From the NJ thread!
To the Honorable (insert name):
I hope you will consider sponsoring a bill that is very important to me as a cake decorator. This bill would legalize residential kitchens and allow for the fulfillment of supplier and consumer need, regulation of home bakers, additional revenue for the state and commercial parity with our neighboring states. Many people do not realize that New Jersey currently does not allow for legal sales of home-baked goods. Within Chapter 24: Sanitation in Retail Food Establishments and Food and Beverage Vending Machines (NJAC 8:24) there are allowances for preparing not potentially hazardous food for sale at a religious or charitable organization's bake sale, as well for foods being prepared and served if the home is a bed and breakfast guesthouse or homestay, or if the private home is a family child-care home, but it does not extend to selling such items to any other consumer. However, legalizing residential kitchens for non-potentially hazardous foods (i.e. foods that will not support the growth of pathogenic organisms and do not require temperature controls, such as bakery products - cakes, cookies, brownies, breads, rolls; jams and jellies; acidified foods; and candy or ready-to-eat foods) will be beneficial for the state of New Jersey in the following ways:
1. Fulfillment of supplier and consumer need:
For many bakers, opening a legal bakery is a catch-22 situation: they want to know if they will have a customer base before investing a great amount of money and spending resources to open a legal kitchen, but they must open a commercial kitchen to legally sell their products. In turn, many home bakers turn to illegally selling products from their residential kitchen. For these home bakers, the opportunity to prove to their clientele that they are legally recognized by the state would be a real boon to their business. They would be able to show their clients certificates from the Department of Health showing that they've passed inspection and could even print up business cards, register with the state and truly 'test the waters' as a small bakery business owner to see if their products are well-received and if this is what they truly want to do, without going into debt. Given that home bakers average a small quantity of goods each week (as they just don't have the equipment, space, or the staff), and many are already operating 'under the radar', the impact on commercial bakeries should be minimal.
Similarly, many consumers have a desire to purchase home-made baked goods from a local neighbor or friend. However, if they've never been to the baker's home before they might be leery about approaching someone that has no certification, permit or license. Being able to see these items would give the potential customer greater peace of mind, and in the unlikely event that a food-borne illness was to result (it is definitely not unheard of even in inspected, licensed commercial food establishments), the customer would have some recourse and the health inspector would have a much easier time being able to track down the cause/origin of the problem. This would alleviate the problem of trying to track down an illegal baker, and gives greater possibility of preventing this scenario in the first place.
2. Increased regulation:
Commercial kitchens undergo strict food regulations, permitting, and licensing by the state. In contrast, people who sell out of their home kitchens undergo no such regulations or restrictions. By legalizing residential kitchens, the bakers will have to take the same food handling courses to earn their certificates and be subject to many of the same rules and regulations for sanitary conditions and procedures within their residential kitchens that are prescribed for retail food establishments. Such regulations could also include a no pets in the home clause, common in many other states' rules for residential kitchen home food manufacturing, as well as requirements for labeling advising that the product was manufactured/baked in a licensed home kitchen, making it mandatory to keep products and ingredients used for saleable goods separate from home use items, etc.
3. Increased revenue with negligible cost
Legalized residential kitchens will allow bakers a legal income and would follow the current income tax laws regarding minimum and maximum revenue taxation, which would in turn bring more revenue to the state of New Jersey. Furthermore, the home baker would be responsible for paying the fees associated with opening a small food establishment business, which includes but is not limited to: application fee, permit fee, trade name fee, home inspection fee, etc. The revenue generated from these would help cover the costs to the state for the additional workload to its employees. Also, the home baker would most likely need to purchase supplies, equipment, and ingredients; all of which would help stimulate the economy (as would the sale of the baked goods, too) resulting in more revenue for New Jersey.
4. Parity with neighboring states
Some of New Jerseys neighboring states in the northeast (such as, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, just to name a few) allow for the sale of food from home kitchens. Sharing a similar law will enable New Jersey to remain commercially competitive with other states in this geographical area.
Some other states have cake decorators in the same situation as my peers and myself and they, too, are trying to have their states laws changed as well. One such state, Texas, recently had their bill, HB 3282, heard before Committee and is now pending. Many of their opponents mentioned the dangers which bringing this bill into law would cause, but the whole reason for wanting to become legal is to prevent dangerous situations and to protect both the baker and the consumer, as the baker would have the responsibility of taking food handling courses and being required to have that certificate in order to register and the consumer would benefit from the knowledge the baker obtained. Its far more dangerous now having so many illegal, unlicensed home bakers who might have taken safety or food handling courses and are unregistered should something actually occur.
Another concern came from larger commercial bakeries and restaurants that are already established. They questioned the unfair advantage that the home bakers would have regarding no overhead, lower pricing and possible unsanitary kitchen practices. These worries are actually baseless since the home baker would have restrictions that the commercial baker does not; such as only preparing potentially non-hazardous foods, and not having a staff to help or commercial equipment to increase productivity. The home baker, most likely would not reap the benefits of shopping for ingredients in bulk so their costs on that level would probably actually be a bit higher and would be reflected in their pricing. Also, the standards of cleanliness would have to be kept the same since both the home baker and commercial baker would have their kitchens inspected by the same agency and need to be certified by the same state recognized food handler courses (though chances are the home baker, not having any employees or staff, would probably set him/herself to a higher standard since its not just a job as its the bakers home and the customers would know where the baker lives). Furthermore, of course, both the home baker and commercial baker would be required to carry liability insurance, as well.
Please consider seriously what I have put before you here. This potential law really means a great deal to me and my cake decorating friends and, I believe, would benefit many, not only home bakers, but the whole state of New Jersey. Thank you.
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