California Woman Prosecuted for Baking Without Government Permission

Published December 15, 2016

A Stockton, California woman is being prosecuted by the county government because she sold a traditional food dish without government permission.

In 2015, government investigators conducted a sting operation against an informal Facebook group called 209 Food Spot, in which participants traded favorite homemade food dishes. A government agent contacted Mariza Reulas and offered her money in exchange for a dish of homemade food.

If Reulas is convicted of the charges, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Michael Mulvihill could force her to serve up to a year in jail.

In December 2016, a jury was assigned to hear the case.

Here Come the Food Police
Elizabeth Gamsky Rich, acting president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, says the Reulas prosecution is an example of unnecessary government restrictions on normal behavior in which the government has no reason to interfere.

“Collaborating with your neighbors and friends to make and share food is something we’ve done since the beginning of time,” Rich said. “I think the government has no business injecting itself into those transactions, and certainly not criminalizing the conduct, penalizing the conduct, and making it into a profit center for the government.”

‘We Own Our Bodies’
Rich says people should fight to protect their rights from government busybodies.

“I think the main thing to remember is that we own our bodies; the government does not,” Rich said. “It’s imperative that we protect that right and stand up and object when we see that it’s not being protected.”

Steven Greenhut, a senior fellow with the R Street Institute, says governments have more important things to do than prosecute people for making food.

“Prosecutors and police have better things to do than conduct undercover stings such as these, especially in communities, such as Stockton, that have serious crime problems,” Greenhut said. “A few years ago, police unions in that city featured billboards warning about the dangers of the city, and their lack of resources to combat violent crime, yet officials there choose to use their scarce resources this way. That’s foolish.”

Calls for Public Response
Greenhut says the government will always push its way into people’s lives, unless people push back.

“We see a constant increase in the number of regulations in most areas of life,” Greenhut said. “Unless the public pushes back against it, we’ll see an ever-increasing number of injustices, [and] we’ll see more fear from the citizenry. These are unjust laws. We should resist and overturn them.”

No Harm, No Foul
Greenhut says the government should leave people alone whenever possible.

“Government should leave people alone to conduct their own affairs,” Greenhut said. “If there’s no one being harmed, there’s no reason for government intervention. The marketplace doesn’t need bureaucrats looking over our shoulder on every transaction. It should set some basic ground rules and let the rest of us live our lives.”