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Relaxing the Rules for Small, Local Food Sellers

Over the past decade, the local food revival in the U.S. has gained tremendous momentum, with more consumers interested in where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and who does the growing. The movement is making an impact on the law books, too: When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) hit President Obama’s desk at the beginning of the year, it included regulation exemptions for small food producers who sell the majority of their harvest locally.

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Running parallel to the FSMA’s development in the federal government, several individual states have begun changing other rules for local oversight of local foods.

The changes vary by state, but from Illinois to Kentucky to Oregon, state governments have enacted or considered bills that generally aim to loosen restrictions on farmers and cottage food producers whose sales numbers fall below specified limits. In other instances, states are simply trying to establish rules where none existed, with the current status quo leaving producers and customers interacting in some regulatory gray areas.

Most of these measures come on the heels of the widespread expansion of local food sales. At the end of 2010, the National Farmers’ Market Directory reported 6,132 farmers’ markets operating in the U.S., up from 5,274 in 2009 and 2,410 in 2000.

According to a recent article by the Oregonian’s Lynne Terry on a new Oregon farmers’ market bill, 18 cottage food bills have been passed or introduced in various states.

Support for these state-level bills stems from two key ideas: First, proponents say the entry barriers for local food businesses should be lowered by reducing start-up costs that constrict innovation and newcomers; and second, food regulations designed for industrial agriculture should be revised to be more scale-appropriate for small food producers.

While each bill approaches food safety provisions differently, some food safety advocates question whether rules in certain bills go too far in reducing safeguards for consumers.

In a number of states, including Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa, cottage food bills permit the sale of non-hazardous foods produced in kitchens not inspected by state health officials, typically requiring they be sold directly at farmers’ markets and the producer’s annual sales remain below a set limit.

These gross sales limits fall anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000, though not all states establish one.

The 2011 Illinois Senate Bill 137 (SB 137), a new cottage food bill, would lift this restriction in the state. Under current state law, anyone wishing to sell their own FDA-designated non-hazardous foods such as jams, jellies and baked goods must still prepare the food in a state-inspected commercial kitchen.

If enacted, SB 137 will allow Illinois food makers to prepare non-hazardous foods in uncertified kitchens–including home kitchens–as long as the yearly sales of those products stay below $25,000. These food makers must still register with the state’s health and agriculture departments and pass a sanitation management course, and their food will carry a label explaining that it was not made in an inspected kitchen.

SB 137 was written by Wes King, policy coordinator for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, who sees its implementation as a “stepping stone” for prospective food makers. Looking at established and developing cottage food laws in other Midwest states, King based the idea for SB 137 on helping food makers and farmers develop new products without the high cost barrier of working in a commercial grade kitchen, which he said is stifling potential new businesses in Illinois.

“Let’s pretend I’m a farmer growing a variety of berries to sell at a farmers’ market,” King said. “At the end of the day I’ll probably have leftover product that either just didn’t sell or it might be a little bruised–it’s fine to eat, but just looks bad. As a farmer in Illinois right now, there’s not much I can do with it. With cottage food laws, the idea is that a farmer can make jams and jellies out of that and sell them at the market for a more stable stream of revenue. Farmers’ markets ebb and flow with the seasonality of harvest, but these products–and baked goods–can be produced any time of year, so they can fill in the gaps.”

Once a cottage food business intends to surpass $25,000 in sales, operations must move to a state-certified kitchen. The requirement to register home kitchens with state health and agriculture departments will allow inspectors at markets to ensure all home-made products are appropriately labeled, and agriculture departments can better organize outreach and education programs through a database of unlicensed kitchens.

These layers of safeguards built into bills like SB 137 have won considerable support from local food proponents and food safety advocates alike. One condition that draws concern, however, is that SB 137 and many similar bills exempt home kitchens from any potential health inspections.

