PERU — Food vendors at the Gateway Farmers Market of Miami County say a law requiring certain sellers to purchase licenses to sell their goods stinks like rotten eggs.
For the first time, the Miami County Health Department will force egg vendors to pay $60 for a food vendor permit — a price that has caused all the egg merchants to drop out of this year’s market.
Robert Radel, market master, said the fee is on top of a $20 license required by the state to sell eggs. As a smaller farmers market, he said the costs are too much for the sellers to absorb.
“That’s a lot of extra eggs you’ve got to squeeze out of your chickens to make up for the loss,” he said.
Since the market started three years ago at Garden Gate Greenhouse on Ind. 19, Radel said the county didn’t force egg vendors to purchase permits.
That changed when health inspectors began inquiring about what food items were being sold, he said.
Ken Scott, environmental health specialist for the county, said the permits are mandated by the state, and any vendor who sells potentially hazardous food products must get a regulated food establishment license.
Because eggs require temperature control, he said they are considered a potentially hazardous food.
“We’re just trying to follow the rules that have been dealt to us,” Scott said.
He noted people can sell eggs on their own property without the food vendor permit, but must still purchase the state permit.
Radel said he understands certain measures must be taken to ensure eggs stay fresh, but argued requiring a food permit doesn’t guarantee establishments will follow proper protocol.
“Just because you’re paying $60 doesn’t mean you will abide by the rules,” he said.
But Scott said the permit allows the health department to regulate the sale of eggs to ensure they don’t become contaminated and pose a health risk.
Radel said that makes sense for grocery stores, which sell thousands of eggs, but said it seems excessive for farmers market vendors.
“I don’t begrudge them their fee, but we’re small-time retailers,” he said. “It’s not like we’re pumping out 100 cases a week.”
In the end, Radel said the situation isn’t just negative for the vendors who want to sell eggs but don’t want to pay for a permit. It’s also negative for farmers market customers.
“They’re not going to get farm-fresh eggs anymore,” he said.
• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.