Asia. Although farmers markets around the world aim toward a similar goal of supporting local food production and the health and well-being of the community, the proliferation of markets seems to be related to the demand for organic foods. Most of the information on farmers markets are from studies from North America and Western Europe, and there is little organized information on farmers markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
You Might Also Like
Explore This IssueAugust/September 2019
Also By This Author
Although agriculture is especially important to Central Asia economies, their shares of agriculture exports to China, Russia, and the European Union remain limited. These economies believe most of the food eaten in the world is produced by “small-scale food producers and family farmers” who sell their products in local and territorial markets. They further believe they can meet their sustainable development goals at direct-to-consumer markets, such as community-supported agriculture, community-supported fisheries, and farmers markets. But a key factor responsible for the slow increase in exports to China, Russia, and the EU is the slow use of food safety standards.
In 2014, the China Environmental Ministry reported 20 percent of its farming area was alarmingly polluted. China is a country where small-scale agriculture still dominates, and industrialized agriculture comprises only 5 percent of all agriculture. In addition, recent major food scandals such as melamine found in dairy products and cadmium found in rice caused about 72 percent of its residents to be suspicious of the food grown, harvested, and prepared in their country. As a result, its residents searched for food with no pesticides and other “chemicals,” catapulting the organic food market in China to grow 30-fold over the past decade.
In China, as well as in Eastern and Western Europe, short supply chains such as farmers markets are developing fast. Younger farmers using agro-ecological methods bring fresh, “healthy” local produce directly to consumers. Farmers markets in China are seen as building trust-based, direct-to-consumer relations between sustainable family farms and consumers. But many issues remain to be addressed. The organic certification process to verify that food was grown, harvested, and prepared following their strict organic standards must be implemented, and legislation defining how to keep the foods safe must be developed.
Australia. Farmers markets in Australia are also growing in popularity. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code—also called The Code—refers to such foods simply as “food” and does not use the term “cottage foods.” The Code focuses on the operation that produces these foods (called a “food business”) and the food produced. A food business in Australia is almost the same as a temporary food establishment in the U.S. Anyone who sells food, including offering free food samples or food prizes and giveaways, is defined as a food business.
The Code defines the national requirements that a food business must meet, including those selling cottage foods. But just as in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the states (or local governments) may have specific exemptions to the national requirements to ease compliance of certain businesses when preparing cottage foods. Exemptions are also not the same and may have different specificity for each state.
Food for Thought
Cottage foods are defined in many different ways and the laws regulating their production and sales, if any, are just as varied anywhere in the world. But food safety remains the first and foremost issue to protect public health since many of the cottage foods are prepared in facilities seldom inspected by a recognized public health agency, and often are not prepared under the same strict guidelines. For example:
- Preparation of high-risk foods to be sold commercially mandates the use of commercial processing equipment that meets regulatory specifications, while most cottage food manufacturers use equipment for home use, such as home pressure cookers;
- Waters used for commercial processing are required to be tested, but are not when used for cottage food preparation (although some cottage food manufacturers use private water wells);
- Commercially prepared food producers in the U.S. are mandated to have a working food safety plan that demonstrates the safety of their food’s ingredients, qualification of facilities and personnel, and conditions of the environment (cottage food manufacturers are not); and
- Proper food labeling, including the declaration of allergens, is a standard requirement on commercially packaged products but is not for all cottage foods.
Since cottage foods are not subject to these requirements, there is likely no history of the hazards in the finished product (including pathogens), the sanitary conditions of the home kitchen, or food safety training of the food handlers. Although many cottage food manufacturers start with low-risk foods, it is not unusual to see line extensions with high-risk foods, such as smoked seafood and meats, beef/turkey jerky, sometimes in hermetically sealed and reduced oxygen packages, and without knowledge of proper processing, refrigeration requirements, and transportation conditions to maintain food safety. And as in many other areas, political and legislative influences could also override food safety issues, consequently limiting regulatory authority.