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Food Safety at Farmers' Markets

By Cindy Klinger, "Home-Baked or Half-Baked?," July/August 2012

How food-safety rules apply to homemade jams, pickles and baked goods.

In many places the delicious fare made for farmers’ markets—cooked at home rather than in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen—is technically illegal. To combat this, over the past decade a few states have passed cottage food bills, laws that allow local food entrepreneurs to produce items that carry a low risk for food-borne illness, such as baked goods, jams and pickles. But while some food experts love this trend, others fear that it’s a recipe for serious illness. Which side are you on?

Food Safety First
Although I admire the entrepreneurial spirit, getting exemptions from food-safety rules or inspection procedures is just not something business owners or customers should do. I always tell companies—big, medium or small—to embrace some level of regulation. When you balance the convenience of somebody running a business versus public health, I think you have to bend in favor of public health.
—Bill Marler, food-safety advocate and attorney

VS.

Home-Baked Heaven
There have been almost no reported food-borne illness issues with cottage food operations. In many ways these foods are safer than their commercial counterparts because of supply chain and traceability issues. Commercial products have much more complex supply chains that span multiple states and countries. That means more opportunities for food contamination.
—Wes King, sustainable farming advocate and cottage food policy advisor



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