“I think the Illinois bill is a good model for stimulating local food and making the market more accessible to entry-level businesses, but I think it goes a little too far beyond helping the cottage foods industry,” said Michael Bulger, an NYU food studies master’s candidate and food safety advocate who has contributed to Grist regarding the FSMA.

“I understand why they don’t need certified kitchens, but I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to absolutely deny the public access to a place where food is produced to be sold to them. In the restaurant industry, you’re told that the inspectors are your friends–they help you catch mistakes before anyone gets sick.”

King contended that the bills typically exempt home kitchens because of their nature as multi-purpose areas where conditions vary depending on the day’s use. He said the required labels will deter any customers concerned with food made in an uninspected kitchen, while the bottom line was that only non-hazardous foods qualified for home preparation, making the potential for contamination much less likely.

On March 1, SB 137 passed its committee vote with unanimous approval under the condition that a new draft would include an exact list of approved non-hazardous foods.

In February, the Oregon State House of Representatives passed House Bill 2336 (HB 2336), which would define what foods Oregon farmers and cottage food producers may sell directly to consumers without buying licenses intended for large-scale farms.

Oregon laws have never clarified foods acceptable for farm-direct sales like the transactions that occur at farmers’ markets.  If enacted, the measure would establish that farmers can directly sell unlimited quantities of fruits, vegetables, shell eggs, nuts,  legumes, and a list of non-hazardous whole foods, while putting a $20,000 sales limit on certain processed products such as canned fruit, syrups, jams, and salsas.

“Local food is a big story now, but the laws in this state just haven’t caught up,” said Rebecca Landis, market director for Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets, comprised of three markets in Oregon. “We’re trying to have regulation that makes sense with what we’re doing. This isn’t some sort of anti-government crusade.”

Like the Illinois bill, Oregon’s aims to lower the entry barrier for newcomers and encourage innovation from established food makers by exempting licensing fees for new foods, which generally range from $189 to $325, Landis said. During h
er 20 years working in Oregon farmers’ markets, she has never heard of a foodborne illness connected to a farm-direct sale in the state.

Bulger voiced concern with the inclusion of eggs on the list of whole foods exempted from licensing–making them the only food on the bill’s list that the FDA classifies as a potentially hazardous food–but existing Oregon laws already permit farm-direct sales of eggs without a license.

At Landis’ farmers’ markets and the majority of those in Oregon, anyone selling potentially hazardous food–including eggs–must buy into liability insurance. As a result, no farmers sell eggs unless they have already purchased the insurance for other foods.

As in the Illinois bill, any home-processed food in Oregon will require a specific label. And in Oregon, state health officials will have the authority to stop food makers’ operations if their food is proven unsafe, a case Landis doubts will ever be necessary.

“If you’re buying food at a farmers’ market, you’re face-to-face with the growers week after week,” she said. “If they screw up, chances are their family will be affected, too. Regulation doesn’t necessarily ensure safety. A person’s actions and inactions determine what is safe or not, so we’re trying to differentiate what actually promotes safety versus what is just unnecessary regulation.”

Bulger and food safety advocates who lean toward the regulatory side of protection still stump for more oversight in the growing trend of changes to cottage food and farm-direct rules.

“It’s a good thing that a lot of people genuinely want to buy from these producers at the start of the food chain,” Bulger said. “But I think it’s also important and not very burdensome to allow for inspection–it helps producers maintain safety and it improves consumer confidence.”

© Food Safety News
  • Doc Mudd

    “Let’s pretend I’m a farmer growing a variety of berries to sell at a farmers’ market,” King said
    Screw that. Let’s pretend I’m a salmonella organism and you’re an e. coli and King is a shigella. As pathogens it is now our sworn duty to carefully audit the books of each food producer.
    Now pathogens, repeat after me: ‘We righteous bacteria, fair and true, do solemnly swear never, ever to contaminate food sold by any producer who grosses not in excess of $20,000 USD cumulatively during any fiscal period comprised of twelve (12) consecutive months in these contiguous United States, so help us God.’
    Yeah, let’s pretend. Let’s pretend real, real hard.

