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University of Illinois Extension

Transporting and Holding Chilled and Frozen Food and Drink

Chilled Food and Drink

Home prepared chilled food and drinks are now allowed for sale at the farmers market by a cottage food operation. The person preparing and/or packaging these products as a cottage food operation must have a current Certified Food Protection Manager’s Certificate. City of Chicago cottage food vendors must have a current City of Chicago Food Protection Certificate for cottage food operations registered in Chicago.

As stated in the law: farmers market cottage food operations shall provide effective means to maintain home prepared chilled food and home prepared chilled drinks at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The law allows an alternative to mechanical refrigeration; an effectively insulated, hard-sided, cleanable container with sufficient ice or other cooling means that is intended for the storage of potentially hazardous food shall be used.

All chilled food/drink for sale by the cottage food operation must maintain a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below during transport and holding times. This includes all samples of the chilled food/drink. No alcoholic or fermented (kombucha) or prohibited foods are allowed as an ingredient in any chilled food/drink for sale by the cottage food operation. All food/drink must be properly labeled (see Sample Label).

Tomato juice must be canned in mason-style jars with two-piece lids, processed in water bath canner and acidified for sale at the farmers market. Properly canned tomato juice does not need to be chilled. In order to sell canned tomatoes or a canned product containing tomatoes, a cottage food operator shall either;

(A) follow exactly a recipe that has been tested by the United States Department of Agriculture or by a state cooperative extension located in this State or any other state in the United States; or

(B) submit the recipe, at the cottage food operator’s expense, to a commercial laboratory to test that the product has been adequately acidified; use only the varietal or proportionate varietals of tomato included in the tested recipe for all subsequent batches of such recipe; and provide documentation of the test results of the recipe submitted to an inspector upon request during any inspection at the farmers market

Local health departments shall not limit vendors’ choice of refrigeration or cooling equipment and shall not charge a fee for the use of such equipment. Local health departments shall not be precluded or barred from requiring an effective alternative form of cooling if a vendor is unable to maintain food/drink at the appropriate temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below for chilled foods.

Best practice: For proof of appropriate temperature, use an accurate thermometer inside the unit to monitor the internal temperature of all insulated containers used for storage of chilled food or drink.

Best practice: Wash, rinse, and sanitize hard-sided cooling equipment after each use. Wash using hot soapy water, rinse in clear water, sanitize using a sanitizing rinse solution made of one (1) teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of plain water and allow the container to air dry.

Best Practice: Make sure the storage space in your transporting vehicle is clean. Dust and debris can contaminate chilled food/drink during transport to the farmers market.

Best practice: Constant opening and closing of cooling equipment will cause the internal temperature to become warm on hot summer days at the farmers market. Package samples separately from sale foods to maintain an appropriate temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Make sure you have an adequate amount of ice or other cooling means to sustain appropriate temperature during your entire stay at the farmers market.

Frozen Foods

Although the sale of home prepared frozen foods by a cottage food operation is allowed, the food for sale must be transported and held at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below at all times before sale of the food. Non- mechanical refrigeration is not adequate to maintain foods at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If you are considering the sale of frozen foods, you must get approval from your local health department. Be prepared to explain how frozen foods will be kept solidly frozen during holding prior to sale at the farmers market.

Best Practice: Frozen foods require holding temperatures colder than ice, which is 32°F, to stay solidly frozen, especially during hot summer days at the farmers market. Constantly opening and closing your insulated container means loss of cold air and thawing. Without electrical freezing equipment, one option you may consider is using dry ice. Dry ice is especially useful for keeping foods frozen. However, you must observe certain safety precautions when handling dry ice. Read: Using Dry Ice at the Farmers Market for Frozen Foods.

Labeling Chilled Food/Drink and Frozen Foods

All home prepared chilled and frozen foods require the same labeling as other cottage foods for sale at the farmers market. Each package/container of chilled or frozen food or drink must be properly labeled. Prohibited foods are not allowed as an ingredient in any chilled or frozen food or drink. (see Labeling)