Thursday, August 11, 2011

If You Love Food, This Should Make You Angry

Photo from Busy Beaver Buttons.

Update (8.12.11): Information on Nice Cream's manufacturing process (they do repasteurize their ice cream already, just not with the expensive machine) and how you can help Nice Cream.

The State of Illinois is shutting down local, artisan ice cream makers for such terrible offenses as using fresh fruit instead of fruit syrup and fresh cream instead of pre-packaged soft serve mix. What, you say? How can this be? Health officials in this state are known for being overzealous when it comes to making sure that small, independent businesses follow obscure rules - and when I say small and independent, I'm talking about businesses that are often owned and run by 1-2 people renting space in a shared, licensed commercial kitchen. These are not corporations with large amounts of money who have the capital to hire lawyers or contribute significant sums to political campaigns. No, these are real people, individuals who do their best to follow labyrinthine food regulations based on the information that they're given by governmental agencies who don't always agree on what the rules should be.

Illinois health regulators seem to hate anything that isn't incredibly processed. Last year, they destroyed thousands of dollars worth of local fruit that had no health issues. Why? Monica Eng from the Chicago Tribune put it this way: "At best it was a victim of paper work confusion among city bureaucrats who couldn't agree on a policy." One woman was put out of business for six months.

Now, the health department is saying that Nice Cream, a local maker (read: primarily one woman, Kris Swanberg) that I've followed since reading this 2009 profile from the Chicago Reader, is being forced to shut down because she lacks a dairy permit. Nevermind that she and others in her field have been creating artisan ice creams for years without ever hearing that such a permit existed - or that they needed one. Nevermind that the office that issued their business licenses (the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection) failed to inform any of them that they needed one in order to operate. IDPH has spoken, and now Swanberg and others will need to use sub-par ingredients or cough up around $40,000 for a pasteurizing machine.

Processed ingredients would mean that Nice Cream - which built its reputation by using fresh, organic ingredients that are sourced from local farms - would be allowed operate without needing the dairy license. The problem with the dairy license is that in order to pass inspection, you have to make sure your bacteria levels are so low that using real ingredients simply doesn't work.

Technically, using fresh strawberries is legal. However, IDPH does not recommend using them, because "when you try and clean a strawberry to make sure it doesn’t have any bacteria, it kind of deteriorates.”  Irradiated strawberries apparently look fine but are somewhat lacking in the taste department. So IDPH explicitly suggests "strawberry syrup." Fresh cream requires the dairy license, so the alternative would be to use premade ice cream mix, the kind of stuff that is full of stabilizers and additives and usually found at places like Dairy Queen. (If you've never done it, read the label of your grocery store ice cream sometime - if you're not buying Häagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerry's, or Breyers, you'll probably be reading a long list of ingredients, half of which are near unpronounceable.) Clearly, the results of these changes would turn Nice Cream into a generic brand that's barely worth mentioning, rather than the wizards who made me realize for the first time that strawberry ice cream could actually taste good. Better than good. Amazing.

Which brings us back to the pasteurizing machine and its $40,000 price tag. That's a lot of money for a small business to find. But it's not a lot of money for a large corporation, and that's the type of organization that the rules were invented for. In fact, the rules about dairy licenses apply to the mega-corporation and the one-man show equally in the eyes of the state. Something's wrong with that. Something's wrong with the fact that Cargill can stay in business after having to recall 36 million pounds of salmonella-tainted turkey, but Nice Cream may not be able to stay in business after keeping a clean record. Something's wrong with the fact that health departments are pushing businesses to produce processed food rather than fresh, locally-sourced food, which is much healthier. Something's wrong here, and local ice cream may be a casualty of it.

56 comments:

  1. Regulations like this need to be evaluated at different tiers. I hope they contact their representatives and try to get some help with this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Irradiation of straberries does not change taste, you should provide a citation for this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like a business opportunity for someone to buy a pasteurizing machine and rent it out.

    ReplyDelete
  4. this is so absurd. Why can't common sense ever come into play with these people?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. common sense is not very common

      Delete
  5. Have they checked with local Small Business Development Center? As a small business owner who has looked into funding, SBA and other prefer giving loans/grants for equipment versus other types of investing (at least from what I have read). Curious question - will pasteurization change any aspect of the product? Or is this another battle on the raw milk front?
    Anna

    ReplyDelete
  6. In response to: Irradiation of straberries does not change taste, you should provide a citation for this.

