A groundbreaking new report commissioned by Keep Food Legal and released today by Harvard University School of Law's Food Law and Policy Clinic recommends several ways that states can lessen the regulatory burden on farmers markets in order to maximize the satisfaction of farmers and consumers without sacrificing food safety.
The report, Pennsylvania’s Chapter 57 and Its Effects on Farmers Markets, was commissioned in fall 2011 by Keep Food Legal after some of our Pennsylvania members and supporters expressed their concerns about a new state law's potential impact on farmers markets in the state.
The new law meant farmers would have to obtain retail food licenses. Many feared they would be required also to purchase costly handwashing sinks (rather than sharing a sanitary sink with other vendors) and mechanized cooling devices (rather than chilling food safely using ice).
The report concludes that Pennsylvania’s regulation of farmers markets compares favorably to regulatory approaches in the nine other states that were part of the Clinic’s research. It also notes that some of the perceived concerns with the new law were caused by a failure on the part of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to educate farmers, vendors, market managers, and local health departments about the law.
The report recommends states replace costly process-driven regulations—which require a farmer or vendor to follow particular steps rather than to achieve a particular level of food safety—with results-driven regulations that simply require food to be safe.
"If a farmer can keep meat at a mandated temperature using an ice chest," says Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, "there is no reason to require the farmer to purchase an expensive refrigerator and generator to achieve the same or lesser level of food safety at a much higher cost.
"I'm grateful to our members and supporters in Pennsylvania for expressing their concerns about this new law," says Linnekin. "And I'm very pleased that the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic did such a wonderful job carrying out this important research on behalf of Keep Food Legal."
"This project was a first step in a really important direction," says Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. "Farmers markets and other direct farm-to-consumer sales are great opportunities for small farmers to make money and for consumers to access fresh, healthy foods. However, small farms are not set up to meet the same laws and regulations that apply to large farms or other institutions, so we need to ensure that the food safety laws that apply to them are appropriate to their size and scale. This report was a start in looking critically at some of the state laws that impact farmers markets, but more work still needs to be done to extend this research to other states and get this important message to policymakers."
The report echoes these calls for further research into food safety laws and regulations that govern farmers markets across the country. If this is the sort of groundbreaking research you believe Keep Food Legal should carry out on a regular basis, please donate to Keep Food Legal and support this work today. Already a member? Please forward this email to friends who love farmers markets and urge them to join Keep Food Legal today!