STATE GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS

The documents below are from the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH), the state-wide group that represents the environmental health inspectors that do health inspections on all food facilities (restaurants, food trucks, MEHKOs). These documents are guidance used by county environmental health agencies to create their own permits, FAQs, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). These documents can give you a general sense of what may be required, but won’t be exactly what you see in your county. You can find downloads for these documents and a model permit here.

Each document says: This template was developed as a tool to assist with the implementation of AB626/AB377, if approved. Local enforcement agencies may adapt to their local needs as necessary.

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            MICROENTERPRISE HOME KITCHEN OPERATION GUIDELINES (SOP)

These guidelines have been developed to assist individuals that are interested in operating a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) within their private home. These guidelines are not meant to be inclusive of all local and state requirements, but are intended to provide a summary of the requirements contained within the California Retail Food Code (CRFC) for obtaining a permit and operating a MEHKO safely.

WHAT IS A MICROENTERPRISE HOME KITCHEN OPERATION

A microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO) is defined by the CRFC as a food facility that is operated by a resident in a private home where food is stored, handled, prepared, and served to consumers. Food can be consumed onsite, picked up or be delivered.

For a full copy of the CRFC and applicable requirements, click here.

GETTING STARTED

1.     Contact your local Environmental Health Division/Department to determine if the local governing body has adopted an ordinance or resolution allowing for the permitting of a MEHKO.

2.     If the Environmental Health Division/Department has been authorized to permit a MEHKO, submit the permit application, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and payment for a permitting evaluation. This fee is separate from the annual health permit, if approved.

3.     Contact your local city or county building or planning department to determine if there are any additional permits or licenses that are required.

4.     If you plan to offer liquor (beer, wine or spirits) as part of your MEHKO, contact Department of Alcohol Beverage.

5.     If you plan to utilize an internet food service intermediary (IFSI) as part of the operation, visit the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch website to ensure that the IFSI is registered with the Department.  

6.     Visit www.dir.ca.gov for a list of Frequently Asked Questions if you plan to hire an employee.

It is important to note that there may be other permits or licenses that must be obtained to operate a MEHKO.

 

PRIVATE HOME REQUIREMENTS

In order to obtain approval as a MEHKO, the residential home will be evaluated to ensure that the proposed food operation can be conducted in a manner that safeguards public health. The following items will be evaluated to determine if the proposed operation can be conducted:

·       Adequate food production and food storage capacity for the proposed menu or food products to be prepared.

·       Adequate equipment to keep cold foods cold (41°F) and hot foods hot (135°F) during storage or transportation (if required).

·       Adequate dry food storage and utensil/equipment storage.

·       Equipment and utensils that will be used as part of the MEHKO operation must be in good repair.

·       A fully operable kitchen sink with hot and cold water for cleaning and sanitizing purposes.

·       Restroom handwashing sink must be supplied with warm water, soap and paper towels.

·       Toilet room is supplied with toilet paper and is working properly.

·       Appropriate lighting is available in the food preparation area.

·       Adequate ventilation that allows gases, odors, steam, heat, grease, vapors, and smoke to escape the kitchen (based on proposed menu).

·       Floors, walls, ceilings, in kitchen and toilet facility are smooth, of durable construction and easily cleanable.

OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS

A MEHKO operator and food employees must adhere to the following when “operating” as a MEHKO:

·       The person-in-charge is responsible for ensuring that food preparation activities are not conducted in a manner that could result in contamination of the food by consumers. 

·       Food employees are prohibited from the consumption of food, drink or tobacco during food preparation.

·       Consumer access to the kitchen is to be limited during food preparation activities to prevent food contamination.

·       All animals are to be kept outside of food preparation areas during preparation and operation of the MEHKO.

 

FOOD EMPLOYEE REQUIREMENTS

·       The permit holder of the MEHKO shall successfully pass an approved and accredited food safety certification examination within 60 days of commencing operation. 

·       Any individual that is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food at the MEHKO must have a valid food handler card (unless they possess a valid food manager certificate) within 30 days or within the required time for those enforcement jurisdictions with a food handler program. 

For more information on accredited food certification or food handler programs, visit this website

In addition to completing the above training requirements, the person-in-charge and all food employees shall have adequate knowledge of, and be able to demonstrate as it relates to their assigned duties. Such as:  

·       Understands the importance of employee health and hygiene, including but not limited to handwashing practices and exclusion of ill food employees.