    Taste is based on many different chemicals and textures. It is common knowledge and so citation is not needed. If you boil broccoli, it tastes different than if it was fresh. Same applies to any other type of fruit or vegetable. Certain chemicals degrade at different points, so although you may still get the "strawberry taste," you may not get the full fresh feeling you get with strawberries that have not been touched.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just another battle on the raw milk front. If you were making ice cream with pasteurized organic milk from say whole foods no one would be requiring them to buy a 40k pasturizing machine. Why does the author go to such lengths to misrepresent what's actually happening?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your post would be more helpful if you listed some contacts outraged readers could get in touch with.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And you'll be the first to OMG! bitch when somebody gets badly sick on farm related bacteria that would and should have been killed off through the pasteurization process. Health departments are "pushing" a time tested process that helps ensure safe food and nothing else. Talk about low rent sophism. Sheesh.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Gregory is right! Pasteurization does NOT reduce the quality of cream, quality ice cream makers around the globe, both artisan and corporate, have pasteurized their cream for years!

    The syrup thing as opposed to fresh fruit, however, can be viewed as ridiculous...BUT unless nice cream would like to start posting listeria, botulism, e. coli, or salmonella because they use farm fresh ingredients or unpasteurized milk, the regulators aren't completely without warrant.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm not in the food industry and even I know it is illegal to use raw milk. Your artisan ice cream maker doesn't understand basic food safety. Now imagine someone getting sick with E. coli from the raw milk and now you're suddenly outraged that no one ever told them they were required to properly treat milk for pathogenic organisms.

    ReplyDelete
  12. in response to: If you were making ice cream with pasteurized organic milk from say whole foods no one would be requiring them to buy a 40k pasturizing machine.

    http://www.smallbizchicago.com/2011/08/nice-cream-maker-aims-to-keeping-churning-product-by-changing-state-rules/
    according to this article, nice cream uses pasteurized milk, but in order to meet the requirements of the dairy licence, they would have to re-pasteurize the ice cream after all the ingredients are added.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is really disturbing. The fact that regulations and rules like this can't be evaluated on a case by case basis using logical thinking makes me sad.

    Why not just allow the people who would like these types of foods to just be warned or notified when they walk in that all the food isn't under xyz regulations.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is just another example of corporate-influenced red tape clogging up free enterprise and stifling competition. Like any big company would choose to compete toe-to-toe when it can just undermine it by buying laws.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This disgust me!
    Im not the type of people who usually get offended easily, but that's just horrible.
    Does the states of illinois is scared that "nicecream" put dairy queen bankrupt??
    Terrible things heppening to good people.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Too many Anonymous comments. So lets see:

    Raw milk and especially raw milk cheeses are considered the standard for high quality dairy products. Many French cuisine traditionalists consider pasteurized cheeses almost a sacrilege. Many traditional French cheeses have solely been made from raw milk for hundreds of years.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_milk#Raw_vs._pasteurized_debate)

    ReplyDelete
  17. From what I understand, Nice Cream has never had a problem with bacteria, listeria, or any other ria for that matter. It seems to me that the companies that have ria problems are the larger companies that just don't give a rats behind about anyone or thing other than profits. Perhaps it's large corporations that push the government for such strenuous regulations to keep the small guy from ever emerging.

    ReplyDelete
  18. In these articles you should include contact information for whom you can send a complaint to. People that browse the web are lazy. They will send emails to fight an injustice, but only if you make it easy for them to do so. Just my two cents. But yeah, this doesn't seem fair.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The fact that so many people are so pro regulation, is the problem...Sickens me to see so many people argue for their own enslavement. "Gubmint is just twyin to wook out fo us"

    How long will you allow govt to tell you what you can and can't do what your property? How long will you accept a Nanny state at every level? When do you accept responsibility for yourself and assume the risks of life? Govt will never keep you safe...only broke and enslaved...

    Cowards...

    ReplyDelete
  20. Corn syrup is very tasty. I just wish it could find its way into more products.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Not an expert, but agree with the idea of simply stating that raw milk is used...if this is the case (although it looks like they do use pasteurized milk). Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering your steak rare or medium rare and the waiter denying your order because he feels its not safe. I understand the risks, but I like my steak rare, make me a rare steak. Restaurants have been fulfilling rare steak orders for who knows how long without being put out of business. Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  22. this mad idea is a bit like what Eurocrats do to earn their silly wages. I'd say stick to what you know is best.
    Also, there could be a fear of being sued by your L.A.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Various Posters, Nice Cream does not use raw milk. Kindly stop claiming they do. You are wrong. You do not know what you are talking about. You are ignorant. The state wants them to use pasteurizers to repasteurize AFTER blending the ingredients, even when the ingredients are already pasteurized and radiated.

