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Southeast Missouri market vendors subject to variety of regulations
Double chocolate cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and cherry pies might not be the first foods shoppers expect to find at a farmers market, but they're there. Mixed in between the booths of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets are tasty treats that require more preparation and are subject to more regulations.
Enos Kauffman's deep-fried doughnuts are a farmers market favorite.
He says some vendors get "all riled up" when someone starts talking about the health department, but he sees their inspections as helpful.
"They have a lot of experience and may pick up on something now that may become a problem later," Kauffman said.
Before the farmers market season started, Kauffman's mobile trailer where he prepares his doughnuts and the room where he processes fresh goat cheese that he also sells were inspected, he said. He views the inspections like an insurance policy, helping protect the customers he serves.
Those who sell their wares at farmers markets are subject to a variety of state and federal regulations, based mostly on what type of goods they're selling. Local vendors and market organizers say the products consumers are getting from the area's outdoor markets, including the riverfront market in Cape Girardeau that starts Saturday, are safe.
Frank Janzow, who sells eggs and grass-fed meats at farmers markets, has had health officials check the temperatures in his coolers during markets.
"I think people can be confident about the safety of foods at the farmers market," he said.
Janzow also suggests people ask the vendor they are buying from questions about how the product was prepared.
"You're taking the word of the person selling it," said Marilyn Peters, manager of the Cape Girardeau farmers market held Thursday afternoons at the Plaza Galleria parking lot. "It's to the advantage of the market that nobody gets sick and everything is clean."
As market manager, Peters puts vendors in touch with the Cape Girardeau County Health Department to make sure they follow proper safety guidelines, but she said it's the vendors' responsibility to make sure they follow them.
In her 27 years at the market, she said, no one has ever gotten sick from eating something purchased there.
Levi Olson, manager of the new Cape Riverfront Market, which opens Saturday at 35 S. Spanish St., said health department inspector Derrick Homs recently spoke about health code requirements at a meeting for market vendors.
"We wanted to minimize miscommunication, so that the vendors were hearing directly from the health department," Olson said.
Homs told vendors that they will be doing routine checks at farmers markets this year to ensure vendors are complying with codes, Olson said.
Earlier this year, the Missouri Department of Agriculture released a farmers market handbook with information for potential vendors about various state and federal health regulations for products sold at farm markets.
County and municipal governments may enact health ordinances that are more restrictive than the state's ordinances, but not less restrictive. Cape Girardeau County's food ordinance and guidelines for temporary food facilities can be found on the county health department website, cgcohealthdept.com. A Cape Girardeau County Health Department representative was unavailable Thursday because the office was closed for in-office training.
In Cape Girardeau, all vendors must have a temporary business license, called a Peddler's License, issued at city hall in addition to following health regulations.
The guidelines vendors must follow vary based on the type of product.
For raw vegetables, there are no restrictions, Peters said. Some vendors have become certified organic by the USDA, but many see it as too expensive, she said.
Makers of baked goods and dry mixes as well as jams and jellies aren't required to have their kitchens inspected, but the person making the product must be the person selling it directly to the customer, according to the Missouri 1999 Food Code.
Canned goods, like salsa or pickles, have the strictest regulations among farm market products.
Producers must have a separate kitchen from their home kitchen and are required to attend a Better Process Control School, which is only offered in two locations in the U.S. each year. Their recipe must be reviewed and their kitchens inspected. Those making canned goods also have to be registered as food canning establishments with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Producers of jams, jellies and honey who sell less than $30,000 per year are exempt from maintaining a separate production facility as long as they meet other safety and certification requirements.
More information about farmers market regulations can be found online at agrimissouri.com.
2021 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO
35 S. Spanish, Cape Girardeau, MO
INFO FOR BOX
Cape Riverfront Market
8 a.m. to noon
35 S. Spanish St.
produce, organic products, meats, cheeses, baked goods, jams, honey and arts and crafts