A new state law now has state regulators adding new requirements to help ensure safety at local farmers markets.
After taking effect July 1, local food vendors that work out of their home kitchens and not commercial kitchens will now have to label their products with ingredients, contact information and submit their recipes for testing to help ensure better safety.
"In this day in age with looking at food safety and allergies, we want to protect producers and consumers," said State Representative Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, the prime sponsor of the bill that became law. "I know it's a little more work, but in the long run it would be worth it if there were people who got sick."
Black Hills Farmers Market Manager Leonard Novak said Black Hills and statewide vendors and Dakota Rural Action, a political advocacy group, worked with Sly, the state health department and the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service to establish rules needed since there were none in place.
Novak said Hot Springs vendor Ranee Priem helped testify in front of a committee in Pierre in favor of the legislation.
Priem, who produces and sells jams, pickles, relishes and salsa through her business Cascade Farms, said the new law has advantages and disadvantages for local food producers.
"It is extra work but it also gives us flexibility to work out of our kitchen instead of working out a commercial kitchen," Priem said.
State officials are requiring people who can certain foods to have their products and canning methods tested to ensure the thermal process is adequate. If approved, the producer will receive a letter of verification.
Priem said she has sent in her recipes to the state department and is waiting to hear back.
Novak, who has been managing the Black Hills Farmers Market for ten years, said he has not seen or heard any problems with local vendors canned goods. He said about 90-95 percent of the vendors at Founders Park on Omaha Street are either working to receive their state verification or already have it.
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Sly said local vendors statewide continue to work with the Department of Health to get to common ground on what is covered and what the needs are of producers and consumers.
Though compliance doesn't seem to be an issue for Black Hills Farmers Market vendors, officials have been holding meetings across the state to explain the rules and verification process as some are finding loopholes in the new law.
"There are a lot of people who really haven't learned properly," said Joan Hegerfeld-Baker, an Extension food safety specialist in Brookings. "There are shortcuts people are starting to use that are not safe. You want people to use safe, tested methods."
As the new law begins to take shape throughout the state, Sly said it will help promote local food markets.
"This is just another step to make it viable and I think our local foods are something South Dakota has huge potential for growth in," Sly said. "People have become more aware of the value of buying locally with money staying here and helping support local producers."
Contact Tyler Jerke at 394-8415 or email@example.com