  • Jim Schmidt

    So tell me, how did these other businesses start up with all of these “roadblocks” to small business? Answer, there wasn’t and most reputable people that want to sell food want to make their food as safe as possible which includes being inspected by the local HD.
    Small day care centers are regulated in the homes that I inspect, are they required to have a commercial kitchen? No, but do we make sure the dishwasher they have works and can do the job, you bet. Do we go over foodhandling practices, temp control, making sure the fridge is holding the proper temp? Absolutely. Does this add to their cost? Yes, of course there is a fee but what do they get? A great advertisement. “We have been inspected by the Health Dept.” Does that guarantee they will never have problems, of course not, but if you were going to place your child into one of these what would you prefer? Licensed inspected, or unlicensed?
    As for looking someone in the face as Landis is stating, is BS argument. I inspect restaurants that are licensed and you can meet the owner everyday. Just because you can see someone’s face does not add greater incentive to do the right thing and spreading this FUD is detrimental and needs to stop. I still find violations of establishment where the only person working is the owner, this does not reduce the occurrence of violations.

  • Ray James

    Lately I have been thinking about three items that are allowed under the current food code of most states.
    Raw fish/sushi.
    Under cooked/rare steak.
    Unpasturized aged cheese/ 60 day rule.
    I would never eat any of these things. However our current regulations allow them. Many people choose them even pay a prium for some of them.
    Should we continue to ban unpasturized milk sold by a farmer directly to a consumer, non-phf’s made in a home kitchen directly to a consumer. Or just insure the products are labeled and let consumers decide if they want to take the risk the way we currently let them take the risk on eating uncooked fish, under cooked steak or cheese made from unpasturized milk.
    There is risk- that I am not arguing. The bacteria and viruses can and do affect foods regardless of where they are made, sold, consumed and who makes/processes them.

  • Karen

    This issue scares me more than I can say. As someone who’s food-borne illness most likely came from a local farmer’s market, I find it totally obsurd that if you sell under $20,000 worth of food, you don’t have to adhere to the same food safety regs as everyone else. As a regular American, I honestly always believed any food I bought in the U.S. was safe. “We have strict food safety laws here. If it wasn’t safe, they wouldn’t be allowed to sell it.” I truly believe most people think this way. And the people who are behind these bills are the small farmers who feel like they shouldn’t have to follow the same rules because they can’t afford it. If you can’t afford to be safe, then you are in the wrong line of work. Someone not following food safety guidelines killed my son and almost killed me. There is no amount of money that I wouldn’t pay to change that, and I would be very willing to pay more as a consumer to make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else. I really feel this isn’t getting the national attention it should be. It is scary how uninformed we are as a nation.

