STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — A single mother of six in California says she could go to jail for selling homemade ceviche through a Facebook group she created as a hobby.
Prosecutors say, however, that Stockton resident Mariza Ruelas did not have the proper business permits required of restaurants that protect people from eating food prepared in unsanitary kitchens.
Ruelas was cited with two misdemeanor counts after participating in the online forum called "209 Food Spot" — a group for members to trade recipes and sell their specialty dishes.
"It was just like unreal that they were saying you could face up to a year in jail," she told KTXL-TV (http://bit.ly/2fsr5cq ).
An order for ceviche that Ruelas unwittingly sold to an investigator got her in trouble. Ceviche is a popular Latin American dish often made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and served cold.
Ruelas refused a plea deal with prosecutors to spend one year on probation and perform 80 hours of community service. She now plans to fight the case in trial.
Ruelas is raising money through the website gofundme.com. She said on the website that she never thought that a weekend hobby she enjoyed with her daughters would end badly.
San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel said that the home-based enterprise went well beyond a hobby. She added that thousands of people each year across the nation are sickened and die from food borne illnesses.
People like Ruelas also undercut restaurant owners who obtain the proper permits, the prosecutor said.
"It's not unreasonable to be enforcing this type of law," McDaniel told The Associated Press. "When it can cause death, it's our responsibility to enforce laws that protect the public."
Information from: KTXL-TV.