A new team of food safety experts has been created to help speed up the licensing process for Minnesota food businesses. The goal of the Food Innovation Team (FIT), a subcommittee of Minnesota’s Food Safety and Defense Task Force, is to help state regulators accommodate new and innovative food business models while maintaining high food safety standards.
“Obtaining a food license can be a daunting process,” said Jim Roettger, Licensing Liaison for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “The Food Innovation Team will help business owners untangle issues and provide them access to experts in the areas of regulation, local food systems, and food safety.”
In addition to helping individual food entrepreneurs, the Food Innovation Team will strive to improve the overall functioning of the food regulatory system. Roettger says as FIT hears cases and resolves issues that are complex or unclear, that information will be captured in a database that will be available to the public. Over time, this information will help regulators, food system advocates, and food entrepreneurs work through complex food licensing problems.
The Food Innovation Team was developed through a collaborative process that involved the food regulatory divisions of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Health, community groups including the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association and Renewing the Countryside, as well as University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.
The eight members were appointed by the Task Force co-chairs:
- James Roettger, Licensing Liaison, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
- James Backstrom, Public Health Sanitarian Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Health
- Julia Selleys, Senior Health Environmentalist, Hennepin County
- Lauri Clements, Environmental Health Specialist, Olmsted County
- Molly Hermann, Owner and Executive Chef, Kitchen in the Market
- Kathy Zeman, Executive Director, Minnesota Farmers' Market Association, Owner, Simple Harvest Farms Organics
- Jane Jewett, Program Coordinator, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
- Lolly Occhino, Scientist of Food and Nutrition, Agriculture Utilization Research Institute
The Food Innovation Team will hold six meetings per year and report its activities to the Food Safety and Defense Task Force. The meeting is open to the public.
Margaret Hart, MDA Communications