "correct" license.

herdream Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:12pm
post #6 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by metria

I'm curious too! I was telling my DH about the other thread talking about Houston being saturated with legal and illegal bakers. He asked how the illegal ones get caught and how much was the fine. I could only shrug and guess that they got tattled on by customers or competition. I could only assume the fine would be significant enough to shut them down.




Do you happen to know the title of that thread?

metria Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:14pm
post #7 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by herdream

Quote:
Originally Posted by metria

I'm curious too! I was telling my DH about the other thread talking about Houston being saturated with legal and illegal bakers. He asked how the illegal ones get caught and how much was the fine. I could only shrug and guess that they got tattled on by customers or competition. I could only assume the fine would be significant enough to shut them down.



Do you happen to know the title of that thread?




Texas broken hearted cake decorator
http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=6806340#6806340

tiggy2 Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:16pm
post #8 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamawrobin

Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggy2

I think leahs said she got caught but I don't know if she was fined or not.



I think what Leah_s said was that she didn't have the "correct" license.



Well if you don't have the correct license you aren't legal are you? Am I missing something here?

cakelady99 Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:28pm
post #9 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelleym



Bottom line: yes people have been caught and fined. The amount of the fines and degree to which your local health department cares or follows through depend on the laws in your state and county.




I understand that people are caught and fined. My question is really about the authority of the health dept. Who are these people? What do they really do? The thread you pointed me is a perfect example. The stories are all anecdotal and there is a lot of hype and fear. Is anyone willing to step forward to tell their actual story? If not publicly, perhaps via PM.

pattycakescookies Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:34pm
post #10 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakelady99

Quote:
Originally Posted by kelleym



Bottom line: yes people have been caught and fined. The amount of the fines and degree to which your local health department cares or follows through depend on the laws in your state and county.



I understand that people are caught and fined. My question is really about the authority of the health dept. Who are these people? What do they really do? The thread you pointed me is a perfect example. The stories are all anecdotal and there is a lot of hype and fear. Is anyone willing to step forward to tell their actual story? If not publicly, perhaps via PM.





I am also interested, anyone??

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:39pm
post #11 of 80

I haven't been approached by the health department because I don't run a cake business from home. I just do cakes for family functions as often as I can and I work in a grocery store bakery. Someone on CC said she called up her local health department asking the same questions you are and all she was told was that IF she was turned in, she would get a visit from a health official telling her to stop what she's doing. They actually then encouraged her to go for it. Then there are stories of people getting fined and shut down. I think it all just depends of where you are.

I myself don't sell cakes from home simply because I know I'm not supposed to. For whatever reasons that I don't understand, my state doesn't want me to. It's an integrity issue for me. If I'm going to have a business, I want it to be legal. If that means building a separate building on my property or renting a commercial kitchen, then that's what I'm saving my pennies for. It sucks and I don't want to, especially when I know there are people baking and selling from their home kitchen, but I don't want to be the one the state decides to make an example of. Doesn't matter if the fine is $50, jail time, or a simple cease and desist letter, I don't want that kind of a mark on my record.

indydebi Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:40pm
post #12 of 80

A personal friend ran her catering business out of her home. She put up a website and within 30 days the health dept was knocking on her door. HD's bosses had told them to "scour the internet" and shut down the home food businesses. She was told to shut down immediately. It was very stressful as she had caterings on her books and now no place to operate. She lucked out and found a church kitchen. She told me that if the HD had returned and found her operating in her home, after being warned, they told her she would pay a stiff fine.

My HD inspector told me she gets a list of all vendors who participate in bridal shows. She checks them all out. Told me she had to shut down 3 cake ladies from that year's show ... went to their home and shut them down.

Now, these stories do not have fines, per se, but the cost was loss of business. It concerns me that the inquiries on this thread seem more worried about "do I REALLY have to pay something?" and less concerned about being busted. It concerns me that the inquiries are weighing the 'cost' of being caught, i.e. if it's only a $300 fine, then pay the fine and keep on working.

I really hope that's not what's being said.

herdream Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:45pm
post #13 of 80

Thank you!

leah_s Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:52pm
post #14 of 80

Yes, I got caught. I had a Bed and Breakfast license (which I also still own) which allowed me to serve breakfast only for registered guests only. A friend opened up a little store and deli and asked me to make cakes and cookies for the display cases. I said, "sure." HD inspector came in, said "Those cakes look really nice. Who's doing them?"

ring ring next day.

So although I had "a" license, I didn't have a catering license which I needed. The catering license required some quick ($$$) kitchen renovations (throw $ at the problem and get it fixed was the game plan) and a reinspection and a new license.

