ALERT: Ohio Farm Food and Health Alert

RE: Farm and Farmers Market Enforcement Actions

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farmers-market210 Cleveland area farmers market vendors closed for using ice and dry ice chests and not using mechanical refrigeration for meats, pies and cheeses.

“The Greens Must be Sold Dirty”

The Ohio Department of Health/Department of Agriculture has issued a Notice of Violation to a farmer at a farmers market in Lake County on 7/8/09.

According to the notice, it is a violation to offer cleaned and rinsed “lettuce and mixed greens” in a package at a farmers market. It must be sold dirty, the notice says.

This is due to new rules and the definition of “food processing”. Since the lettuce was cleaned and rinsed with water, the food is defined as “adulterated” because the person doing so is an unlicensed “processor”.

Processors are also subject to home kitchen and farm inspections and seizure of business records. In effect the official notice implies that cleaned and packaged greens are adulterated, while dirty greens are healthier and safer. By their own definitions, dirty vegetables are acceptable, while cleaned and rinsed vegetables are not and are unsafe and “potentially hazardous”.

The official actions of ODH/ODA and their local agent in Lake County gives notice to all farmers markets and farm markets concerning cleaned and rinsed greens, and potentially for other fruits and vegetables.

Since these rules are developed in cooperation with USDA, similar actions are being taken in other states also.

Stay tuned for a farmers response plan for these type of enforcement incidents at farms and markets.

I spoke with Kris, the victim (literally a criminal in accordance with current law), for his side to what happened. He told me the inspector said it would be better yet to sell the greens with the roots on. Kris and his wife have two girls and a boy serving in the U.S. military– fighting for the freedoms we have here at home.


Also see, State/local Health Depts Close Farmers Markets— the case of the lemonade stand, the hot coffee in a thermos violation and others.

In closing this developing story,  I wanted to let you also know that an Amish grower of fine grass-fed beef contacted me last week and told me he was shut out of a Cleveland farmers market because he could not afford to comply with all the new rules, including the mechanical refrigeration. A friend of mine called tonight and told me he cannot sell his USDA organic certified meat on ice and now needs to sell it out of a truck parked down the street from the market.

24 responses to “ALERT: Ohio Farm Food and Health Alert

  1. My god! Can’t the government leave ANYONE alone anymore? I hope with everyone seeing the way this country is going more and more people will begin to vote Libertarian.

    • ThoughtfulOne

      Although I would like to say you can always vote for a candidate based on their political party, that is not a wise thing to do.

      Candidates should be evaluated according to what they have done freely of themselves for others. Not a list of civic organizations they belong to but rather a list of personal accomplishments for others. It would be highly desirable to have these things go unpaid.

      It is also unwise to vote for those who have come into office through connections, family background or wealth. If someone has never worked in private enterprise, how would they know what it is like to know the bottom line and to know what it is like to adjudicate programs or authority if they have never experienced it?

      Take heed. There is movement underfoot to regionalize this entire area and that includes Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Summit counties. You need to attend to local politics to keep this from happening. The more appointed ( or is that annointed) positions that people can’t vote for, the more the above types of things keep on happening.

      You need to join organizations that keep you apprised of what is going on to keep it from happening. You need to find your voice and use it.

  2. This seems to go along with the issues addressed in the movie”Food”. The more people we get to see it, the more informed people will be and the more grassroots power we will have.
    More power to the informed people!

  3. I do not want farmers to be harassed by any means, and I truly value the local, fresh food at the markets; so, please don’t get me wrong here. However, it seems to me that from the officials’ perspective, if the greens/lettuces are labeled or advertised as washed, consumers may assume they do not need to wash them again. If the farmers are not licensed processors, then the officials can’t be sure of the cleaning process or whether it is done in a sanitary manner that negates the need for further cleaning. Let me clarify that I personally have more faith in farmers than officials when it comes to determining whether my food is safe. I’m just playing devil’s advocate in regard to why the rules may be there.

    • Dear Fleur: I’m the farmer that this article speaks of and believe me it’s not about labels (there were none). At first I thought that the lady was joking and then I realized that as ludicrous as her demand that I sell “dirty lettuce with the roots still on” was that she was very serious. The proof of that is that I was written a citation. They’re going to make ALL selling so grievous that farmer’s will throw up their hands and quit. Like being bleed out by mosquitos. One bite, no problem! A million and you’re exsanguinated.
      They want us out of the picture.