  • Steve Gilman

    I’m deeply sorry for your horrible experience, Karen — I can’t think of anything worse than losing a child. But since you don’t provide any specifics other than your “most likely” suspicions of cause — how about traceback? Was there any verification which food was the culprit? Or that it came from your Farmers Market? How many other illnesses/deaths were reported to your local hospital that were traced to the same Market/farmer/foodstuff? Maybe from a restaurant or supermarket instead?
    Further, it’s a (sometimes intentional) misreading of the FSMA to think that small farms are not covered by the food safety legislation — rather, it’s that the many oversight provisions (including existing State Health Dept, State Dept of Ag and Markets as well as USDA and FDA regulations) are designed to be scale and risk appropriate. It makes no sense, for example, to require a farmers market vendor to purchase highly expensive bar-coding equipment to affix stickers to traceback a lettuce sale when there’s a direct, face-to face purchase between an identified producer and the customer. It makes Huge sense, on the other hand, to require large scale, industrialized operations who harvest multiple tracts, co-mingle them, process them in large batches, package them with a 17 day shelf life and ship them to supermarkets and eaters in multiple states all around the country — leading to multiple deaths and illnesses when even a localized outbreak on a single field occurs and spreads to the rest of the batch.
    And I agree — most consumers are in la-la land when it comes to the quality of our food. For instance, unknown to consumers, there’s a huge amount of food imports from other countries (some owned and mostly all distributed by American corporations) sitting in supermarkets right now that is inadequately tested — yet those same US companies succeeded in defunding the Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) provisions that would require labeling to let the consumer decide. Also, over 70% of the food on supermarket shelves contains unlabeled Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) whose safety has not been independently verified either.
    To me, the industrialized food system is much scarier than local, where I can know the producer, visit the farm and verify the production techniques, including using toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. At our Farmers Markets, farmers compete on quality — and that includes food safety. With face-to-face relationships they’re only as good as their most recent sale and are quickly out of business if they don’t consistently produce good food. And since the farm families and workers are also usually the preliminary eaters of a farms production there’s a Huge incentive to utilize the best, state-of-the-art food safety techniques.
    But in the faceless industrialized food system — hog, poultry and beef Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFOs), for example, basically compete on the basis of producing meat, eggs, etc. as cheaply as possible — to the ongoing detriment of the factory-farms area environment, exploited workers and huge negative public health effects. But in the Big Egg business, for instance, there are the same bad-actors STILL in business after repeated infractions — simply because, after a regulatory slap on the wrist, they redesigned a different pleasent-looking farm scene label (without a windowless, steel CAFO building to be seen) keeping consumers clueless where the eggs actually come from. One major dirty-little secret of our food system is that the rich cornucopia of all those brands on supermarket shelves are really only produced by a handful of the same ole’ corporations…
    I’ll go for our local farmers’ high quality food — any day.

  • “How many other illnesses/deaths were reported to your local hospital that were traced to the same Market/farmer/foodstuff? Maybe from a restaurant or supermarket instead?”
    Your amateur insinuation is entirely inappropriate, Gilman. You’d best leave food poisoning investigations to trained epidemiologists and they will leave you to pitch manure amongst the vegetables. There seems to be no shortage.
    http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/know-your-farmer-know-your-food—except-when-it-is-not-the-food-they-grew/

  • ecofoodologist

    Thank you Steve Gilman,
    And my condolences to Karen. Foodborne illness is very hard to track and Steve G. has shared much insight on the issue.
    I eat rare steak on all occasions that I eat so high on the food chain. Attempting to make small farmers the bad guys here is shooting ourselves in the foot. We need more regional food distribution systems including more face-to-face purchases from skilled farmers who will answer questions about their practices.
    The large corporations have seen the trends of people to purchase this way and want to co-opt the words that describe these simple systems, which work best for people. It is not our job to keep corporations in business because fools want to eat cheap junk food. And not my legislator’s job to hand off our food security to their profit driven game. There are large companies doing some things very well, but many, such as the poultry and egg producers on the east coast and the “unmarked GMO” advocates, don’t have my trust, and they receive as little of my money as possible.
    Why is it more convenient to get a fat ridden fast food burger with meat and gmo veggies from all around the hemisphere than it is to buy a quart of local strawberries that were not sprayed with pesticides and the pickers are able to put food on their own table. Because those Americans in la-la land only know to shop for price. Like in the unintelligible nonsense in the first post above, there is pretending, that anyone who wants to earn a fair profit from quality work is trying to “rip me off.”
    As with the cost of maintaining an army to support our cheap gasoline, we externalize the cost of our cheap food to immigrants and poor people in other countries. There is an increasing number of Americans willing to admit that our lifestyle is unsustainable, but watch what happens when gasoline is $5/gal. They will whine to congressmen and “conservative” legislators will say “we have to have more cheap stuff”….so it goes with food.
    If Americans can’t see the link between our demand for bigger and bigger plastic junk to fill bigger and bigger homes, more and more cheap junk food, and higher and higher prices for fuel, they don’t deserve to vote. Jefferson’s ideal of the “informed electorate” is quashed by the daily tv images of what we “need” to be happy or competitive in the work force. But for what do we work, so we can afford to commute from neighborhoods where we wouldn’t allow our kids to play in the local creek, or the pesticide ridden yards. Commute park in a parking lot that sends 90 degree water, petroleum residue and trash to the creek in someone else’s neighborhood. Give me a break.
    If this mail seems to anyone to be “all over the place” please do some homework. These things are all intimately related and we are fowling our nest more every day.
    ef