Now, since I had been licensed for many years as a B&B and they knew me and knew I am a chef and have had ServeSafe training, they gave me 6 weeks, I think, to get my act together. This was nearly 11 years ago. The memory fades a bit on the smaller details.

Bottom line is, the HD inspectors in most any locale can shut you down at the time of inspection. They slap a big ol sticker on your front door saying "Closed by order of the Health Department." Oh yeah.

Whether there are fines involved depends on how your local and state codes and ordinances are written.

Don't ever think the HD inspectors have no real power. They have total power over you if you are a food business. Total. Control.

Who are they? Again it depends on your local codes and regs. Here, ours are usual trained in food science, frequently at a masters degree level. It is not an "entry level job" for sure. Around here, they really want to work with you and help you meet the requirements, but you can't be stupid or flippant with them, because like I said above, the bottom line is, they have total control over you.

HD inspectors should be given the utmost respect. They can be your friends. Or your worst enemy.

I was reading another thread on here somewhere just this morning about someone who got caught and from the thread it seemed that there was no fine, but she was going to be shut down for an extended period of time before she could even apply for a license. So in that case the fine was not monetary, but a complete cessation of business for a period of time.

Lenette Posted 6 May 2010 , 4:53pm
post #15 of 80

The HD is a government office in my area. "These people" are very well versed and educated in food safety, have bachelor's and master's degrees and have every authority to fine someone who is found to be breaking the law. Now that is not generally their first move but it can happen.

Like IndyDebi, I am concerned about the tone here but to each his/her own.

That said, the HD is not against you or out to get you. They are there to look after public safety and I have found them to be very helpful.

herdream Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:08pm
post #16 of 80

Texas broken hearted cake decorator
http://cakecentral.com/modules.....40#6806340

Thank you for attaching the thread!

Texas_Rose Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:10pm
post #17 of 80

You can look up the fines in your area. I looked them up when I lived within San Antonio city limits, and operating a food business from your home was a class c misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500 for the first offense. You don't go to jail for a class c misdemeanor, it's the same level offense as a traffic ticket. If you can't pay the fine then you might go to jail. I heard on the news recently that someone was fined $3000 for selling food without a license and from their home, but it was unclear from the story why the fine was so large.

From what I understand, the definition of a cake business rather than baking for friends and family is somewhat subject to interpretation by the different health departments. So if you live in a county with only one health inspector and that health inspector doesn't consider what you do to be a business, then you would be able to do your thing...but if you live in a city with 20 health inspectors then even if one tells you that you can make the occasional cake without a problem, you would have to worry about what the other 19 considered to be a business, or what a judge would consider to be a business.

dreamcakesmom Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:13pm
post #18 of 80

This is a side note and I agree with indideb and leahs. My take on the situation is it really does not come down to the monetary fine but to a process wby which you and your customers can feel confident that your products are coming from a safe kitchen and from a baker who understands the safest means to providing a product.

cakemom42 Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:14pm
post #19 of 80

Every time I move my business I double check with both the HD & the Dept of Ag. I also check with the county & the home owners associations (yea some HOAs have strong veiws on this too) ..... I find all departments very helpful and like the others said not out to get you.. They want the business to succeed, it means more $$ for them... & looks good on their resume's too... "small business friendly community".

I am sure that if you question the process you can appeal it, but at what leagal expense??? & are you willing to go that far?? Is it really worth the time & hassel?? & to what damage might you give your credibility or business?? Remember these people (inspectors) are human too and have a job to do & families to take care of... they are not monsters...
There are people on both sides with attitudes (& bad days).. which side will you be on in the end??

cakelady99 Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:23pm
post #20 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

It concerns me that the inquiries on this thread seem more worried about "do I REALLY have to pay something?" and less concerned about being busted. It concerns me that the inquiries are weighing the 'cost' of being caught, i.e. if it's only a $300 fine, then pay the fine and keep on working.

I really hope that's not what's being said.




Again, my interest is not about having a business. I am a hobby baker. I am interested in the reach of the health department. They serve an important role in keeping the public safe, but I want to know the process, the limits and the reality of their jurisdiction. The anecdotes on the forum are sometimes scary but, i imagine not the full picture.

