ABERDEEN — A new South Dakota law is good news for people who want to sell food prepared in their homes at farmers' markets.

At those places, people now will be able to sell homemade breads, cookies, fruit pies, jams, jellies and pickled products.

The Home-Processed Foods Law took effect on July 1. Before then, foods sold at farmers' markets and similar venues had to be prepared or processed in a licensed facility, such as a commercial kitchen.

The law does not apply to food products sold in retail and grocery stores, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, wholesalers or directly out of the home.

Besides farmers' markets, the approved locations include roadside stands, church and community bazaars, community festivals and school fundraisers.

The law helps small food entrepreneurs who want to "add some value to the products that they grow" by making a baked good, jam, jelly or a pickled item, said South Dakota Cooperative Extension Food Safety Specialist Joan Hegerfeld-Baker of Brookings.

Because of the law, Hegerfeld-Baker expects to see more products such as those at farmers' markets.

The law does not involve fresh fruits and vegetables grown in South Dakota, which can be sold without any regulatory requirements.

The statute excludes home-processed foods from certain regulations as long as the food is sold at a farmers' market or similar venue.

In the past, farmers' market customers might have thought some vendors had prepared foods in their home but they weren't, Hegerfeld-Baker said.

"There's a lot of people that sell their product at farmers' markets that also have a licensed kitchen. But there were a lot of people that would have liked to, that didn't have a licensed kitchen."

The home-baked and home-processed foods allowed to be sold at farmers' markets are nontemperature-controlled goods that do not require refrigeration. They can include lefse, rolls, candies and confectionaries.

Also allowed are home-canned foods that have the proper pH value and meet other standards.

People aren't allowed to sell "take and bake" products at farmers' markets because they require temperature control.

As part of the law, the Cooperative Extension Service has trained people around the state to test some food products.

In order for people to "sell their processed foods — foods that are in a jar, hermetically sealed — they need to have their process reviewed to make sure that it's meeting the recommendations that are set forth for home food processing by the USDA," Hegerfeld-Baker said.

Part of that review involves testing of the product.

One of the testers is Carla Kaaz of rural Aberdeen. She is trained to test pH levels in jams, jellies, canned fruit and fruit sauces. She has not been called on to test those foods yet, but she's ready. She can do it either in her own kitchen or the canner's home. A fee is charged for the service.

Safety is the main concern of the new law, Hegerfeld-Baker said.

"There are a lot of methods that people are using for processing foods in their home that we don't recommend and they do not meet safety guidelines," she said. "So that is a big part of why this review process needs to be put into place."

Dwayne Schueller, who manages the Aberdeen Downtown Association farmers' market, hasn't noticed any changes since the law took effect. But he has information about the law and has handed it out to vendors. That farmers' market runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays at Central Park.


Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com


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