Earlier this month, Utah became the second state in the country to implement a law allowing home cooks to sell home cooked meals. This very good law, HB 94, legalizes what is now called Micro-enterprise home cooking operations (MEHKO).
Utah joins California as the only state with MEHKO laws. These laws aim to provide low earning potential for unemployed chefs, stay-at-home parents, recent immigrants, potential restaurant and food truck owners, and students.anyone, really, who has “scrambled into their kitchens “before and during the pandemic.
While California’s first MEHKO law took a big step forward when it came into effect in 2019, its implementation has been a mess. This is largely because the law requires municipalities to adhere to the law to be covered by it, i Explain in September.
“While a handful of counties and cities have expressed interest in passing the law in their own jurisdictions, no city or county in California except Riverside County – not one – has passed. the law and drafted rules to implement it, âI wrote.
Fortunately, that is changing.
“Despite the fears from a number of industries, most of which are overblown and some of which are not at all real, we are pleased that more jurisdictions are moving to homemade food operation laws: 7 cities and counties of California, so far, and the state of Utah, âsays Peter Ruddock, California director of policy and implementation COOK Alliance, the nonprofit group that led the fight for California law. “This is not a game for the impatient. It will likely take some time for these laws to become widespread, but the COOK Alliance is committed to the long term effort.”
Ruddock is right that the fears expressed by some opponents of MEHKO laws are often exaggerated or simply made up. At a public hearing this month at Solvang, for example, an interested member of the public urged the city council to ask county lawmakers to reject the California MEHKO bill acceptance plans.
âThe House is adamantly against micro-kitchens,â Solvang Chamber of Commerce chief Tracy Beard told city council, citing the alleged vehicular dangers that homemade food could cause, as well as its “impact. [on] the future of closed communities here “which grilled ribs and fried chicken Might have. Beard also called the MEHKO law “nonsense”, and urged the municipal council to “[p]rotect our struggling local restaurants by refusing to pass the proposed MEHKO order. “
Although Solvang’s board accepted these arguments, the Santa Barbara County Supervisory Board rejected these and similar arguments this month and vote to adhere to the state MEHKO law.
While California MEHKO law is flawed (for reasons other than those cited by Beard), Utah law is also not perfect. Like in california, Utah law too contains licensing and inspection requirements, which bother some. And Utah law doesn’t allow shoppers to consume the food in the home where it was produced, which means home dinner clubs aren’t legal.
Fortunately, Utah has waived California’s dreadful membership requirement. Instead, Utah law limits the number of permits a municipality can issue to a percentage related to the number of restaurants in a given municipality (15% in large cities and 70% in smaller ones). Hypothetically, this means that if the state’s most populous county, though including Salt Lake City, has 1,000 restaurants, the county’s health department could issue up to 150 MEHKO permits. Under the law, however, the cap will be lifted within a year.
As Ruddock (of the COOK Alliance) noted, we are still in the early days of MEHKO laws. Other states have considered adopting their own MEHKOs. For example, as I noted in a column last month, Washington state considered a similar law. (This blocked bill, which means I still have to buy my favorite homemade tamales on the black market.)
MEHKO – like home food laws and food freedom lawsâProvide more choices for consumers and budding food entrepreneurs. This is why I hope that MEHKO laws continue to spread to all states across the country.