    ReplyDelete
  24. From the CDC dot org website: "The [irradiated] foods are not changed in nutritional value and they are not made dangerous as a result of the irradiation. The high energy ray is absorbed as it passes through food, and gives up its energy. The food is slightly warmed. Some treated foods may taste slightly different, just as pasteurized milk tastes slightly different from unpasteurized milk."

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a particularly bad article!

    1. First, the title itself: give me a break.
    2. Calling it "artisan" ice cream, as if it's something different. It's not. It's ice cream.
    3. Mentioning "sourced from local farms", which is utterly *irrelevant* other than to portray NiceCream in the rosiest possible light.
    4. Implying that it's impractical to use real strawberries in ice cream. Many vendors use real strawberries (like Hagen Daas's Five, which has only sugar, cream, skim milk, eggs and STRAWBERRIES).

    Here's the reality: This is a single person making ice cream that violates reasonable food safety laws.

    ...And as for the author and his/her implicit "it's wonderful artisan flavors of ice cream or Dairy Queen" argument: go jump in a lake.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Milk, totally understandable. But fruits? oh come on, that like saying I can't get strawberries on my waffles at Denny's?! Yes, Illinois is already a scumbag state with Quinn behind it all.

    How else is the state suppose to make their money to give themselves bonuses?! I hope they can put two and two together and figure out that liberalism is the problem!

    In the bureaucracy's world don't dare to by-pass their rules and regulations; they're designed for the health and safety of the people. And if they have to arrest you and jail you and throw you in with rapists and murderers they do it to protect the public from crazed businessmen who try to by-pass their regulations!

    We all know how much bureaucrats care for us. They build murder weapons to kill people abroad and hire lunatics and fund their clinics to kill unborn children. Nice people those bureaucrats. But don't sell organic ice cream to people!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I find it interesting that the article doesn't say that NiceCream's practice is safe. It doesn't say that re-pasteurization isn't necessary to reduce the likelihood of contamination.

    It just says that they haven't hurt anyone *yet*.

    Is that how food safety laws are written? "You can violate food safety laws until the first time you've served fifty people a batch of needlessly contaminated of ice cream. But then you have to stop."

    ReplyDelete
  28. small business ownerAugust 11, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    there should be a disclaimer stating this article's main purpose is to educate the public on small business' struggles and how big corporations are still number one in our government's eyes.
    this is the reason for that recession out there people, no reason to argue about what's "lawful" just open your damn eyes!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Well done! Dear US bureaucrats, please keep helping your fellow Americans staying fat, so that we here in Europe have somebody to make fun of.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your blog hurts my eyes trying to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Food service is a tricky business full of regulations with stiff penalties for not adhering.
    I can see both sides of this story, but it doesn't surprise me that the government thinks we, as consumers, can't think for ourselves. Label it properly, and let us decide whether or not we want it.

    ReplyDelete
  32. This is absolutely criminal. It's time those who are responsible for promoting processed foods be accountable. How about a follow up with the names of those pushing this agenda?

    ReplyDelete
  33. This is absolutely ridiculous and a great example of one of the many problems ruining the economy in this country by shutting the door small/local business.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Never live in Illinois.

    ReplyDelete
  35. i wish they'd put this much effort into regulating factory farms...

    the free-market can regulate small business pretty ok. with the regulations giving people injured tools to address their grievances.

    it's the large corporations that have enough money/customers to hide any complaints against them from others... not to mention their actions effect a larger portion of the population.

    it might also help if our regulations weren't being written by the industry leaders. i can't imagine nutritionist or food safety experts saying we should use processed food over fresh food. they'd tell us what needs to be done to keep them fresh, and how long we can assume they're still fresh. and how to store it.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Punkin: To quote the original article in the Chicago Tribune: "The department’s Dairy Equipment Specialist, Don Wilding, said that other ice cream producers use irradiated strawberries. He says look good [sic] but he can’t vouch for the taste."

    To those talking about raw milk: Nice Cream already uses pasteurized milk. IDPH wants them to re-pasteurize the ice cream, possibly twice. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to use raw milk even in cheese in the US - my understanding is that raw milk cheeses have to be imported, because cheesemakers here have to use pasteurized milk in their products.

