|Moloka'i Saturday Farmers Market|
The state Department of Health (DOH) in Hawaii regulates the permitting of the sales of these items, which it considers homemade non-potentially hazardous foods. Under DOH rules, the food makers can sell their products only directly to consumers and not to other food establishments such as stores or restaurants. These sales are only authorized for 20 days within any 120-day period per temporary food establishment location, thereby forcing the food seller to have to re-apply for the permit multiple times per year. These products also have to be correctly labeled based on the State of Hawaii Department of Health food labeling laws, (click here to view).
As a chef, I understand that the state Department of Health is just trying to protect the public from getting sick from food that may be unsafe to eat, because the people who made it may not know anything about food safety. I'm currently in the process of starting a new food business here on Moloka'i and would like to produce my food products out of my home, which is what the cottage industry law is all about. Unfortunately, every time I want to make more of my product, I have to rent an expensive commercial kitchen, plus get a 20 day permit from the state Department of Health in order to sell it. All of this will make my product too expensive to sell, and too much trouble to make.
This Cottage Industry Food bill is supported by the Hawaii Farm Bureau, The Kohala Center, Local Food Coalition, Sustainable Economies Law Center, Counter Culture Food & Ferment, Tasting Kaua‘i, Kolo Kai Organic Farm, and Steelgrass Farm, but the Department of Health opposes it according to the Hawaii Food Policy Council.
The state of Hawaii should be going out of their way to make the process of starting a new business as easy as possible. This will generate much needed new jobs and tax revenue. Instead the state of Hawaii is not working with the people that it is supposed to serve, and is showing us how free enterprise is being stifled. Hawaii needs a law passed similar to California's law, which went into effect on January 1, 2013, a law that is working without any problems. Here is how California makes their Cottage Food Laws work (click here).
A true "grassroots movement" isn't organized by political forces - instead, a "grassroots movement" springs up spontaneously due to some issue, like the Hawaii Cottage Industry Food Law, that a state feels needs to be passed. Is this a grassroots movement? You bet it is! Come on Hawaii legislature, get it together, two years is long enough!
Update: Two years after I wrote this story, nothing has changed in Hawaii. Out of desperation, I see more and more local people showing up at our Molokai Farmers Market selling homemade, unregulated food products. This is partially because of our outdated food laws, plus the fact that Molokai has no, on island, health department inspector. Click here to read more about this.