California Woman Faces Jail Time for Selling Homemade Food

A single mother of six is facing potential jail time for selling ceviche, a seafood dish popular in Latin America, to an undercover police officer. Mariza Reulas is a member of the 209 Food Spot Facebook group, where members from Stockton, California could share recipes, organize potlucks, and occasionally sell what they cook. “Somebody would be like, ‘Oh I don’t have anything to trade you but I would love to buy a plate,’” Reulas told Fox 40. In December 2015, she was contacted by someone asking to buy a plate of her ceviche; that someone turned out to be an undercover investigator from San Joaquin County.

Reulas, along with about a dozen others, was cited for two misdemeanors of operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit. She was offered a plea agreement of three years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $235 fine, but she refused to plead guilty. Now a trial is set for next month and Reulas could face up to a year in jail if she is found guilty.

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel told Fox 40 that the group was sent several warnings before charges were issued.

“I don’t write the laws, I enforce them. And the legislature has felt that this is a crime,” said [McDaniel]. She says selling any food not subject to health department inspection puts whoever eats it in real danger, not to mention it undercuts business owners who do get permits to make their food.

Reulas was the only person charged whose case is headed to trial because she was the only one who refused to accept the plea.

Nevertheless, people should be able to sell homemade food to informed adults without the need of a license or threat of imprisonment.  People should be free to buy and eat the foods of their choice, and the government should butt out.

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