New law settles dispute with public health officials

New law settles dispute with public health officials

SPRINGFIELD — A longstanding dispute between local public health departments and vendors at farmers' markets may be resolved with legislation signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Senate Bill 840, which was co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and in the Senate by Sens. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, will make it easier for so-called cottage food vendors to sell home-produced items at farmers' markets in Illinois.

"Due to certain restrictions on preparation," Jakobsson said in a statement, "many area vendors have had to stop the sale of household-made products such as breads and jams. Now that this legislation has been signed into law, our local vendors will be able to freely offer more locally produced products. This will also help our local businesses as area restaurants can more easily utilize locally grown ingredients."

At this time, vendors are allowed to sell only foods that have been made in commercial kitchens. That will change Jan. 1, when the new law takes effect.

A controversy erupted in 2009 when Champaign-Urbana Public Health District officials ruled that the sale of home-baked goods no longer would be allowed, based on a state law that had been passed in 1999 but never enforced.

"It will affect us in that some people who are home food producers will be able to come back," said Lisa Bralts, director of Urbana's Market at the Square. "I think it will have a very positive effect on our market."

She said she still gets queries from customers about particular vendors who made English muffins, cinnamon rolls, special breads, bagels and granola bars.

Home-baked goods will be allowed again at Urbana's market and others in Illinois, provided they meet several provisions.

The food must not be a potentially hazardous baked good. It must be available for sale only at farmers markets. A vendor's gross receipts from the sale of the foods must not exceed $25,000 a year.

Further, the food packaging must include the name and address of the cottage food operation, the common name of the food product, all ingredients used in the product, the date it was produced, related allergen labeling and the following phrase: "This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspections that may also process common food allergens."

Additionally, the person preparing and selling the cottage food product must have an approved food service sanitation management certificate. And a placard must be displayed at the point of sale that reads: "This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspections that may also process common food allergens."

Jakobsson said the legislation was the result of compromise.

"I think everybody just seemed to be unable to get on the same page with the public health. I know when this first came up and I tried to talk to the folks at (the Department of) Public Health in Springfield, they just dug their heels in and said, 'This is the way it is. This is the way it's always been.'"

But she said she is pleased with the result, and believes others are too.

Julie Pryde, executive director of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said she can live with the revisions.

"I know that it's something that public health administrators and departments of environmental health had worked with to get the language of the bill altered that made it a lot better than it was to begin with," Pryde said. "It still requires labeling and things like that so it's not like somebody can crank out muffins at home and sell them off of a card table. There are packaging requirements and labeling requirements. It was definitely tightened up from what it was originally."

Pryde said public health officials are trying to keep consumers safe with their regulations.

"There seems to be this view out there that public health wants to step on everybody and keep people from making a living," she said. "Of course that isn't the case. The case is that should something happen, we have to investigate and mitigate it. And if we don't have information we have no way to do that. So at least the way the bill is written it should allow us to do that."

The new law will be an improvement, she said.

"I just hope that people read the language and just don't think it's a free-for-all now because it isn't," said Pryde.

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sameeker wrote on August 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm

When are they going to crack down on the corporations like Kraft and such? When are they going to limit their income? The big boys talk of wanting to shrink the size of government; However, the working class has more rules on them then ever before. The health department has become nothing but a pain in the rear. The home made product sold there are by far healthier then what you buy at the mega stores. When will it ever end?

1ndy1701 wrote on August 26, 2011 at 8:08 am

I am happy that our farmers market can now have home made products that we as consumers will have no idea what the production process will entail. Will it be made in a clean kitchen with clean people with proper controls, or in a kitchen with a cat litter box in the corner with cats on the counter licking the product spoons? I guess now we will never know.

illannoyed wrote on December 02, 2011 at 1:12 pm

That is why you have the option to not buy those goods. In the same respect, everyone else should have the right to take that risk.