  • citizen625

    $20000 is too low. It sounds like the commentors here are paid by big business. Commercial kitchens don’t mean anything in the hands of someone without a conscience. The marketplace will dispose of the avaricious; particularly in a small community like a farmers market.

  • Doc Mudd

    A callous disregard for consumer safety is one dominant theme running through the hobby farmers’ blustering defensive arguments on this thread. Another is a hateful off-topic trashing of ordinary food and ordinary folks (like you and me). Obviously their product cannot stand on its own merit, hence the spurious bashing.
    My family no longer purchases pricey flea market food from grubby hobby farmers who are exempt from food safety standards.
    I would never purchase an overpriced used car for my kids to drive that couldn’t pass inspection and that had no warranty. I would never permit the kids to purchase expensive knock-off electronic devices from a flea market. Why should food purchases be any different? No more dubious farmers market food for us.
    I haven’t heard anything in any of these ranting sales pitches that would make me reconsider, much less change my mind. Our family is finished supporting pretentious little hobby farmers who have no willingness to observe safe practices and who care for no one but themselves. Let them line their pockets with someone else’s grocery money.

  • Anthony Boutard

    The bill before the Oregon Legislature was drafted by a legislative working group that included staff from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Oregon Farmers’ Market Association (OFMA), farmers and a bipartisan group of legislators. Other interest groups were invited and some participated off and on. The committee met over a one year period and the bill before the legislature reflects a consensus among the participants. Early drafts of the proposal were distributed extensively for comment.
    At the present time, direct sales in Oregon, including farmers’ markets, are loosely regulated by a collection of guidelines. They do not have the force of law. The other murky area was how licenses are recognized. For example, a licensed dairy sells at several markets. Do they need to have a separate license for each market of is their stall at the market part of the dairy, just like a delivery truck? No one was happy with the status quo.
    The most important aspect of the bill is the formalization of regulatory responsibility. Despite the hysteria promoted above, no one will be selling sushi at a farmers’ market without a restaurant license. All prepared food (restaurant) sellers remain licensed. Time and temperature sensitive foods remain fully licensed and inspected. All dairy, fish and meat sellers will still be licensed. They will not need a separate for the farmers’ market.
    The bill carves out a group of foods that don’t need licensing for direct sale. Direct sales of honey and eggs without a license have been allowed in Oregon for decades without incident, and the bill preserves the status quo. Fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, nuts are included as well. Corn, nuts and peppers can be roasted without a license after they have been purchased by the consumer.
    It must be added that farmers’ markets are not exempt from inspection and if a vendor maintains a filthy stall, ODA can require licensing and inspection of that vendor. That is an extension of the state’s current regulatory power.
    The bill allows limited production of preserves and pickles, consistent with many other states. Mudd’s bluster about shigella, salmonella and e. coli doesn’t make sense. These foods have a kill step and a pH that is hostile to bacteria. Moreover, they must carry a label stating that they have been prepared in an unlicensed facility, and the list allowed ingredients is limited.
    Overall, the bill represents a sensible agreement among the parties that participated. It was a respectful and deliberative process.
    Anthony Boutard