  4. Hey, Marsha is that “Food, Inc”?

    • Kris, Can you please send me an email. I would really like to speak with you regarding this and get more details if possible…Thank you!
      Doreen Hannes

  5. Actually there is a certain logic to not cleaning the lettuce and spinach, since the washing with subsequent packaging has been the source of contamination of large batches of green in some incidents. Best to concentrate on keeping the produce clean as it’s growing and harvested, and let the housewife do the washing of her individual portion. That should make it easier for farmers. If you have good healthy soil, the ‘germs’ on the produce are probably healthy soil microorganisms. Nevertheless, it certainly is an example of the authorities going overboard! Hopefully it was just a warning.

    • Dear Kris J: I’m Kris O, the farmer that was cited at the Kirtland Farmer’s Market. First, there is a logic to washing lettuce, etcetera, because you want people to buy it. I’m an organic farmer with ultra-healthy soil but I know that I don’t want to knowingly eat dirt. Neither do my customers.
      This the Powers-That-Be know; which was why I was told to sell it “dirty” (I’m not making this up).
      They also know that I’m not going to invest 100K in a USDA processing plant to sell a couple hundred dollars worth of lettuce per year. Put out dozens of bottle necks and then ram the farmers through them. This is what’s going on.
      Do you know that my Amish friends were told to not take their draft horses unto the fields and that they may have to use stainless steel wagons WITHOUT AXLE GREASE!
      I all this out to the inspector to show to her their hypocrisy when the USDA allows millions of tons of food to be coated with Captan, Bonide, and Malathion, etc. They’re following the logic of killing off the threat to their political sponsors. This is just the beginning!

  6. especially with all counties going broke, the health dept and ODA cannot be at every market every week.

    Bug you state reps about this and the law can be changed. this happened with raw milk. It was outlowed but a couple of rep in the state house took up the cause to allow raw milk sales via herd share agreements.

    It’s a real shame they do not allow field cleaning any longer as this makes for a much higher quality product with far longer fridge life (3 weeks if washed vs 5 days if not).

    But I do understand that many farmers have no idea about hccp rules and how to keep an area clean. And these farmers easily could sicken a few people especially if they do things like clean their greens in a barn that also has livestock in it and say, the free range chickens range over the area where food is cleaned up.

    I really see little difference in small farms handling food and small locally owned restaurants handling food-without regulation and education for the food handler there will be problems and an annual inspection is not always a bad thing, actually it is usually a very good thing as the health inspection folks are generally very helpful and do not want to shut the business down. they will tell you how to improve you facility to stay within regulations.

    I have run many kitchens and for the past 15 years I have made my sole living from my farm where I grow food for direct sale to the public

  7. Comrade Obama is on track with his agenda. We could all save money by placing rubber stamps in the chairs of our legislators, since they do not have time to read the legislation they vote for! Now we have a supreme court nominee that wants to legislate from the bench. What a load of crap! We don’t need a third branch of legislature. We do need a supreme court that rules on constitutional law issues not feely good issues. We wanted change – well we got it. This is the same political environment that brought Hitler to power in the 30’s. We want change – no matter what. Well we got it.

    • This has nothing to do with Obama. It has everything to do with the ODA and inspectors justifying their existence. This kind of thing will continue especially as store based retailers complain about loosing business to the farmers markets…..

    • Gimme a break! Do you honestly think that any President could/would bring about such a minuscule law as one impacting veggie washing in Ohio farmer’s markets? During the first six months of his administration? In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? And while juggling TWO inherited land wars in Asia?

      Oh yeah. Obama’s gonna jump on the washed veggies pronto.

      There’s your load of crap.

    • What a crock! Stop trolling and get a life.

  8. The Ohio Department of Health/Department of Agriculture needs to be shut down!

  9. The bureaucrats have their agenda – the t’s must be crossed, the i’s dotted and the lettuce must not be washed! We encounter the same issue in our state as well – washed mixed greens are considered a processed food and therefore must have been washed and mixed in a licensed kitchen. However, by proactively working with the health department we’re able to develop a healthy, friendly relationship to the benefit of our growers, customers and the farmers market as a whole. So, now, instead of labeling a bag of greens as “washed” we label them “Chilled” with the added caveat, “This is not a ready to eat product.” Health departments, markets and growers need to learn to work together cooperatively.

