Homemade Preserves: To Buy or Not to Buy?

jam sale photo

Images by B. Alter

This is a familiar sight at farmers markets across the land: lovingly made preserves and pickled vegetables on sale. If you are too lazy and unmotivated, like some of us, what a great opportunity to pick up the fruits of some one else's labour.

Or not... Health inspectors in Vancouver are clamping down on this kind of home-grown and homemade produce. They are asking vendors to submit jams for lab tests and fill out forms listing ingredients. For some this is an invasion of their rights, for others it is a public health issue; a logical level of protection for the public.

kelly jams photo

With thanks to KR

The question is where to draw the line. At any school fete there are children selling home-made cookies and their grandmother's jam. The lovely thing about farmers markets is the non-commercial, personal aspect of the food. Often the pickled vegetables were grown in the vendor's garden and cooked in her kitchen. These products are not in the same league as mass-produced products in the supermarket.

It may be a case of public health agencies coming up with measures and rules that are appropriate to the venue. The regulations can differ depending on the size of the event. According to one small-scale vendor quoted in the Globe & Mail "They have a one-size-fits-all regulation and it just doesn't work for us. It would be more appropriate to invest in education for small-time vendors."

However there is a good argument to be made that public education about safe food practices benefits everyone: cooks and buyers. Not everyone is as clean and careful in their cooking as we would like them to be. One can't ignore the possibility of nasty food contaminants such as E-coli and salmonella. Local public health authorities know their business and have valuable information and know-how about prevention.

kelly jam photo

Ultimately it is up to the people to make their own choice. Do you buy the freshly baked pie or jam or do you stick with store-bought? Some TreeHuggers are not so sure either. In a previous post about food swapping, some commenters said they would "never eat ANYTHING that's been home-canned unless I knew the person to be someone who really knew what they're doing." Others are quite comfortable. It's your call.

More on Eating Home-Made Preserves
Let's Make a Deal
Strawberry Fields Forever: 5 Reasons Why Preserving Your Own Food is Green

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