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Mason County is a patchwork of rural farms and small communities that approximately 15,000 people call home….

Mason County is a patchwork of rural farms and small communities that approximately 15,000 people call home.

The makeup of the county in itself suggests cottage industry — ladies, and yes, gentlemen in this day and age, baking scrumptious apple pies and homemade loaves of bread to sell at local farmers markets.

That is, if there were any.

The Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act, which was sponsored by Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, and Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Kankakee, became law Jan. 1. The new law allows local folks to sell products they make in their own kitchen without the regulation a restaurant would undergo.

Mason County Health Department Director of Environmental Services Karen Irons said that there has thus far been only a few calls from Mason County residents about the Cottage Industry Law, and that no one has registered for the health department’s Food Service Sanitation Manager course — a requirement of those wishing to participate in the cottage industry program.

Irons said she has not yet had the opportunity to promote the new law extensively, which may be why few have inquired. The idea of the law, she said, is to let people sell home-baked goods at farmers markets across the state to get a feel for how their product would fare on a larger business scale.

The county, said Irons, is so small that most communities have never had a true farmers market. She said Manito had one on a small scale last year. Irons said there are, however, a number of roadside produce stands around the county.

“Mason County has several roadside vegetable stands, but they don’t have an organized farmers market where farmers all get together,” said Irons. “The roadside stands don’t have to be registered with us.”

Eden Stewart was the organizer of the Manito Farmer’s Market last year. The market will be open again this year, and Stewart is hoping local residents will sign up for the health department class so that local vendors can sell pies and breads at the market.

“I think the law will help us a lot,” said Stewart. “This is a small town, and we don’t have the money to bring in people who are licensed with big kitchens like they do in Peoria.

“We have a lot of people here who would want to bake and sell their items. We can have local people baking for local buyers.”

Stewart can be reached for more information on the farmers market at edeb13@yahoo.com or by calling (217) 871-7974.

The Havana Park District Nature Center last year showed some interest in a farmers market by the riverfront park, said Havana Park District Director Jill Hills.

“We discussed it last year, but there was just not enough interest,” she said. “I doubt it will be pursued this year.”

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Cottage food industry facts

• A “Cottage Food Operation” is a person who produces, packages and/or stores food in his/her home for direct sale to the public.

• A cottage food operation may only sell products at a farmers market in Illinois. A farmers market is defined as a common area where farmers gather to sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and other locally produced farm and food products directly to consumers.

• Gross receipts from the sale of food exempted under the cottage food law may not exceed $25,000 in a calendar year.

• Items produced by cottage food operations must be packaged and labeled with the name and address of the cottage food operation; the common or usual name of the food product; all ingredients of the food product, including any colors, artificial flavors and preservatives, listed in descending order by predominance of weight shown with common or usual names; the phrase, “This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens”; the date the product was processed; and allergen labeling as specified in federal labeling requirements. Federal requirements require the label to identify if any of the ingredients are made from food groups including milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, fish and tree nuts.

• At the point of sale, a placard must be displayed in a prominent location that states, “This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens.”

• The cottage food operation must have an Illinois Department of Public Health-approved Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate. The name and residence of the person preparing and selling products as a cottage food operation must be registered with the health department or a unit of local government where the cottage food operation resides.

• A state-certified local public health department may include a reasonable fee for registration; require that a cottage food operation agree to allow an inspection if there is a consumer complaint or food-borne illness outbreak, and charge a fee for the inspection.

• If the IDPH receives a consumer complaint, believes that an imminent health hazard exists or that a cottage food operation’s product has been found to be not in compliance with the cottage food law, then it may invoke cessation of sales until the situation has been addressed.

For additional information go to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Cottage Food Law page at http://www.ilstewards.org/content/12404.

Read more http://www.pekintimes.com/news/x221031302/Cottage-Industry-law-a-slow-starter-in-Mason-County

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