Let me say that I am the first person who would advise an entrepreneur to do their homework, write a business plan and conduct the hard work of getting legal. It is the right thing to do. But it shouldn't be taboo to discuss the reality of the health dept, fines, etc. rather than just the stories. I have spoken to the health dept many times on the phone with my questions, but I have been given conflicting advice so I want to hear from individuals with authentic, first-hand experience.

rosiecast Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:24pm
post #21 of 80

I'm pretty sure there's a fine to be paid if I get caught in my village. My MIL called and reported me (I am NOT nor have I ever been a business) to the dept of agriculture. I finally spoke with the inspector and he told me that they had "checked me out" and knew I'm not a business. Then he proceeded to give me the requirements to being a legal baker. Doesn't really requires much (they don't even want you using commercial grade equipment, lol) but I can't sell directly to customers and if I decide to sell at a farmers market I can only sell cakes with no icing. What's the point. lol

So I will continue to bake as a hobby and experiment on my friends and family without having to worry about every phone call/email from a potential "client" who is really a health inspector.

metria Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:28pm
post #22 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by rosiecast

I'm pretty sure there's a fine to be paid if I get caught in my village. My MIL called and reported me (I am NOT nor have I ever been a business) to the dept of agriculture.




Your MIL ??
Jeez!

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:35pm
post #23 of 80

I don't know if there are any health inspectors on this forum. If you want exact dollar amounts, who they report to, any other specifics about all this, I would give them a call. I think that's the only way you're going to get the answers you're looking for, especially when those answers depends sometimes down to the city that you live in.

Good Luck!

Lenette Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:35pm
post #24 of 80

I just want to add that being fined or shut down is not just a HD issue it is an issue of reputation and credibility in your community. Word travels fast and folks rarely get the facts straight.

You can get past the $$ and the hassle but it can take a long time to overcome loss of a being viewed as a reputable business.

icon_smile.gif

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:36pm
post #25 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenette

I just want to add that being fined or shut down is not just a HD issue it is an issue of reputation and credibility in your community. Word travels fast and folks rarely get the facts straight.

You can get past the $$ and the hassle but it can take a long time to overcome loss of a being viewed as a reputable business.

icon_smile.gif




Exactly. You know that saying, bad news travels faster than good news.

indydebi Posted 6 May 2010 , 5:39pm
post #26 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenette

I just want to add that being fined or shut down is not just a HD issue it is an issue of reputation and credibility in your community. Word travels fast and folks rarely get the facts straight.

You can get past the $$ and the hassle but it can take a long time to overcome loss of a being viewed as a reputable business.

icon_smile.gif


Wow, so true! You just know the impression people get in their head when they hear "she was shut down by the health department!" (usually said in a conspiratorial whisper!). They will never assume it was a bureaucratic paperwork reason ... they will always assume it's cockroaches and rats.

pattycakesnj Posted 6 May 2010 , 6:00pm
post #27 of 80

HD inspectors can get administrative search warrants issued by judges to get them in someplace they have reasonable cause to believe is operating illegally. It is a legal process, so to answer the OP question, yes, you can appeal if you are found guilty. hth

cakelady99 Posted 6 May 2010 , 6:08pm
post #28 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenette

I just want to add that being fined or shut down is not just a HD issue it is an issue of reputation and credibility in your community. Word travels fast and folks rarely get the facts straight.

You can get past the $$ and the hassle but it can take a long time to overcome loss of a being viewed as a reputable business.

icon_smile.gif

Wow, so true! You just know the impression people get in their head when they hear "she was shut down by the health department!" (usually said in a conspiratorial whisper!). They will never assume it was a bureaucratic paperwork reason ... they will always assume it's cockroaches and rats.




Yeah. that would be bad. Of course, this is a perfect example of why I started this thread. It sounds scary, but how plausible is this scenario? Does the health dept. publish the names of individuals? Has that happened to anyone here?

Adevag Posted 6 May 2010 , 6:11pm
post #29 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Onceuponadreamcakes

This is a side note and I agree with indideb and leahs. My take on the situation is it really does not come down to the monetary fine but to a process wby which you and your customers can feel confident that your products are coming from a safe kitchen and from a baker who understands the safest means to providing a product.




I agree. It's more about morals that fear of getting caught. I would never start an illegal business and put my family at risk. What bothers me is that anyone who is running an illegal business is just living off of hard worked tax dollars. I would not sleep well at night if I sent my kids to school knowing that I don't contribute anything for my kids teachers or our police officers and everything else in the community.

cakelady99 Posted 6 May 2010 , 6:12pm
post #30 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by pattycakesnj

HD inspectors can get administrative search warrants issued by judges to get them in someplace they have reasonable cause to believe is operating illegally. It is a legal process, so to answer the OP question, yes, you can appeal if you are found guilty. hth




Thanks pattycakesnj. This is the information I'm seeking-- a start anyway. Many, many thanks.

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%