    To those concerned about bacteria: It's rare for small food makers to have issues with E. coli and salmonella. The reason that we have such problems with outbreaks is due to the business practices of agribusiness and large-scale food manufacturing. It's difficult to keep bacteria away when you're on a factory floor that combines parts from as many as a hundred cows from different slaughterhouses to make one pound of ground beef.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I would like to remind everyone of the Odwalla apple juice E. coli outbreak. It was because they were not pasteurizing their apple juice. These rules are not in place to ruin business but to save peoples lives. Second of all, please read the article that this is sourced from, you will find that the requests of the local government are very reasonable and they are not "promoting" processed foods but trying to provide a solution to a business owner who cannot afford a pasteurizer. A friend of mine owns a great ice cream company here in Seattle in which she only uses fresh ingredients. Yes, the cost of the equipment to make it safe was expensive, but now she is one of the largest ice cream companies in town.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Pasteurizing refers to the entire mix not just the cream as contamination of on ingredient can contaminate the mix. But if a producer follows strict hygiene guidelines everything should be fine.

    ReplyDelete
  39. A prime function of regulations are to protect, not the consumer, but the large corporate interests. So, yes, the $40000 pasteurizing machine is small change to the big guys and destructive to the small business. It weeds out upstarts who might someday challenge the big boys. Sadly many people clamor for regulations, naively believing they will protect consumers. In the end the big boys end pull the political strings and the regulations are written in such a way as to protect them, while hampering competition and hurting consumers. That is the nature of the regulatory state, even if people wish it were different.

    ReplyDelete
  40. What happened to Nice Cream is obviously bullshit cause by our government's support of big business over small business. Anyone who says otherwise is just one more example of the problem and, in turn, continues it.

    And even IF it were true that Nice Cream had been using raw milk...

    Everyone seems to forget that people who consume dairy in its pure form for their entire life do NOT get sick....and they have an healthier immune system because of it. Truthfully, the pasteurizing of milk has made our country weaker and more sickly.

    http://www.rawmilk.org/pdf/raw-milk-is-the-only-healthy-milk.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  41. There is a third option besides shutting down or paying up. Sue the government, challenge the regulation. If she hires a lawyer right out of school, she can probably keep it under $5k. This is a good example of a possible case that falls under the state equivalent to the administrative procedure act, which allows victims of irrational agency decisions to challenge them. The APA is federal, but most states have a mini-APA. She should go through the procedures required to appeal the decision first at this local level, then at the state level, then have it decided by a court if it gets that far. Lots of the time, agencies find this process so onerous they grant an exception. The decision here indeed seems 'arbitrary and capricious', the standard for federal APA standing.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Some of the people siding with the regulators here don't know the full story - which is understandable, since it's not all in this article or on the Tribune site. But we're not talking about a company that doesn't follow any safety regulations. This company follows long-standing food safety practices, just not using the giant (expensive) pasteurizing machine. The work out of a commercial kitchen space. They are subject to inspections. They've never made anyone sick. And after following this process for years, suddenly, the state intervened to impose new rules that frankly don't make sense for production on this scale. That's the story.

    ReplyDelete
  43. The above poster who stated raw milk cheese manufacturing is illegal in the US is wrong. Cheese may be made from raw milk if a strict HACCP plan is followed and if the cheese is allowed to age for at least 60 days before sale.

    The dairy license imposed by the state of Illinois is not universal to all states. Illinois happens to have lousy independent ice cream companies, and their licensing process is to blame.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I like how everyone is an expert on food safety and the benefits of pasteurization. None of these people know the statistics or the science behind it. Bacteria is why your alive and why you have an immune system. The amount of good bacteria outnumbers the bad bacteria by a great deal, 99 to 1.

    Now i would never drink raw milk from a conventionally raised cow being fed GMO grains, given antibiotics which kill good bacteria, hormones which promote tumor growth when we ingest it and who knows what else they give these cows. Of course you would want that toxic, puss filled, liquid pasteurized.

    Learn about where your food comes from. Nice Cream knows where its products are coming from and are delivering a product which makes you healthy and is tasty at the same time. I hate when a small business doing what they know is right and wanting the best for their customers gets slammed by a bunch of ignorant people. Im sick of seeing this.

    I want to say that I WISH Nice Cream was located in my city. People dont understand how nice they have it. Thank you for doing what you do Nice Cream. Your making the world a better place. The people on here being rude should be ashamed of themselves. Learn the science, stop watching so much T.V. Your all being brainwashed.