  • Doc Mudd

    A label stating these bodgy products have been processed through an unlicensed, uninspected, unprofessional assembly line is a good first step to protecting consumers when lifting sensible safety protocols.
    What’s really needed, if micro-entrepreneurs insist on selling sketchy food product for money, is for direct contact information for yourself, your local health department and the name and certificate number of your insurance carrier be prominently displayed on a printed receipt for each and every transaction. That doesn’t cost anything, and it would be the bare minimum courtesy a trusting/unsuspecting paying customer/victim should be allowed in the fiercely laissez-faire/caveat emptor marketplace you demand.
    Before you all begin whining piteously, consider…this would not only verify your own unfounded blind faith that the food is probably safe enough (thereby further enticing the customer to take a chance and hand over the loot), but it would also make a powerful statement of your orthodox ‘localness’ – current, accurate LOCAL health department contact info right on the receipt with your name and LOCAL address to aid the epidemiologists. That way, when people get feeling pukey they can just dig the receipt out of the recycling and conveniently get the reparations process rolling.
    What is there to hide if you’re an upstanding operator, as each and every last mother’s son of you vehemently claims? Simply show us why your product is so friggin’ special. Take personal accountability. At least appear to give a damn about customer safety.
    If you would do that much you wouldn’t have to waste all your time and credibility ranting incoherently about ‘Jefferson’s ideal’, and tediously attacking and trashing CAFO, and callously committing medical malpractice by stupidly refuting a food poisoning victim’s heart-wrenching experience to supplant your own fictional faux-epidemiology. Just imagine, your products would stand on their own merit, they’d be above the fray and without competition. Geez, what a novel idea!!!
    Plus you’d have convenient copies of receipts for yourself so you would know when your getting close to your $20,000 limit in cash transactions, eh? [Handy right now at tax time, too. Heh, heh. You are paying your fair tax on all that green folding cash, aren’t you?]
    Yep you could do that…or, you could just continue bashing and cranking and blaming and blustering that our families owe hobby farmers a living and whining to be given a free ride under the radar.
    I won’t hold my breath on this one.

  • Anthony Boutard

    No one has to hold their breath. For everything but fresh fruits and vegetables, most farmers’ markets require a certificate of indemnity from vendors, same as some of our bigger commercial customers. Just like the stores I sell to, they want to cover themselves if something goes wrong. If farmers sell preserves or pickles, we have to name the market on our policy. I have done this for eight years.
    Farmers’ markets maintain a detailed contact list of their vendors. In many markets, the board members visit the farm to verify claims about crops grown. This is above and beyond what the standard grocery store does. Most of my customers have visited our farm. Within minutes, the state epidemiologist can have direct contact information for any vendor. Try that with food from China or Thailand, bought at your local big box store.
    Furthermore, under every cottage food bill I have seen, the preserves and pickle jars must be labeled with the name and contact information of the producer. Oregon is no exception. That is the same or more information than is found on containers of industrially processed foods. In my cupboard, many list just the distributor. On a couple of cans, there is absolutely no contact information. Frankly, it is a specious suggestion to put the contact information on the receipt when that may be tossed later in the day. On the jar, it is attached to the product.

  • mickey wade

    doc mudd, you’re either kind of nuts, or else you’re a hired plant. either way, you’re unwittingly hostile and antisocial. and stereotypically belligerent in that anonymous internet way.

  • Doc Mudd

    “Frankly, it is a specious suggestion to put the contact information on the receipt…”
    Common sense refutes you, Tony. The receipt is the ideal place to display contact information for:
    A) The producer and vendor
    B) The vendor’s insurance carrier
    C) The local health department who will initiate any food poisoning investigation that might be warranted.
    Bill Marler has recently pointed out that contacting one’s local health department is the first step in any suspected food poisoning. That and some subsequent lab work is the bare minimum in order for him to take a case. Certainly most little ‘local’ incidents of food poisoning go unreported and unrecorded, giving the false impression that ‘all is well’.
    http://www.marlerblog.com/attorney-videos/the-epidemiology-of-foodborne-illness-with-patti-waller-of-marler-clark/
    How many of you have accurate contact info for your local health department right at your fingertips? You probably have 911 for police and fire. I have AAA’s number on the dashboard of my car. Why not local health dept info on a food receipt? What a thoughtful and reassuring gesture to customers!
    Plus, it’s cheap to do and easy to enforce – if a vendor fails to give you a receipt you report it, and enforcement authorities can easily and affordably run spot checks by simply observing and making a few small purchases themselves.
    It’s the logical first step in finally getting local food poisoning on the radar…and a meaningful paper trail, to boot. It doesn’t get any better than that!

