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Let Them Eat Cake: Officials OK Home Bakeries



Richmond's home bakers are safe from the city after all.

More than two weeks ago, local bread baker Mark McIntyre was visited by a city “SWAT team,” as he put it, and then told by a state inspector that Richmond law forbids food-based businesses from operating out of a home.

But it turns out the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was confused. City residents may legally run baking businesses out of their homes — but not catering operations.

Here's where the confusion happened, according to an e-mail from the city's planning director, Rachel Flynn, which was provided to Style Weekly by watchdog blogger C. Wayne Taylor.

The city got an anonymous complaint about McIntyre's Norwood Cottage Bakery on Feb. 5. Five days later the city sent a multidepartmental team to check it. The team told McIntyre his bakery was allowed in a residential area, but that he needed a business license and a certificate of zoning compliance — which McIntyre now has.

As far as health inspections go, bakeries are in the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Home bakers (along with candy and jam makers) occupy a particular corner of state law that allows them to sell their goods from their homes or at farmers' markets without being subject to state inspection.

Other home-based food producers must be inspected by the state agriculture department to make sure they're complying with food safety guidelines, says department spokeswoman Elaine Lidholm. With good reason, she says: “Probably 99 percent of us do not want cat hair in our cheese.”

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