Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

(Para Español haz clic aqui) Assembly Bill (AB) 626 passed into law in 2018 and became effective January 1, 2019. This law creates  Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO), which allow home cooks to apply for a permit to sell most types of food directly to the public from a home kitchen.

This law is the first of its kind in United States so we are excited to be at the forefront of a movement, but it will take some time for everything to get up and running. In the meantime, we will update this document with new information as we receive it.

If you’d like clarification, please post a question in our Facebook group or email admin@cookalliance.org and we will do our best to reply with a update as quickly as possible.

Can I immediately begin selling homemade food?

Not yet! You’ll need to apply for a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) permit from your county.

Can I apply to get a MEHKO permit right now?

First, your county must first opt-into the law. Your County Board of Supervisors needs to vote and adopt a resolution to authorize this type of food facility. Then, your Health Department will set up a permit and inspection process. Once the process is in place, you may start your application on your County’s Environmental Health website. The application, inspection, and permitting process should take about 20 days.

As of February 1, 2019, no counties have adopted the full resolution. If you’d like to help your county adopt the resolution, click here for more information.

What can I do to be ready for when my county starts issuing MEHKO permits?

While you cannot apply right now to get your MEHKO permit, there are some steps you can take so you are ready to apply when counties open the permitting process, such as:

  • Complete necessary certifications

    • Take an accredited Food Protection Manager course and exam, such as with ServSafe or Prometric.

  • Prepare for some of the standard permit application questions:

    • Determine your menu items: food and beverages, ingredients.

    • Determine the days and hours of operation.

    • Write a list of all kitchen equipment you will be using (no commercial equipment or appliances are required, as long as all equipment is in clean and working order)

    • Determine how you will be cleaning your utensils and equipment (dishwasher, clean-in-place protocol, utensil dishwashing sink)

    • Decide where/how you are going to sell your food items (out of your home/on-site, Internet Food Service Intermediary, or other website)

    • Determine where/how you will do delivery or pick up.

    • Determine how you will maintain the required holding temperatures before pick up or delivery

    • Determine brand and business name (not required, just a best practice)

    Do I need the food safety handlers card or the food safety managers card?

You must have a Certified Food Protection Manager certification from an accredited organization. The course is 8 hours, the cost is between $50-$90 and the certification is good for 5 years. If you have a food handlers card, you must upgrade to the food managers card. You can find information about the difference between the food handlers card and food managers card here.

Additionally, any individual, other than the operator, who is involved with the preparation, storage, or service of food in a MEHKO must have a food handler card.


What are the MONETARY limitations of a MEHKO?

The MEHKO cannot sell more than fifty thousand ($50,000) in food annually (gross annual sales). You must keep records of all sales to show compliance (keep your receipts). This number will be adjusted for inflation, meaning it will (generally) increase a little bit each year.


What are the MEAL limitations of a MEHKO?

The MEHKO cannot sell more than 30 meals, or “meal component”per day and/or 60 meals per week. For example, if you sell 30 meals on Friday and Saturday, then you hit your maximum for the week. “Meals” is not defined in the law, but has been generally described as the amount of food an average person eats in one sitting. (For example, a single tamale would not be considered a full “meal” because the average person would not eat just 1 tamale for dinner.) Your exact quantity will be determined during your permit and inspection process.


Who can work for the MEHKO?

A MEHKO can have no more than one (1) full time equivalent food employee. The home cook may have help from family or household members in food preparation or storage. Any person working with food must have the food handlers certification.


Do I need to be a U.S. Citizen to start a MEHKO?

No, anyone can apply to have a MEHKO. You did not need to any proof of citizenship nor a social security number to apply for a MEHKO permit. (Please note that County Environmental Health inspectors will come into your home to permit the kitchen, food storage and prep areas, and food consumption areas. )


Will I be able to use a third-party delivery service, like DoorDash, to deliver my food?

No, the cook or an MEHKO employee/household member must hand all food directly to any customers. You can either arrange for consumers to eat in your home, pick up food to-go, or your employee/household member may deliver the food on your behalf. You may not contract with a third party delivery service (such as DoorDash, UberEats, Postmates).


Can I sell alcohol with my meals?

If you’d like to serve alcohol or allow people to bring alcohol and drink it on-premise, you will need a separate permit under the Alcohol and Beverage Control Act. California law provides two types of licenses allowing for the consumption of alcoholic beverages in a permitted kitchen - 1) license allows for the sale or consumption of beer and wine, 2) the other allows for distilled spirits in addition to beer and wine. You can read more about your county alcohol permitting specifics here.

Can I use cannabis, CBD, or Kava in my food?

No, only approved food additives may be used as an ingredient in food preparation.

Can a MEHKO use a wood-burning stove or BBQ?

Yes, a MEHKO can prepare food on a open-air barbecue or an outdoor wood-burning oven that is on the same premise as the MEHKO and is separated from public access, and meets the requirements of California Retail Food Code Section 114143.


What is the difference between a Cottage Food Operation (CFO) and a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO)?
A Cottage Food permit allows the home cook to prepare and sell a specific list of nonpotentially hazardous foods directly or indirectly to the consumer.  A MEHKO permit the home cook to prepare potentially hazardous foods after the kitchen has been permitted. Neither permit allows the home cook to prepare highly hazardous foods that require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan (HAACP) plan, like canned foods or pickled foods or dairy products (like