  • Steve Gilman

    If it came down to this — Anthony’s right — how many grocery receipts does anyone really keep anyway? If not thrown out it might get left in the bag somewhere — but try and sort THAT out somewhere further down the line. On the PACKAGE, jar, container where it stays for the life of the food — now that makes more sense…
    And a Great place to start would be to require large scale manufacturers and distributors to put consumer traceback labels on all those foods on supermarket shelves — because that’s where the risk and major outbreaks are coming from. It would even be greater to know which brands are put out out by the same corporation so a consumer can make a real choice, let alone an intelligent one.
    Meanwhile, most people are not aware that Certified Organic farmers have been way ahead on traceability for years now — they have to maintain a complete paper trail documenting every step of what they sell from where it grows in the field to the point of sale — and that hold for big and small operations alike.
    But it’s all moot anyway. These provisions are Not in FSMA. And Big Food is already crying that it would cost too much to even put labels on GMO products — PLUS they insist that consumers would get a negative message — If this was required imagine what would happen if consumers started to realize the dangers and negatives inherent in our industrial food supply…..??? I’m sure CAFO purchases would drop significantly, for one. Like I said, I’ll go local, anytime.
    And in reply to a previous post — if there’s fraud, anti-competitive practices or captive contracts, etc going on in ANY markets they should be investigated quickly and prosecuted fully. Here in the east, home to LOTS of the nation’s local and city Farmers Markets — member farms are investigated on an annual basis and the scrutiny from fellow vendors also helps keep things honest… That and the ability to have direct face-to-face scrutiny from local market goers — something that does not exist in our faceless industrial food system.

  • So, Gilman, not only are you a crass faux-epidemiologist callously informing food poisoning victim Karen she doesn’t know what she’s experienced, you are also now a phony anthropologist diagnosing shoppers’ absolute incapacity to unpack groceries without screwing it up? Well, they may have been conned into buying your schlock, but you can credit the duped customer, Gilman, with enough intelligence to somehow manage those little slips of paper.
    It is due time to require not only labeling, but also receipts for sales of all Tester-exempt food products. Receipts are an essential component for consumer protection. No legitimate transaction is complete without a one
    And the clear common sense of printing local health department contact information on receipts and labels of laissez-faire food product is illustrated by a new study of the effectiveness of food poisoning surveillance and the crucial role consumers must play.
    http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-resources/if-you-suspect-you-are-sick-with-a-foodborne-illness-call-your-local-health-department/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FoodPoisonBlog+%28Food+Poison+Blog%29
    You and your fellow dung worshipers, Gilman, have never before expressed the slightest interest or concern for customers’ welfare. Now, suddenly, we find you wringing your hands over them possibly misplacing a receipt. You stupidly argue that no receipt should be issued to careless louts who will only ‘leave it in the bag somewhere’. I smell dung.
    You have here a golden opportunity to differentiate your otherwise substantially equivalent product in the marketplace and acknowledge your interest in your customers’ welfare but, instead and as usual, you fiercely defend your own narrow self-interests. Loopy little hobby farmers and their activist handlers are parasites bleeding modern society.
    Let’s require receipts for all transactions involving Tester-exempt food product. There’s no reasonable excuse not to.

