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Published September 21, 2010, 10:32 AM

Looser food rules welcome in Michigan

ADRIAN, Mich. — Michigan needs to encourage entrepreneurs willing to cook up new businesses, even in small batches. So, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm deserves credit for signing a state law designed to ease licensing and inspection regulations for small, local food operations.

ADRIAN, Mich. — Michigan needs to encourage entrepreneurs willing to cook up new businesses, even in small batches. So, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm deserves credit for signing a state law designed to ease licensing and inspection regulations for small, local food operations.

The Michigan Cottage Food Operation bill (HB 5837) exempts from state inspection and licensing foods from homes, farm markets or roadside stands; municipal farmers markets; county fairs; and town celebrations, festivals and events. Instead, it would require its label to include: “Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.”

Buyer beware policy

Let the buyer beware, in this case, is exactly the policy the state needs to revive. The law is limited to people with gross revenue of $15,000 or less per year. It covers “non-potentially hazardous food in a kitchen of that person’s primary domestic residence.”

In the past, there was a risk that home-based food makers would be forced to cease operations when state licensing requirements outweighed the tiny proceeds of their work. That’s bad for any fledgling business but especially for “locavores.” One point of local food is to encourage small producers who are less susceptible to supply-chain contamination, such as that reported at some of the big food manufacturers.

Customer awareness

That doesn’t mean contamination can’t occur in small kitchens. It can. But the warning’s expectation is that buyers will know who made the food, be aware of their reputation and make informed decisions. That sort of consumer awareness is the best type of protection, especially as we strive to eat locally.

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