Homemade foods will be allowed back in Tennessee farmers' markets, including the popular Rutherford County Farmer's Market that operates at Cannonsburgh from June through October.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture had enacted rules to ensure the safety of homemade foods sold at local farmers' markets, but some felt they went too far in requiring commercial kitchens for home-based pie, jelly and ice cream makers.
State Rep. Donna Rowland felt these rules were too restrictive for home-based food production and sponsored legislation, enacted Jan. 29, to allow for home kitchens to be used to prepare "non-potentially hazardous foods" for sale at farmer's markets.
"Bottom line is this, previous to this point it was against the law for anyone to sell processed food items at the farmer's market unless they had a commercial permit from agriculture department that would allow them to sell processed food items," said Dwayne Trail, an official with the Rutherford County Agricultural Extension Office.
"The purpose of the domestic kitchen rules is to allow individuals to commercially prepare … foods that are prepared in the home while ensuring that the public's health is protected," John Sanford, administrator for food manufacturing with the Department of Agriculture, said in a press release.
These foods include jellies, jams, baked goods and anything that doesn't contain meat, partially cooked eggs, shellfish or other ingredients that may spoil in an open-air market.
The law also sets safety requirements in place for those who sell homemade items more than six times a year.
"There are some requirements that individuals have to meet," Trail said.
In addition to completing a food safety training course, individuals must have their home kitchens inspected by the Department of Agriculture and pay a $50 fee for a permit.
To pass inspection, a home kitchen must provide a sanitary environment for the preparation of foods with clean running water and properly sealed ingredient containers, not unlike that of a commercial restaurant.
"Even with those things they have to do it's relatively easier for people to sell foods out of their homes than it was before," Trail said.
Rowland remembers by-gone days helping her father prepare homemade blackberry pies. She felt the legislation gave commercial food establishments an unfair advantage over domestic kitchens.
"The Department of Health had very good intentions. In addition to the farmer's market and state flea market, … there are people making a career out of food service," Rowland said.
"I was extremely disappointed," she continued. "They were way too stringent for mom-and-pop operations."
So, Rowland introduced legislation to exempt domestic kitchens from the previous rules and still ensure the safety of the food.
"The goal is to bring back moms and pops to our farmer's markets," Rowland said.
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