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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Should Authorities Ease Regulations on Small, Local Food Vendors?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 6:14 PM

Should sellers at events like the SF Underground Market be exempt form normal licensing regulations? - JESSE FRIEDMAN/FLICKR
  • Jesse Friedman/Flickr
  • Should sellers at events like the SF Underground Market be exempt form normal licensing regulations?
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The LA Times Monday picked up AP writer Dinesh Ramde's report on licensing restrictions easing for small food vendors in Maine and Wisconsin. Ramde:

Federal and state laws require that most food sold to the public be made in licensed facilities open to government inspectors. But as more people become interested in buying local food, a few states have created exemptions for amateur chefs who sell homemade goods at farmers markets and on small farms.
While some small vendors think might think it's unfair to burden them with the same regulations that apply to massive food plants, critics cite the slippery slope of exempting any food handler from rigorous inspection. Passed in February, Wisconsin's so-called Pickle Bill lets small vendors make high-acid foods (i.e., products with a lower risk of bacterial contamination) like sauerkraut, pickles, and salsas without a license, in unregulated home kitchens.

Meanwhile in Maine, small poultry farmers (1,000 or fewer) can prep their birds in places other than regulated slaughtering facilities.

Today at Civil Eats, Paula Crossfield looks at Brooklyn's version of the SF Underground Market, Greeenpoint Food Market, and its struggle with New York City officials to stay afloat. A New York Times story earlier this month essentially busted Greenpoint with local authorities for allowing unlicensed food vendors to operate. One proposal, fleshed out in a recent panel that included a NYC Health Department official, is to morph Greenpoint into a licensed commissary rooted in small-business incubation, like La Cocina. Crossfield:

One of the most promising ideas the panelists spoke about was turning a 2,500 square foot space in Greenpoint into an affordable incubator kitchen for around 30 cooks.... In addition, operating like a cooperative would mean that participants could teach classes, or run the planned retail shop in exchange for kitchen time. "This is for makers who've been producing goods out of their homes, unregulated, who are ready to take the next steps to legitimizing their business and willing to contribute their skills, time, and creativity to the benefit of the cooperative on the whole," said [a vendor].
San Francisco isn't alone in its struggle to sustain the small-vendor movement, for a growing number of shoppers who find meaning in face-to-face interactions with budding food artisans. Can we make it work here first?

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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