·       Able to demonstrate how cooking, cooling and reheating temperatures are verified.

o   The use of a calibrated food temperature measuring device with a suitable probe thermometer that is designed to measure the foods being prepared is to be available.

·       Able to demonstrate how to prevent cross-contamination during preparation and storage of food.

·       How to properly wash, rinse and sanitize equipment and utensils within the kitchen sink and food-contact surfaces to prevent cross-contamination.

·       Determine which type of sanitizer will be used and obtain the appropriate test strips to measure concentration.

 

LIMITATIONS

A MEHKO is limited to the following:

·       No more than one full-time equivalent food employee, not including family or household members

·       Food must be prepared, cooked, and served, picked up, or delivered on the same day. No left over food can be used as part of the preparation for next-day service or sold on subsequent days.

·       No more than 30 individual or approximate equivalent meals per day and no more than 60 individual or approximate equivalent meals per week.

·       No more than $50,000 in verifiable gross annual sales (adjusts annually based on Consumer Price Index).

·       Food must be sold directly to consumers for consumption on the premises, pick-up or delivery and not provided to a wholesaler or other retail food operation.

 

RESTRICTIONS

·       A MEHKO cannot prepare or provide the following food items:

  • Smoking food as a method of preservation.

  • Curing or pickling of food.

  • Use of food additives as a method of food preservation (e.g. sushi rice to be held at room temperature).

  • Reduced-oxygen packaging of food (e.g. vacuum packaging, sous-vide).

  • Produce, serve, or sell raw milk or raw milk products (Section 11380, Title 17 CCR).

  • Serve or sell raw oysters.

·       A MEHKO cannot post any type of signage or other outdoor displays advertising MEHKO.

·       A MEHKO must comply with local noise ordinances.

 

ADVERTISING FOR AN MEHKO

A MEHKO may utilize an internet food service intermediary or other method (e.g. newspaper, social media) of advertising the food operation. As noted above, there is a prohibition against posting any signage or other outdoor display at the private residence. The term “catering” is not to be used in any form of advertisement for a MEHKO.

If advertising directly to the public, via a website, internet, social media platform, newsletter, or other public announcement, you are required to include the following in the advertisement:

·       Name of the enforcement agency that issued the permit

·       Include the permit number

·       Include the following statement in a clear and conspicuous location “Made in a Home Kitchen”

If utilizing an internet food service intermediary, please visit this link for additional information.

Internet Food Service Intermediary (IFSI) means an entity that provides a platform on its internet web site or mobile application through which a MEHKO may choose to offer food for sale and from which the internet food service intermediary derives revenues, including, but not limited to, revenues from advertising and fees for services offered.

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MICROENTERPRISE HOME KITCHEN OPERATIONS (MEHKO)

                                             FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)                                            

The California Health and Safety Code (i.e. California Retail Food Code) was recently amended to establish a “microenterprise home kitchen operation” as a new type of retail food facility. A MEHKO if authorized by the local governing body of an enforcement agency (i.e. local environmental health jurisdiction) would allow the enforcement agency to issue a permit to an individual to operate a restaurant in their private home.

Permitting  

1.              Q: What is a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation?

            A: It is a type of food service operated by a resident from a private home where food is prepared, cooked and served to consumers on the same day. Food is to be consumed onsite, picked up or be delivered to the consumer within a safe time period (i.e. within 30 minutes without hot holding equipment).

2.         Q: When does the MEHKO law go into effect?

A: While the law became effective January 1, 2019, unless a local governing body such as a City or County authorize this type of food facility a permit will not be able to be issued by the local environmental health jurisdiction.

3.         Q: Do I need a permit to operate a MEHKO?

A: Yes, a permit shall be obtained from the local environmental health jurisdiction prior to operating a MEHKO.

4.         Q: How do I obtain a permit?

A: To obtain a permit, submit a permit application, Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) and payment to the environmental health jurisdiction where the MEHKO is located. The submitted packet will be reviewed and an inspection of the MEHKO will be scheduled. If approved, a permit will be issued.  Fees will vary depending on the local ordinance and fee schedule.

5.         Q: How long does the application process take for a MEHKO?

A: The application process is determined by the level of detail and completeness of the application package. The standard application process for MEHKOs is up to 20 calendar days if the application package is complete and the level of detail in the operational procedures is included to demonstrate compliance with the law.

6.         Q: I have a MEHKO permit for my current residence and will be moving. Is my permit still valid for my new residence?

