Friday, July 18, 2008

Transparency

It seems that the tomato scare has changed buying and eating patterns. According to an AP poll, a majority of people surveyed want more information about where their food is coming from.



An Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds that nearly half of consumers have changed their eating and buying habits in the past six months because they're afraid they could get sick by eating contaminated food. They also overwhelmingly support setting up a better system to trace produce in an outbreak back to the source, the poll found.

(See full article here)

So, does that mean that in addition to promoting NAIS or National Animal Identification System, we're now going to be facing regulation for the NFVIS system? The National Fruits and Vegetable Identification System?

A question comes immediately to mind: Does the increased consumer demand for labelling extend to farmer's markets? AND, will the consumer be willing to pay more to have their produce labelled?

One of the reasons for shopping at a farmer's market is that you get to know "your" farmer, and you can ask them just exactly how their food was produced. In fact, the article mentions that some of the consumers interviewed indicated they would prefer to shop at the local farmer's market because they TRUST their local farmer.

But one thing I have observed at some farmer's markets is that not all the vendors are selling produce they have raised themselves - some of them don't even bother to hide the crates and baskets that are labelled "California" or other locations. When I ask these guys if they raised the food themselves, they usually give me a roundabout answer - like, the "English" guy pointed to the Amish guy and said, "no, he did" and the Amish guy didn't really answer. Talking to DH, he said yes, he probably raised it, raised it right out of the bin at the wholesale produce market and raised it into his truck.

There are no labelling requirements for produce at the farmer's market! Although there are certain requirements for labelling baked goods and other home-produced products. Some farmer's markets may have rules about the type of items that vendors may sell - some are farm products only, no crafts or "flea market" items, for example. Some will not allow you to resell packaged products, but will allow reselling of produce! It is usually up to the market manager to make the determination.

So, if consumers change their buying habits for produce by going to a Farmer's Market, they had better be savvy enough to inquire about whether the farmer is selling his/her own product or whether it is just a reselling of product from a wholesaler. Selling non-local produce at a local Farmer's Market (or farm market) defeats the consumer's intention to buy locally to avoid or limit exposure to food contamination. Putting a bar code on a tomato that allows the product to be traced back to the producer - providing that transparency that is going to be demanded by next year's consumers.

I was just inquiring today about the possibility of renting a commercial kitchen for canning salsa and was pointed to the CIFT (Center for Innovative Food Technologies) kitchen in Bowling Green, Ohio. Poking around the CIFT web site, I found a video that presented the Ohio Cottage Food Regulatory Changes. The audience for the presentation seemed to be small commercial producers, not "cottage industry" farmers. It does discuss some of the labelling requirements, but not in detail, and indicates that the Ohio Department of Agriculture is really concentrating on educating the market managers, not necessarily the farmers bringing products to market.

The video made one thing perfectly clear - the current state of regulation in Ohio is not very clear. The lines between "home" or cottage food may be a little fuzzy. Caveat emptor!

1 comment:

GardenGoose said...

we grew some of our own food this year, but because we will be putting our home on rthe market come Jan. we have been converting our backyard back into ...gasp...a lawn again.
But..when we sell this place and move..we have alreqady decided that we shall definitely get a hydroponics system set up..and a large greenhouse for growing our own food on a much larger scale.
hope you have a lovely week..the new issue of Small Town Living is nearing completion..I'll be sending out notices soon.
Tina

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