Purchasing locally grown food
Table of contents
- What is considered “processing”?
- What is an inspected and approved kitchen facility?
- Can community volunteers help food facilities process produce?
Can you legally buy or accept donated produce from a farmers market or directly from a grower and serve or sell it to your clients, students, or customers? The answer is yes.
In fact, this trend has been on the rise since 2003. Whole produce may be purchased from any approved supplier or directly from an unlicensed grower. The food must be grown on the seller’s own land and cannot be prepared, processed, or stored in the private home.
You can also buy locally produced eggs, meat, and poultry. The Minnesota Food Code requires that all food sold or served to the public must be obtained from an approved source. Approved food sources for the following food items include:
- Produce: Can be purchased from an approved source or directly from an unlicensed grower, if the food is grown on the seller’s own land.
- Milk and milk products: Must be processed at an approved milk processing plant (dairy), and must be pasteurized.
- Fish: Must be commercially caught.
- Wild mushrooms: Must be from an approved source.
- Meat: Must be processed at a USDA or Minnesota “Equal To” plant.
- Eggs: Must be candled and graded as grade B or better, with shells intact.
Food facilities (or commercial food operators or food establishments): restaurants, caterers, school food service, institutions, day cares, grocery stores, food markets, cooperatives, bakeries, convenience stores, temporary food stands, hospitals and health care facilities.
Growers: farmers, school gardens, community gardens, food facility gardens
What is considered “processing”?
A food vendor further processing food needs to be licensed and meet regulatory requirements, if foods are processed and if off-farm ingredients have been added during any of those processes.
Foods are processed by cutting, heating, canning, freezing, drying, mixing, coating, bottling, etc., and if off-farm ingredients have been added during any of those processes.
Processing does not include sorting, trimming as part of the harvesting process (topping carrots or husking corn), or preliminary washing to remove soil and dirt.
A license is not required if no off-farm ingredients are added during processing. However, all other food safety regulations must be followed, including use of an inspected and approved kitchen facility.
What is an inspected and approved kitchen facility?
Examples of kitchen facilities that could be approved kitchen facilities for your processing may include: church kitchens, community centers, catering facilities, schools, restaurants and daycare facilities.
An approved kitchen facility must have a certificate of occupancy with documentation of approval from local building, plumbing, fire, electrical, and zoning inspectors as needed.
Equipment must be NSF or commercial equivalent. The facility must have adequate storage space for ingredients, equipment, packaging materials, and finished goods. The person in charge must be knowledgeable of the food safety concerns and requirements relating to the operation.
This MDA Plan Review Application lists other facility requirements.
Can community volunteers help food facilities process produce?
Yes, if the produce is processed in an inspected and approved kitchen facility and if volunteers are supervised by a Minnesota state Certified Food Manager.
Can food facilities freeze or can food to serve later?
If you would like to sell your dried or frozen produce, or vacuum packed meals as retail items as well as serving them, other regulations may apply.
Before changing your menu or expanding your business by using new foods or methods, you should always check with the state or local regulatory authority that licenses and inspects your facility. They can help you to determine whether there are training, licensing or permit requirements that you must follow before expanding your business or menu.
Based on your product(s) and recipes, your licensing authority can also help you to determine whether you have the space for storage and production of those food items, and if you need additional commercial equipment for processing or storage.
What are some purchasing and receiving guidelines for buying produce locally?
While the farmer or grower may be exempt from licensing they are not exempt from following food safety rules.
- Visit the farm or ask how the food is produced, handled and stored.
- Look at the transportation vehicle for chemicals, cleanliness, odors, and obvious debris.
- Look at pallets, packages, and boxed stored foods for cross-contamination.
- Inspect the produce for signs of insects, disease, bruising and damage, freshness, over-ripeness, and immaturity.
- If the produce is advertised as organic ask for documentation that references the USDA Certifying Agent.
- Ask for a receipt of purchase that identifies the supplier or grower’s name and address). Good recordkeeping is particularly important in case of a trace-back of a product due to illness or injury.
- Before preparing or serving wash produce before using it to remove soil and surface contamination.
What kind of receipt should food facilities get from the grower?
To support in product trace back, food facilities should use a purchase/donation receipt with the following fields:
- Received by
- Donated or purchased?
- Purchase price
- Description and amount of produce
- Name of grower