Find Answers to Commonly Asked Questions


What is a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO)?

A legally recognized entity where a person can, out of a private home, prepare and serve food to consumers on the same day either through delivery, take-out, or dine-in the home.

What requirements are there to run a MEHKO?

A Food Protection Manager Certification and a valid MEHKO permit issued by your local county health department, which includes passing a home kitchen inspection.

How long will the permitting process take?

It will vary from county to county as more locations opt-in, but 20-30 days would be an approximate number assuming all requirements are met. (NOTE: due to issues surrounding COVID-19, consult your county for more information).

What states and counties are ready to offer MHEKO permits?

Although the bill was passed on a state level, each county must individually opt in and set up a system for fulfilling its end of the requirements. At this time on Riverside County California is issuing permits. See your “Starting a MEHKO page” for more information on getting your MEHKO business in operation in Riverside County.

How does a MEHKO differ from a Cottage Food Operation?

Cottage Food Operator (Cottage Food Bill, AB1616 LINK: []) requirements vary from county to county but they are generally allowed to Prepare and sell “non-potentially hazardous foods,” which are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature. The list of foods is maintained by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). They can engage in direct sales (and sometimes indirect sales) to consumers. In contract Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operators (California Assembly Bill 626 (AB-626 [link:] ) known as the Homemade Food Act) went into effect on January 1st, 2019 and allows independent cooks to start small cooking operations out of their home kitchens.

What can’t you prepare?

MEHKOs (and Cottege Food Operations) can’t prepare hazardous foods that would require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan (HAACP) plan, for example foods that are canned or pickled and certain dairy products like ice cream or cheese.

How much money can I make?

MEHKO’s must hand all food directly to any customers. This can be done by the cook or an employee/household member thus no third-party delivery services are possible. Consumers to eat in your home, pick up food to-go, or your employee/household member may deliver the food for you.

Is there a limitation on how many meals I can sell?

A MEHKO (home restaurant) is limited to 30 meals (or “meal components”) per day and up to 60 total meals per week where one “meal” is the amount an average person can consume in one sitting.

Can I have employees?

Up to one full time employee but other household members can help with food storage and preparation.

Is there any mandatory training involved in getting a MEHKO permitted?

A Food Protection Manager Certification from an accredited organization is required. The course is eight hours and the certification is good for 5 years. 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.

Can MEHKOs serve alcohol?

Varies by county. Usually requires a separate permit.

Are there any limitations on what foods a MEHKO can serve?

Among the foods that cannot be served are raw oysters, smoked foods, cured foods, foods preserved with vinegar or any food that would require a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.

What areas of the MEHKO will be permitted and inspected and how often?

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. One initial permitting inspection, plus one routine inspection per year with additional inspections which may be conducted in response to a complaint or suspected unsafe production of food. Routine inspections must be scheduled with the operator to ensure that they are at home when the inspector arrives. This is where the operator demonstrates their knowledge of food safety. Emergency inspections may occur and do not have to be scheduled.

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