A: No, permits are not transferable to other people or other location. Permits that are issued by the environmental health jurisdiction are only valid for the person, location and type of food service initially approved. In the event that the food permittee moves, changes their menu or type of food service, a new permit application will need to be submitted for approval by the local environmental health jurisdiction.

7.         Q: Can two MEHKO permits be issued for two residents that would like to operate a MEHKO out of the same residence?

A: Only one MEHKO may operate from a private residence. Permits are specific for the person, location and type of food service to be offered.  

8.         Q: What information is required in an MEHKO’s standard operating procedures?

A: The MEHKO’s standard operating procedures shall include:

  • All food types or products (e.g. menu items) that will be handled.

  • The proposed procedures and methods of food preparation and handling.

  • Procedures, methods, and schedules for cleaning utensils, equipment, and for the disposal of refuse.

  • How food will be maintained at the required holding temperatures, pending pickup by the consumer and during delivery.

  • Proposed days and times when the home kitchen may potentially be utilized as a MEHKO.

  • Will the food be served on site, delivered, picked up or all of the above.

 9.         Q: Can a permitted Cottage Food Operator (CFO) also operate as a MEHKO?

A:  No, a CFO is restricted to nonpotentially hazardous foods and cannot serve foods from a private home.

10.       Q: What is the difference between a Cottage Food Operation (CFO) and a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO)?

A:  A CFO is restricted to preparing and selling only nonpotentially hazardous foods that have been approved by the California Department of Public Health which may be sold directly or indirectly to the consumer where as a MEHKO allows for the limited preparation of potentially hazardous foods for onsite consumption or delivery when permitted by the local environmental health jurisdiction.

11.       Q: Who is the “local enforcement agency” for MEHKOs?

A: The local enforcement agency for food facilities, including MEHKOs, in (specify County/City/City or County) is the (specify Environmental Health agency).

12.       Q: How often will a MEHKO be inspected by the local environmental health jurisdiction?

A: After the initial permitting inspection, a MEHKO may be subject to one routine inspection per fiscal year. Additional inspections may be conducted in response to a consumer complaint, or reason to suspect that adulterated or otherwise unsafe food has been produced or served.  

13.       Q: What areas of the MEHKO will be permitted and inspected?

A: The areas of a MEHKO that will be permitted and inspected include the home kitchen, onsite consumer eating area, food storage, utensils and equipment, toilet room, cleaning facilities, and refuse storage area (this includes garbage, recycling and composting areas).

14.       Q: What happens if a customer complains after eating at or purchasing food and beverages from a MEHKO?

A: The Environmental Health Specialist may conduct an onsite inspection to investigate the alleged complaint. Fees may be assessed by the local environmental health jurisdiction for the investigation.

15.       Q: What information is available to assist a MEHKO to operate in a safe and healthy way?

A: The local environmental health jurisdiction is a great resource to obtain information (link: LEAwebsite).

16.       Q: Is a letter grade/placard required to be posted at a MEHKO like it is at a permanent food facility or a mobile food facility?

A: The law exempts a MEHKO from any local grading system.  Inspection report data and violation information relating to any inspections conducted at a permitted MEHKO can be found at EHwebsite.

17.       Q: How would the public know if a MEHKO has an approved permit?

A: A MEHKO is required to display their permit, or a legible copy, during hours of operation.  Customers can also visit EHwebsite to determine if a MEHKO has a valid permit.

 

Operating MEHKO

1.              Q: Who is considered a resident?

A: A resident is an individual who lives in a private home (such as a single home, apartment, duplex, or condominium) when not elsewhere for work or temporary basis (i.e. vacation).

2.         Q: Can a MEHKO operate as a Caterer?

A: No, a MEHKO is prohibited from operating a Catering Operation. Only permanent food facilities approved for food preparation (such as a restaurant, banquet facility or other approved commercial kitchen) can conduct catering operations.) 

3.         Q: Who can I sell my food to?

A: Food must be sold directly to a consumer for onsite consumption or delivery and not to a wholesaler or retailer.

4.         Q: Can a MEHKO sell or give away food products at a temporary event or certified farmer’s markets?

A: No, a MEHKO cannot sell food products at a temporary event or certified farmer’s market. A MEHKO is limited to selling food directly to a consumer for onsite consumption or delivery.

