Senate mulls food safety bill for farmers markets

By Alejandra Cancino
Posted March 8 at 4:16 p.m.

A bill that would allow people to sell home-baked goods at farmers markets is slowly making its way through the state Senate.

Senate Bill 137 would make it legal for people to sell their home-baked “non-potentially hazardous food,” such as bread and cookies, at farmers markets and community events.

Under the current law, baked goods have to be prepared in state-certified kitchens if they are sold as part of a business. The exemption allows for the occasional sale of home-baked goods yard sales or fundraisers.

Supporters of the bill say that the current law increases the cost of the goods and makes it harder for small food producers to compete in the marketplace. Critics say such a bill could increase the number of food borne illnesses.

“It’s a financial burden,” said Wes King, a policy coordinator with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, which authored for the bill, adding that a certified kitchen could cost between $10,000 and $100,000 to build.

King said he started working on the bill last year, after the Illinois Department of Public Health made it clear in a guidance letter that baked goods had to be prepared at inspected facilities.

“People have been doing this at farmer markets for decades but the Department of Public Health started looking at it,” King said.

The bill was introduced by Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, in January. Last week, the 10 members of the Agriculture and Conservation committee passed it unanimously.

Melaney Arnold, an IDPH spokeswoman, said the department is still reviewing the bill but that food safety is the main concern.

“Unsafe food handling practices, cross contamination of foods and improper temperatures or sanitation techniques can and do lead to hundreds of food borne illness cases every year,” Arnold wrote.

Under the bill, products would have a label stating that they are homemade “and not subject to state inspection.” The bill would also limit the sales of such products at $25,000 a year.

At least 17 states have enacted so-called “cottage food laws.” Michigan enacted a similar legislation in July.

Read more about the topics in this post: , ,

Comments are closed.