Making food safe or putting small farmers out of business?
Part two of a three part series by farmer Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm on what measures different states are taking to insure food safety and encourage family farms. Read the entire essay here.
In the first installment of "Farewell Frikeh," we noted that the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) defines "food processing" as the "…cooking, baking, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, extracting, cutting, freezing, or otherwise manufacturing a food or changing the physical characteristics of a food, and the packaging, canning or otherwise enclosing such a food in a container." While this long recitation certainly includes all activities that happen in food processing factories, the definition also covers many traditional farm activities that fall well short of what we consider processing foods. Under a strict interpretation of ODA's rules, all of the activities identified above must take place within a licensed facility.
Because frikeh involves heating and drying, ODA calls it a "processed food." Like many other traditional foods, including raisins, sundried tomatoes, dried peppers and herbs, frikeh is prepared outside in the field, and not in a factory. Under ODA's scheme, if a "processed food" is not produced in a licensed facility, the agency prohibits the sale of the food. If California took such a view of food processing, we would have neither raisins, nor domestic sun dried tomatoes and peppers.
The food industry is where the problem lies, not the family farm. The reality remains that, in states with progressive views on farm-based food production, food borne illnesses have not been an issue at farmers' markets or with CSA's.