  • Steve Gilman

    Eh… What’s up Doc? I seems you can’t put forth, much less sustain a coherent argument here or in a long list of your other posts — so you constantly resort to abusive discourse — as if THAT will make your case. Sorry, all it means in the Comment World, for all to see, is that your name is mud…

  • Karen

    The food-borne illness I caught was listeriosis, which tends to target pregnant women. There were no other cases in my county, but I had been traveling, and the Health Dept. told me that a “regular” person might not get sick from the bacteria. They are not 100% sure about where I caught it. I had an extensive interview with the CDC and the Health Dept. and they were unable to track it. The reason they believe it was most likely from a farmer’s market is because that was were I was doing most of my food shopping. Being pregnant for the first time, I was very concerned about pesticides, GMO’s, etc. I was very particular about what I ate, avoiding anything that was not organic, and being careful to avoid the pregnancy off-limits foods (sushi, soft cheese, lunch meat, etc.) What I was NOT told, and most pregnant women are not, is that fresh produce can be dangerous. The first question that the infectious disease specialist asked me in the hospital was “have you eaten anything from a farmer’s market?” I was floored.
    I am not trying to pick on the small farmer. I’m picking on everyone! I just think that EVERYONE should adhere to the same safety guidelines. Part of the reason they will never know where I caught my illness is that there is no paper trail. I have NEVER been offered a receipt at a farmer’s market. It is a cash business. Do they need expensive bar-coding equipment? Maybe not. But they do need a tracking system of some kind. Are there wonderful small production farms out there? Absolutely. Are there terrible large production farms? Of course. But that is my point. It should not matter where we decide to shop for our food. I should be able to feel safe whether my food comes from a major grocery store or if it comes from a farm 5 miles away. Now, I worry every time I eat anything. Meals are not enjoyable, they feel like Russian Roulette.
    I don’t pretend to know a lot about food safety law and politics. Before August, I was blissfully ignorant about this entire subject. But the bottom line for me is that it shouldn’t be about money or politics. It is about the lives of consumers. I shouldn’t have to live in fear every time I eat something. No one should have to bury their child because of food they purchased. The entire food system in America needs fixing, but we live in the real world and that’s not happening any time soon. I just think there must be a way to make our food safer. It is not a political issue, it is a moral issue.

  • Ecofoodologist

    I can’t bring myself to read this long string, but on the topic of chain of responsibility I don’t disagree with the need for it. I would first insist on a chain of responsibility (easily transparent to all consumers) for large food producers who currently have the infrastructure and resources to provide it. Requiring it from retailers in short distribution chains is arbitrary favoritism for BigAg. Sorry if that is redundant on this thread but it should be an obvious theme.
    Some state govts. (including our State Vet.) and others are gung-ho for bar codes and animal transmitters as long as long as consumers are unable to use it. If technophiles want to run our food show, then let them put some BigAg skin in the game. I wager that BigAg will resist.
    BTW. I got great laughs reading DocMud talking about farmer’s markets. I hope he’ll share how many farmers markets he/she actually purchased from, and he/she actually bought food from the person who grew the produce. I have seen the type of “flea markets” that he/she describes. I don’t buy there either. ef

  • Market Farmer

    D Mudd, I hope you are buying all your food at the local big box food store. Where the listeria outbreak that killed 30 people from an inspected food safe farm that sold millions of pounds of produce. Or maybe Del Monte cantaloupe is the other choice that only sicked 20. Where Tyson ground beef recalled 131,300 pounds or where 360 pounds of under cooked chicken recalled and where one died from samonella seasoned turkey or better yet the Jennie-O 55,000 pounds of drug resistant version of salmonella or where you can get papayas that sent 10 to the hospital and sicked 65 others.Gosh you can even get 500 million nasty eggs from the big box grocery if you have a big enough car to put them in. It seems to me many more people are made sick or killed by big corporate food stores then any small farmer. Guess what the big box stores CEO’s don’t eat their own food, but the small farmer and his family eats their own produce and their neighbors share the food. Seems like the motivation of keeping your friends safe and well is a higher priority of a small guy is more important then a CEO earning a couple of mill a year.