  10. It would seem to me, that I would prefer to be protected by forcing people who huckster GMO, pesticide laden, or foreign food with NO STANDARDS such as that from Mexico and China by the health department and then allowing people to chose freely on an ‘as is” basis. In the case of this farmer who is organic, I would willingly choose his produce because it was 1) locally grown and helping not only my health but the economy 2) by definition since it is “organic” it is NOT GMO, pesticide laden and even though he washed it, I would likely choose to was it again myself as I was my own lettuce and spinach -just to get the dirt off. As for the Amish man being forced to have a stainless steel wagon what hypocracy when lead, mercury and melamine is allowed by the FDA on Chinese food in certain levels as “normal” Don’t protect me from people whose best interests are served by living in the same community and having a vested interest in customers who return week after week- why would he want to kill them or make them sick like the producer of Mexican green onions at Chi-Chis…. they would have been better served by buying local!

  11. Sycamore Farms

    At the Piqua Farmers Market the Health inspector comes almost every week. Rather than quarrel with the Health Department we embrace them. We use their presence as a marketing point. What could be better as far as the consumer is concerned than to know that the local health inspector is doing his job and paying attention to food safety? When selling items that are highly susceptible to food born illnesses the farmer must have a mobile food license. The mobile food license tells the public that the farmer has met the minimum requirements for food safety as set down by the State. This is no more of a requirement than what is required of a person with a concession stand selling sandwiches at an auction or the county fair. We sell lettuce at our market and the first week the inspector showed up we were told that when lettuce is pre-packaged the farmer has crossed a line that separates a farmer selling lettuce directly from his farm and moved the farmer into a processor category. Processors have a different set of standards to meet and we solved the problem by selling bulk and bagging after the sale. This way washing field dirt from the lettuce was not a problem and the customer had a clear understanding that the lettuce required additional processing before consumption. The safety rules that I have encountered are very reasonable. Farmers who want to sell meat, baked goods, eggs and other foods that are highly susceptible to food born illnesses need to follow the rules and get a mobile food license. Trying to by-pass health rules undermines the sustainability of Farmers Markets. It only takes one food born illness out break at a market to destroy the market for everyone.

    Richard Zimmerman
    Sycamore Farms LLc
    St. Paris, Ohio

  12. Pingback: News From The World of Real Food | Food Renegade

  13. I wonder how much of this harrassment is a result of supermarket lobbying because they’re losing money to all these farmers’ markets! Farmers are an endangered species as the corporate giants methodically crush any competition.

  14. I agree with Diana D., and Sycamore Farms get real! USDA food inspectors make less than $30K per year! They are the ones checking the industrial food plants that are sickening to see. It’s a big racket all of a sudden because all these departments are broke, and it’s a cash cow! I sell prepared specialty foods packaged in my commercial kitchen at many CT farmers markets. My kitchen is inspected by the CT Dept of Consumer Protection. Every district has its own Health Inspector, and they all have their own rules and fees from $50.00 to $200 for one market-to sample only! We are ALL concerned with our, and our customer’s health! BUT-at one market, ice must be used for displaying and holding samples. At another, only polar paks and ice blankets will do. At another, souffle cups must hold each sample of a piece of pickle on a toothpick. It has gotten out of hand. Look at food sampling in Costco, and brown tuna salad on display at your grocery stores! It’s all a big game that we are playing here! How about a disclainer sticker on bags of rinsed produce that say “This produce has been rinsed only and still requires the consumer to wash it thoroughly before consuming” ? Not rocket science!

  15. How very true Jane M.!!! It is a big game, courtesy of BIG business. It’s always the “little guy” who has to make the extra effort and jump through the hurdles. Just like Monsanto made sure that those farms who produced hormone-free milk and said so on their labels had to also write on their labels something to the effect of…growth hormone has not been proven to be damaging to humans…right!!

    I would hope that people have enough sense to wash any produce they consume; though, growing up on my grandmother’s farm, we would just go in the garden, yank a carrot out of the ground, rub off the dirt and eat it — no harm done. It’s the super safe “processing” by the big agri-farms that leave something to be desired…

  16. This is not just an Ohio issue. I saw the same thing happen in Texas. Back in the spring there was all this big worry about the new food safety laws being proposed. The scary thing is they don’t need to change the law to shut down the little guy. The rules are vague enough that almost anything you do to food, including growing it, makes you a food processor and subject to the Unified Code. They can and will shut down all the alternatives to the mega food producing machine. And we will never get to vote or even comment on it.

  17. As a grower, I want to add that the issue of washing lettuce and greens is also an issue of cooling and hydrating them before taking them to market. In the summer, the only way we can get the ‘field heat’ off the lettuce and prevent it from wilting pretty quickly is by hydrocooling it in cold water.

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