By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Jessica Garcia may not be a chef, but she’s proud of her Mexican food.

That food has helped raise money for her struggling sister in Tijuana.

“I didn’t even know that this was illegal until someone else brought it to my attention,” she said.

Food inspectors eventually shut down the startup she worked with. Foodnome was a community of Davis foodies who sold their home-cooked dinners.

They weren’t alone. Mariza Ruelas of Stockton said she was slapped with 80 hours community service, a $230 fine, and 3 years of probation.

The crime? Selling ceviche to pay for her son’s karate lessons. Ruelas was one of several Stockton women charged with misdemeanors, for operating a business without a license.

“I just thought it was kind of extreme. I hear of people getting arrested for far worse and they get like a slap on the risk,” she said.

The single mom of six says her legal battle is behind her, but now she’s leading a food fight at the state Capitol. Advocates whipped up a bill that would make California the first state to regulate the home-cooked meal market.

Assembly Bill 626 will allow annual kitchen inspections by county health departments. Cooks could only sell $50,000 worth of food a year and 60 meals a week.

The health department says food prepared in a facility that hasn’t been inspected creates a public health risk.

Home cooks are open to new rules, as long as they can reap the rewards.

“I can make a really good living out of selling my food,” Garcia said.

The California Department of Public Health wouldn’t comment on the legislation.

The bill already cleared the Assembly and is now on the way to the state Senate for a full vote.


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