5.         Q: Can a MEHKO sell to any wholesaler or retailer?

A: No, a MEHKO can only sell food directly to consumers, through an internet Web site, or a mobile application of an Internet food service intermediary (see FAQ further in the document for the definition of an internet food service intermediary) 

6.         Q: Can a MEHKO advertise in front of the residence?

A: No, the MEHKO is prohibited from posting signage or other outdoor displays advertising the MEHKO from a residence.

7.         Q: Can a MEHKO advertise online?

A: Yes, a MEHKO can utilize an internet food service intermediary or other online platform that lists or promotes the MEHKO on its internet web site or mobile application.

8.         Q: Can a MEHKO advertise using print media?

A:  Yes, a MEHKO can advertise in a newspaper or other print media. The MEHKO must clearly identify the name of the local enforcement agency that issued the permit, the permit number along with the following statement “Made in a Home Kitchen” in a conspicuous font and location within the advertisement.  

9.         Q: If there are complaints about odors, traffic, parking, and/or excessive noise, what agency should be notified?

A: Any complaints involving nuisance concerns can be reported directly to the local city’s Code Enforcement Department, or for MEHKOs in the unincorporated areas, to the County Code Enforcement Program.

10.       Q: Can a MEHKO utilize a third party online delivery service, such as Uber Eats or DoorDash to deliver food?

            A:  No a MEHKO is not allowed to utilize any third party delivery service for food deliveries.

 

Food Service at MEHKO

1.         Q: What type of food service is the MEHKO permitted to do?

A: A MEHKO can prepare and sell foods that have been approved by the local environmental health jurisdiction for same day onsite consumption or delivery. 

2.         Q: What are the menu limitations on a MEHKO?

            A: An MEHKO business may not prepare food or beverages that:

  • Involve the production, service, or sale of raw milk or raw milk products.

  • Involve the service or sale of raw oysters.

  • Involve food processes that require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan (see follow-up question below for more information).

3.         Q: What types of food processing require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan?

A:  The following specialized food processes require a HACCP plan:

  • Smoking food as a method of food preservation.

  • Curing food.

  • Using food additives or adding components such as vinegar as a method of food preservation.

  • Operating a molluscan shellfish life support system display tank used to store and display shellfish that are offered for human consumption.

  • Using acidification or activity to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

  • Packaging potentially hazardous food using a Reduced-Oxygen Packaging (ROP) method.

  • Preparing food by another method that is determined by the lead local agency to require a HACCP plan.

4.         Q: Can a MEHKO make and sell ice cream or other milk products?

A:  No. The California Department of Food and Agriculture requires a license and specific requirements for the manufacturing of ice cream or dairy based foods.  A residential home will not be able to meet those requirements. This does not prohibit a MEHKO from utilizing dairy products such as pasteurized milk purchased from an approved source as an ingredient in a food product.

5.         Q: Can homegrown fruits and vegetables be used in a MEHKO?

A: Yes, however care should be taken to ensure all fruit and produce is grown and handled using best management practices associated with a community food producer and all produce must be thoroughly washed prior to use.

6.         Q: Can a MEHKO add cannabis, CBD, or Kava to a food product as part of their operation?

A: No, only approved food additives may be used as an ingredient in food preparation. At this time, cannabis, CBD and Kava have not been approved as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration.

7.         Q: Can a MEHKO donate food?

A: A MEHKO may donate food to a food bank or to any other nonprofit charitable organization as long as food has been handled in compliance with the California Retail Food Code and is donated the same day it is prepared. 

8.         Q: Can I keep leftovers to serve the next day?

A: Leftovers can’t be served the next day as part of the MEHKO operation.

9.         Q: Can a MEHKO package food or beverages?

A:  An MEHKO may portion food into containers for same-day pick up or delivery service. 

10.       Q: Are commercial equipment and/or appliances required in a MEHKO?

A: No, commercial equipment and/or appliances are not required as long as the equipment/appliances are maintained clean and are in good working order.

11.       Q: Are there any special requirements regarding a private residential water well?

A: Yes, only potable water from a properly constructed and maintained onsite well or municipal water system can be used. Bacteriological test (quarterly), Nitrates (annually), Nitrites (every 3 years), and constituents of concern such as Fluoride and Arsenic (once) may be required by the local enforcement agency.

12.       Q: Can a MEHKO operate an open-air barbecue or an outdoor wood-burning oven?

A:  Yes, a MEHKO may operate an open-air barbecue or an outdoor wood-burning oven as long as the barbecue or oven is operated on the same premises as a MEHKO, is separated from public access, and meets the requirements of California Retail Food Code Section 114143.  

