As a result of intervention by the Alameda Health Department, 'Josephine' has ceased operating in Alameda County until further notice.
Josephine was founded in late 2014 by Wang and Tal Safran as a mission-driven company that connects enterprising home cooks with hungry neighbors via an online platform. Wang has described the company as an “Etsy for food;” it provides a platform for home cooks to sell meals prepared in their homes to customers. Their website says "Get home cooked meals from your neighbors".
Essentially, because meals are paid for, Josephine cooks are operating outside the regulations of the Health department for the sale of food - in particular, food that can easily become hazardous if not prepared, held and delivered under certain sanitary and heated/cooled conditions.
It has been said that Josephine cooks have an unfair financial advantage of those who comply with the regulations and where necessary, pay for the use of commercial kitchens.
Wang acknowledges that the Josephine safety standards are based on a system of trust, and its cooks are certainly less regulated than those producing food products under California’s Homemade Food Act (Cottage laws), which, when passed in 2012, established rules for home-based food companies, also known as “cottage food operations.”
Besides having a stricter system of regulation, the Homemade Food Act also places tight limitations on the types of foods that can legally be prepared in a home kitchen. Essentially, the only foods that can be prepared are those that don’t rely on refrigeration to prevent spoilage of either the final product or any ingredients. Translation? Lots of snack foods, candies and jams.
Full meals of the likes produced by Josephine cooks do not meet these regulations, but the company has never been shy about acknowledging this discrepancy
In order to work towards changing existing legislation, Josephine has partnered with California Assembly member Cheryl Brown to create new legislation, AB 2593, to expand the Homemade Food Act to include the legalization of a broader scope of homemade food, including hot meals. Wang hopes the legislation will pass in early 2017.