    Here is a short article with some information about raw milk statistics and pathogens -
    http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/you-are-35000-times-more-likely-to-become-ill-from-other-foods-than-you-are-from-raw-milk/

    ReplyDelete
  45. you need a pasteurizer to do ice cream. actually to do gelato. I am an artisan gelato maker in Italy and it's just normal to use a pasteurizing machine. everybody has it. It doesn't change the taste. It doesn't reduce vitamins. It just kills bacteria. This is really basic.

    and then with a pasteurizing machine (with which you pasteurize the mixture not just the milk) you can use fresh fruit! and enjoy the real taste of artisan made GELATO!

    ReplyDelete
  46. a 60L pasteurizer cost 14.000€... you can easily get a used one for under 8.000€. They produce pasteurizers also in the US so I think prices are similar.

    Pasteurizing in a pot? come on!!!

    ReplyDelete
  47. If the animals or animal products you are consuming are from well cared for, healthy animals the risk of bacteria levels being high enough to cause any problems are extremely low. The same thing is true for fruits and vegetables. Commercial farming is the reason that these ordinances are in place as small scale farms very very rarely have problems. However the small farms and businesses get screwed because they cannot afford to jump through the hoops necessary to meet the standards created for dirty mass producing commercial farming and agriculture.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Fascism at its finest.

    I am so sorry for the owners, to hear such a thing. I'm speechless.

    What can be done? This is the system of the new world order. I hope they find a way out somehow.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Fascism? New world order? they have to buy a pasteurizer!!! 10.000$! come on guys!

    ReplyDelete
  50. This only happens because a majority of the society thinks it is necessary that we have overlords regulating/protecting/extorting society in order to protect us. Please save me from the Pfizer snakeoil doom strawman arguement.

    It's the responsibility of individuals, communities and quality assurance institutions to provide the information to consumers. We need more YELPs and Less Bureaucrats.

    ReplyDelete
  51. People need to wake up and smell the crap the gov. is doing to all of us.to the person who says they have to buy a pasteurizer for 10000$-fine go ahead and buy this small comp. the machine.And as far as irradiated foods I prefer mine as pure as poss. not nuked.Wake up people before it's to late.Do research don't believe everything the gov. or 1 or 2 people tell you.People have lived and died for many years without all of this b.s. prossessing of foods and will still go on living and dying.It's up to all of us wether or not we want a healthy chem. free life or one filled with multiple drugs to keep us "normal"

    ReplyDelete
  52. I am glad that I was fortunate enough to grow up working on a farm .... the farm was 5 miles from the neighborhood I was raised in. I was able to grow learning a respect that so few can even gleen .... a respect for how much hard work is involved with a farm that barely scrapped by. What was my pay? Fresh, RAW cows milk. The cows were milked for a bigger corporation that killed all the good nutrients in the milk, but a few of us had the pure stuff!

    I have read the posts that generate mixed emotions of disbelief to nodding in agreement and wishing I could give it a thumbs up.... what is sad to read are those that are all about the 21st century and forget about WHY pasteurization came to fruition. Sadder still are those that parrot govt regulated stepford mentality that lubricated media regulates to keep the multitudes in the dark instead of informed.

    Louis Pasteur - “ His studies of fermentation of alcohol and milk (souring) showed that yeast could reproduce without free oxygen (the Pasteur effect); he deduced that fermentation and food spoilage were due to the activity of microorganisms and could be prevented by excluding or destroying them. His work overturned the concept of spontaneous generation (life arising from nonliving matter) and led to heat pasteurization, allowing vinegar, wine, and beer to be produced and transported without spoiling .” (reference.com)

    The Industrial Revolution began the insurgence of more people moving away from the land and toward the concrete and steel life many know today. This move away from the land to the cramped life within the confined areas led to overcrowding and disease. It became necessary for those not fortunate enough to afford ice to buy into the pasteurization process to 'keep' products that would otherwise spoil due to the transportation of these products .... time from production to table.

    Would it be assumed by those that live off the land that those that live in small spaces (urbanites) are less clean vs those that have open fields, etc.?

    It doesn't take much effort to assume, but it does take effort to become informed.

    ReplyDelete
  53. All of these tragic deaths from dangerous strawberries and fresh milk... I mean, they should just outlaw the stuff and get over it already. Time to scrap food altogether and bottle residual pesticides and "Round-Up" in a nice "flavored sparkling water"... but dont forget to add the B vitamins and caffeine with it.

    ReplyDelete
  54. This is very helpful comment. i am agree with you.I think every one should maintain it to make their dog healthy.American sourced food for dogs

    ReplyDelete