13.       Q: Are restrooms required to be available for MEHKO customers?

A: Yes, clean toilet facilities, in good condition, shall be available for employees at all times and for consumers when there is onsite consumption.

14.       Q: Can alcoholic beverages be served or sold from a MEHKO?

            A: Contact Department of Alcohol Beverage at www.abc.ca.gov/districts.asp?City=EKA#Eureka.

 

Employees/Record Keeping

1.         Q:  What is the definition of a food employee?

A:  A food employee is an employee who works with food, food equipment or utensils, or food contact surfaces. For more information about California Labor Laws visit: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DLSE/dlse.html 

2.         Q:  Are family or household members considered food employees?

A: No, family members and household members are not considered food employees of a MEHKO.

3.         Q:  What are the limitations for a MEHKO to hire food employees?

A: A MEHKO may have no more than one (1) full time equivalent food employee.

4.         Q: What certificates are required to operate a MEHKO?

A: The operator of the MEHKO shall successfully pass an approved and accredited food safety examination by the American National Standards Institute as meeting the requirements of the Conference for Food Protection’s Standards for Accreditation of Food Protection Manager Certification Programs and any individual, other than the operator, who is involved with the preparation, storage, or service of food in a MEHKO shall obtain an approved food handler card. A food employee that has a valid food safety manager certificate is not required to obtain a food handler card.

5.         Q: What are the sales limitations of a MEHKO?

A: The MEHKO shall have no more than fifty thousand ($50,000) in verifiable (ex. invoices) gross annual sales. Records of all sales must be kept so that compliance with this limitation can be verified. 

6.         Q: What records are required to be maintained for review by the local environmental health jurisdiction?

A:  The MEHKO shall maintain the following documents onsite for review during an inspection:

  • Written standard operating procedures that include a menu, and hours of operation.

  • The permit to operate, or an accurate copy, shall be displayed onsite at all times when the MEHKO is in operation.

  • Valid certificate of the food safety manager certification for the operator and a valid food handler card(s) or food safety manager certification for any food employees.

  • A copy of the valid driver’s license of a person delivering food on behalf of the MEHKO.

  • A copy of the most recent inspection report.

  • Copies of the MEHKO financial records as it relates to the gross annual sales.

7.         Q: What if I want to change my menu after I have obtained a permit as an MEHKO?

A: If the proposed menu change requires new equipment or additional food storage capacity, an updated SOP may be required by the local enforcement agency. Contact the local enforcement agency to determine what may be required before changing the menu.

If you have any questions that have not been answered in these FAQ’s,
or if additional clarification is needed, please visit your
local enforcement agency.

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INTERNET FOOD SERVICE INTERMEDIARY (IFSI)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

The California Health and Safety Code (i.e. California Retail Food Code) was recently amended to establish a “microenterprise home kitchen operation” as a new type of retail food facility and also established requirements for “Internet Food Service Intermediary” entities, which provide a platform on its Internet Web site or mobile application, where a MEHKO can advertise food for sale.

The following Frequently Asked Questions have been developed to assist those interested in operating as an IFSI. 

1.         Q: What is an internet food service intermediary (IFSI)?

A: An IFSI is an entity that provides a platform on its website or mobile application through which a MEHKO may choose to offer food for sale and from which the IFSI derives revenues, including but not limited to, revenue from advertising and fees for services offered to a MEHKO. Publishing an advertisement for the MEHKO does not make the publisher an IFSI.

2.         Q: When do I need to be registered with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)?

A: An IFSI is required to register with the CDPH prior to listing an MEHKO. Visit the website for more information.

3.         Q: What do I need to do as an IFSI?

A: As an IFSI, you need to be registered with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Visit the following website for more information.  

4.         Q: What if an IFSI receives a complaint from the public about a MEHKO?

A: The IFSI is required to submit name and permit number of an MEHKO to the local environmental health jurisdiction that has issued the MEHKO a health permit if the IFSI has received three (3) or more unrelated food complaints in a calendar year within two weeks of the third complaint.

5.         Q: What type of complaints are considered as those that require a referral to the local enforcement agency?

            A:  Any complaint that is related to any potential violation of the California Retail Food Code, such as, but not limited to the following, poor food handling practices, vermin infestation, sick food employees.

6.         Q: What if an INFSI does not comply with the requirements listed in Section 114367.6?

            A:  CDPH is the enforcement agency for violations related to an IFSI and may be subject to suspension or revocation of the registration or penalties outlined in the California Retail Food Code.

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