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Legislation was cooking well into the evening on Monday as an Iowa House subcommittee dealing with the operation of home bakeries licensed by the Department of Inspections and Appeals was considered.

The bill, as filed, removes a cap that limits home bakeries to annual business sales of $35,000 a year. Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City), who filed the bill and chaired the subcommittee, said the desire was to see a cap set at $250,000 if a cap was necessary at all.

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Bob Mulqueen of the Iowa Environmental Health Association said the group is against the bill. He said they don’t feel a home bakery can follow good safety methods if they’re generating so much business out of their home kitchen.

Tyler Raygor of Americans For Prosperity was in favor of the bill. He said Iowa currently has well over 400 home bakeries and, when they hit that cap of $35,000, they have to shut down and lay off employees and quit working at the end of the year.

“It’s not meant to be a hobby,” Raygor said.

Raygor said these bakeries are trying to grow their business, and the $35,000 limits severely limits their ability to do so.

Eric Goranson of the Iowa Restaurant Association testified against the bill, noting the investment into Iowa communities large bakeries have made.

“They’ve made these investments because they care about safety,” he said. “They support the system that keeps their customers safe.”

There isn’t much need for change, he said, considering of the 400-plus home bakeries, none of them showed up at the Capitol demanding action.

“If we do make changes, we need to be really cautious that we’re not creating a system where anyone is going to call themselves a home bakery and not be able to dispose of grease, not be able to manage food safety plans, they’re going to have dirty diapers, cigarettes and pets all over. Where does this end?”

He said he doesn’t believe there would be equal protection under the law if the cap was removed.

“We’d want to make sure the regulations are adjusted to treat everyone the same and to treat everyone fairly,” he said.

Legislators asked about current inspections for home bakeries, which are required in law, but Rep. Kenan Judge (D-Waukee) said inspectors likely focus on larger operations.

“Inspectors are under pressure,” Judge said. “I’m not saying they’re not inspecting them, I’m saying I wonder how often they really are getting inspected.”

Raygor said home bakers depend on word of mouth.

“They’re not going to take the risk of having their folks get sick when they know that that’s how their business spreads,” he said.

Judge said he worked in the food business for 38 years.

“I can make a case that it’s good to have inspections in your business,” he said. “It’s good for the owner of the business as it is for the people getting the products. I’m a firm believer that places should be inspected. To me, taking the cap off, I could not support. And, even going to $250,000, I’d have a hard time supporting. I always try to put the strictest regard for food safety because peoples’ lives are at risk. I’m not saying these folks do a bad job, they probably do a great job. I could see moving the cap up a little bit, to me, $250,000 is a huge ask.”

Raygor added that there are home bakeries throughout the state who would like to see this issue addressed, but other priorities keep them from getting to the Capitol to testify for the bill.

Rep. Terry Baxter (R-Garner) agreed with Judge that jumping from $35,000 to $250,000 seemed a little much.

The bill was signed through committee, with an amendment to put the cap at $50,000.

Author: Jacob Hall

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