- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

REDDING, Calif. | Aww, nuts.

A cherished holiday tradition may be coming to an end for some Shasta County, Calif., residents.

Jack Melton, a disabled World War II veteran who has been baking and selling his pecan-laden fruitcakes from his Churn Creek Road home for the past 10 to 15 years, has been told to stop by Shasta County Department of Environmental Health officials.

Mr. Melton, 86, has been told to quit selling his popular word-of-mouth fruitcakes from his home because state law forbids the operation of an unregulated retail food business from private homes, said Fern Hastings, a senior environmental health specialist.

Although disappointed, Mr. Melton is not crushed by the bad news.

“At my age, I probably need to quit anyway,” he told the Redding Record Searchlight earlier this week. “This was probably the last year I was going to do it anyway.”

But, he said, he’s sure that his customers, many of whom look forward every holiday season to tasting his fruitcakes, won’t be too happy.

Ms. Hastings said Mr. Melton can continue making his fruitcakes for family and friends, but if he is selling the cakes to the public - or even giving them away - he must make them in a commercial bakery kitchen that has passed a health inspection. Mr. Melton could rent space in such a bakery, she said.

Mr. Melton received a telephone call from county officials about two weeks after a county inspector spotted a small sign outside his home advertising his homemade fruitcakes for sale.

“I think it was the sign that got them,” Mr. Melton said. “I’m going to burn that sign.”

He also recently received a package of material, including the California retail food code, in the mail from the county.

A 47-year Redding resident and retired electrician, Mr. Melton is proud of his fruitcakes, putting red and green cherries, dates, candied pineapples and lots of pecans into them. But no rum or brandy.

“It would ruin them,” he said.

Mr. Melton, who seemingly has never met a recipe that he doesn’t like to tinker with, admits that the money he receives from selling his fruitcakes helps supplement his Social Security income. He doesn’t receive a pension. He sells his fruitcakes for $28 and $55, depending on their size, and sold about 160 last year, he said.

Until the county intervened, Mr. Melton had sold about 125 cakes this holiday season, mostly to his long-valued customers, he said.

“But I’m not doing it for the money,” he said. “I’m trying to help the people out. They want my cakes.”

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