New rules for markets topic of workshop

Penn State’s Warren County Extension Office will be offering a chance for farmers market vendors to get up to speed on state regulations.

On Dec. 11, a workshop will be held on the rules from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the extension office at 100 Dillon Dr., Youngsville.

“It’s going to be about three hours long,” Juliette Enfield, Penn State agricultural extension agent for Warren County, said. “It doesn’t have to be for just current vendors. It’s just kind of an informational session.”

According to the extension website, “This workshop will focus on addressing food safety practices related to selling fresh produce and processed foods. This includes baked goods, jams, candies and sauces made from home and sold at farm markets across the state of Pennsylvania. Participants will learn and understand the current regulations imposed upon vendors selling at farm markets.”

The regulations have been the focus of debate recently, as new regulations took effect in the state in 2011, but many vendors just learned about them this year.

After finding out about the requirements, some vendors discovered they were not in compliance.

Under Act 106 of 2010, farmers markets could no longer use a blanket retail food facilities license to cover everyone on the site. Individual vendors were required to be treated as individual food facilities and had to follow guidelines as such.

“The people at farmers markets have to follow the same rules as anyone selling food,” Enfield noted. “That’s kind of what the act was all about.”

Under the act, vendors selling pre-packaged, potentially hazardous foods and ready-to-eat foods must have a retail food facility license from the state and a retail food facility license from a local or county health department. If a market is located within a jurisdiction with its own health inspections and licensing, such as the City of Warren, it must obtain the appropriate licensing from the local agency.

Pre-packaged, potentially hazardous foods are generally items which are temperature sensitive such as meats, cheeses, milk and eggs.

Vendors selling raw agricultural products and prepackaged, non-potentially hazardous foods do not need a retail food facility license. Prepackaged, non-potentially hazardous food vendors, however, must file a retail plan review application with the state.

Raw agricultural products include unprepared items such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Non-potentially hazardous foods include items which are prepared but not temperature sensitive, such as baked goods, honey products and canned goods such as honey and jams. Honey products are only exempt if vendors process their own products from their own bees.

However, pre-packaged, non-potentially hazardous foods must be made in a kitchen or facility inspected by a state or local health officer. Such facilities must be hooked up to a chlorinated water system or have water that has been tested safe and must be processed in an area where pets do not have access.

Kitchens where food is prepared must pass a state inspection.

Following a meeting this fall which included airing a number of concerns, the City of Warren and the extension office began organizing an informational session on the regulations.

“(It’s) Kind of in response to that meeting,” Enfield said. “We kind of thought we could put together something on what you need to do. They’re cracking down on farmers markets. We’re a little behind in Warren County. It’s not impossible. We just need to get our farmers market in Warren in compliance. There are options out there. People have found ways to comply and they’re still in business.”

The workshop is free of charge, but registration is requested. Visit extension.psu.edu/warren/events and click on the “Navigating New Food Safety Regulations for Farmers Market Vendors” link to register.

Speakers are extension Food Safety Educator Rick Kralj and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Food Sanitarian Raymond Kenny.

“We have someone coming from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture… and a food safety instructor from Penn State,” Enfield said. “Rick is putting on an informational program on food safety. I have one guy coming in who’s just gotten a kitchen inspected.”

Enfield said the individual is from Warren County.