California signs laws for home cooks and against plastic straws

California Governor Jerry Brown
California Governor Jerry Brown
Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

California Governor Jerry Brown is well-known for his progressive and environmental efforts, and a few bills he just signed into law in California continue to bear that history out. First, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that California is now the first state to ban restaurants from handing out plastic straws unless a customer asks for one. The law is intended to help eliminate plastic waste, but is small in scope: It only applies to dine-in restaurants, where fast-food establishments use many more straws. Brown said: “We must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”


Another new law allows home cooks to sell their food directly to the public. A previous 2012 statute approved the sales of foods like jams, pickles, and other foods with low risk of foodborne illness. This law encompasses more foods, and also includes important safety precautions. The Chronicle notes, “To obtain a permit to sell food prepared at home, cooks must obtain the same food managers’ certification as restaurant professionals do and agree to an inspection of their kitchen.” They can only sell straight to consumers directly, though, and not through mail-order or delivery services, for example. And if they “gross more than $50,000 a year, they will have to move to a commercial kitchen.”

Proponents of the law praise it for decriminalizing a fairly standard practice. Which is good news for food-stand purveyors and bake-sale enthusiasts.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.


I’m glad that they took the sensible approach of making plastic straws available on demand rather than a blanket ban. A lot of advocates for the disabled sounded the alarm about the harm a blanket ban would cause and it appears California took that into consideration.

As far as the other part of the law, I’m ok with it for the most part. They have health regulations in place to make sure not anyone is just serving nasty food out of their kitchen. I am a bit puzzled about the provision regarding $50,000 worth of revenue making it necessary to secure a commercial kitchen. It just seems very arbitrary as a limit. Personally I think it ought to be much lower, like around $5k or $10K. I could see someone making around that much just cooking out of a typical home kitchen over the course of a year, but in order to make much more than that, I’d think you’d need a commercial kitchen out of necessity.