As some of you know, earlier in the summer, I sold baked goods and greens from my garden at the local farmers market in order to make a little bit of cash while I was unemployed. I had known for a while that it was against market rules to sell homemade pickles and salsa, but a few weeks ago* I finally decided to look into why. I thought it was some sort of stupid local or state rule, but it turns out it's actually a national thing put in place by the FDA. I talked to someone from my county's health department, and he told me that if I want to sell pickles or salsa, I have to take a special class and then submit my canning recipe to a "processing authority" to whom I would also have to submit a sample of my product for testing. I looked into these special classes, and they're only taught at about two dozen universities spread around the country. Moreover, the class is only 2 or 3 days and costs $400 - 500 per student (and that cost is in addition to whatever you might spend traveling to the site if you aren't lucky enough to live by one of these select universities). The FDA's stated purpose for requiring these classes is to prevent botulism, which I don't deny is a risk factor involved with home canning. However, botulism is a threat with ALL home canned goods — not just pickles and salsa. I tried to find a rationale for why the FDA targeted these specific items, but I couldn't find anything online. (Here are the FDA's regulations pertaining to the ban, if you can find anything in the legalese that mentions what's so special about pickles and salsa, let me know.) At any rate, the thing about making pickles and salsa is that the ingredients are pretty cheap, especially at this time of year, and if I could sell pickles or whatever at the farmers market, I could probably make a tidy profit off of it. I don't have $400+ to drop on a special class, though, and I doubt many other people at my local farmers market do either. The thing I like about going to market, which admittedly might not be true for all farmers markets, is that practically anyone can sell there as long as their items are relevant to the market. I don't know if this was part of the FDA's intention for banning pickles and salsa, but I feel like the rules severely restrict creativity and innovation. Home canning was a lost art for a while, but it's a made a huge resurgence, and I think people deserve to experiment and offer their products to other people if that's what they want to do. Luckily, I can still make pickles and salsa at home for myself and my family, but it just infuriates me that this rule is in place when it seems so impartial considering any canned good could be a source of botulism.
* I was really ragey about this, but then I got my new job and became distracted by that. I canned some jam today, though, and that reminded me of this BS with the FDA.