New rules on baked goods leave me burning

<p>Shane Howard, 10, sets out his cookies before the start of 2004 <a id=bake sale in Barrington.  |  Cathryn Scott/Staff Photographer

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Shane Howard, 10, sets out his cookies before the start of 2004 bake sale in Barrington.  |  Cathryn Scott/Staff Photographer

It’s a dangerous world, and often the only protections we have from all those perils are the ones forged in the halls of our beloved legislature. This year, we can finally rest easy because one pernicious hazard will no longer threaten us and those we love: home baked breads, cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries.

Gone are the days when plump women in flowered aprons could skulk around in their sun-drenched kitchens whipping up unregulated concoctions of flour, eggs, butter, and sugar to tempt a gullible and unsuspecting public. Who knows what noxious ingredients those women might have been slipping in or what unsanitary methods they might have been using?

So the state stepped in to save the day, requiring permits, inspections of kitchens by sanitarians, classes, licences, and of course sizable fees. From what I can tell, these new rules mean the days of the bake sale are gone for good, and you can forget about bringing a plate of cookies to a block party. Nobody I talked to was sure if people would be breaking the law if they brought a plate of brownies to a family that had just moved into the neighborhood. All that is clear is that if you provide any food or beverage for tasting by “the public,” even if you’re not selling it, then you must have a food service permit.

I should mention that the reason I asked was that I was told that home baked goods can no longer be sold at the Thursday night ice cream socials in Central Park, an unthinkable turn of events. By the way, the Municipal Band is currently taking applications from any non profit organization that wishes to be a sponsor of an ice cream social during a band concert next summer. The organization’s information must be received by the Ice Cream Social Chairman, Naperville Municipal Band, P.O. Box 474, Naperville, IL 60566 by March 3 if they are to participate in the lottery.

The only exception to the food law is the Cottage Food Operation law (P.A.097-0393), that allows certain home prepared jams, butters, baked goods, and dried herbs to be sold, but only at certified farmer’s markets. To do that, you still need to obtain an Illinois Department of Public Health food service sanitation management certificate, take 15 hours of instruction, pay a fee, and register with DuPage County Health Department.

Of course, we’re not the only state with Play-Doh for brains. Three little girls in Midway, Ga., needed some money to go to a water park, so they set up a lemonade stand.

They did not, however, get the necessary permits, which apparently cost $50 a day, so the police shut them down. “We were not aware of how the lemonade was made,” said the police chief, “who made the lemonade, or what the lemonade was made with.”

Really, chief? It’s lemonade.

Since lemonade is a beverage for tasting by the public, I have to believe that lemonade stands are now also illegal in DuPage County. Boy, that’s the nanny state for you. Now, when life hands you lemons, you can’t even make lemonade. Bummer.

This madness is worldwide. Those little glass jugs filled with extra virgin olive oil that are popular in restaurants are now banned in the European Union. Olive oil must be presented “in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labeling in line with EU industrial standards.”

But the question is: why on earth do we put up with it? Sure, some food sanitation regulations are necessary. But as far as I know, nobody has ever been hurt in any way by bake sales, lemonade stands, or home baked pastries at ice cream socials. They’re as American as … well, home made apple pie, and America just isn’t America without them.