Home-baked goods bill clears Health panel

TRENTON – The home-based baker received a boost today.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee released S2734, which permits the sale of home-baked goods if the consumer is notified by a clearly visible placard at the point of sale that the goods were prepared in a kitchen that is not subject to regulation and inspection by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-16), Somerville.

It passed unanimously.

Bateman and witnesses presented the bill as an economic boost for homeowners struggling with such basic expenses as mortgages during a stubborn recession and who often can’t afford the rent of an official storefront.

Bateman acknowledged health officers’ concerns, and said the bill remains a work in progress whose details can be addressed.

He also turned aside criticism that such entrepreneurs would be competing against full-time bakeries, adding that there would not be that many individuals involved in this.

The issue of accountability remained a point of discussion.  Sen. Robert Singer said that if inspections are involved, it would become a “nightmare’’ for the home baker who would see their chance to earn some money diminished.

“I don’t want to see bureaucracy enter into this,’’ said Sen. Diane Allen. “We don’t need over-regulation.’’

But Sen. Joe Vitale and Chair Sen. Loretta Weinberg said there has to be some way to protect legitimate health concerns, referencing some kind of food-handlers licensing or approval, and Weinberg said she doesn’t want to see a home kitchen turn into a commercial bakery.

And Sen. Jim Whelan said he believes this will represent competition to bakeries which do follow the regulations and pay the overhead a commercial bakery is expected to bear.

Bateman reiterated this bill would have limited effect, to small-scale operations of a limited number of homeowners, and that the Department of Health would come up with the detailed regulations.

"I don't think what he's doing tonight, the method by which he's doing it helps to build a trustful relationship."
—Gov. Chris Christie reacting to President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform.