Justice

The Terrible Reason This Mother's Food Could Land Her in Jail

November 8th 2016

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

Restaurants often advertise dishes as "homemade" to entice people, but the food usually isn't made in an actual home. However, a single mother of six tried to sell food she made at home on Facebook and, now, she could face jail time. 

Mariza Ruelas first learned about a Facebook group where users sell food two years ago when she bought a cake for her daughter's birthday, according to The Washington Post. The Facebook group, which is called 209 Food Spot, allows people in the area of Stockton, California, to connect in order to exchange and sell food items.

Ruelas told The Washington Post that she was not trying to make a business out of it, selling food is a common way to make extra money in many communities -- particularly in low-income ones. The mom added that she has been out of work for two years. 

Over the summer, members of the Facebook group found out that officials had been tracking their food sales since last year. An undercover investigator ordered ceviche from Ruelas in 2015. Now, she and other group members are being charged with operating a food facility without a permit.

Ruelas refused to accept a plea deal, so she's headed to trial and could face jail time, according to The Washington Post. 

“We didn’t see any harm in that,” she told the news outlet. “There wasn’t anybody selling it daily. A lot of times, they were just getting back what they put into the ingredients.”

People on Twitter are outraged that a mother was charged with a crime for selling ceviche. 

 

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel told a local Fox station that any food that's not inspected by health department officials puts the public in danger. She also said that she doesn't make the laws. 

"I don't write the laws, I enforce them, and the legislature has felt that this is a crime,” she told the station. 

However, the legislature in California has changed its position on homemade food in the past. 

After the Los Angeles Times did a 2011 profile on Mark Stambler's popular home bread business, health officials came and shut it down the next day, according to Forbes. It was illegal to sell food made in a home in California.

After his business was shut down for 18 months, Stambler became an advocate for new laws, and in 2012 the California Homemade Food Act was passed. Residents have to pass a food processing course, label goods and register for a permit to sell food made from home. The protection only applies to a list of approved foods, and it doesn't apply to Ruelas. 

For now, she waits for her trial and continues to raise her family on little money. 

Ruelas added, “I have two kids that are going to have a birthday party next week, and I have no idea what I’m going to do about it.” 

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