Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Selling Food in Facebook Group May Land Mom in Jail

Stockton woman sweot up in an undercover food sting


November 8, 2016

Shrimp ceviche could lead to jail time for Stockton woman.

A Stockton, CA woman faces a trial and potential jail time after selling meals to an undercover policeman who had joined her social media community food group.

Mariza Reulas was cited for selling an illegal substance: a bowl of her homemade ceviche.

"It was just like unreal that they were saying you could face up to a year in jail," Reulas said to KTXL.

For several years, Reulas has been a member of the Facebook group called 209 Food Spot. People from the Stockton area join 209 Food Spot to share recipes, organized local potlucks, trade dishes, and occasionally sell meals to one another.

Last December 3, someone contacted Reulas, asking for one of her signature dishes, a plate of ceviche. Ceviche is a Latin American seafood dish. Reulas makes hers with shrimp, onions, lime and an avocado over a tortilla.

Court document indicate that the purchaser was actually an undercover investigator from San Joaquin County, participating in a sting organized to catch 209 Food Spot members who did not have the proper permits to sell their dishes.

A dozen participants were cited for two misdemeanors: operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit.

The other members accepted a plea bargain from the district attorney, but Reulas, a single mother of six, is headed to trial and could end up behind bars. Ruelas said her proposed plea bargain carried a longer term than those of the others, as well as 80 hours of community service and a $235 fine.

"I don't write the laws, I enforce them," said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel.

McDaniel says selling any food not subject to regular health department inspection puts the purchasers in danger, and it also undercuts those business owners who have gone through the legal process to get permits or making and selling food commercially.

McDaniel says the 209 Food Spot Facebook group was sent a warning before any charges were handed down.

Facebook prohibits using the social media website for the sale of guns, ammunition and drugs but there are no rules relating to the sale of food.


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