New law helps farmers markets, health officials concerned - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

KILLEEN

New law helps farmers markets, health officials concerned

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KILLEEN -

It's no secret that droughts have been putting a damper on farmers markets in Central Texas.

But a new law, that became effective Sept. 1, is helping farmers markets, even when crops are feeling a little under the weather.

A new law under Texas legislation allows farmers markets to offer food samples and hold cooking demonstrations for their customers. And for vendors the best way to any loyal customer's heart is through their stomach.

"If you taste it and you know its good, you know people will open their wallets so which is good for us," said Manager of Green Avenue Farmers Market in Killeen.     

As delicious as those samples may be, health officials are saying the sampling and cooking in farmers markets could be harmful.

Food protection supervisor of the Bell County Health District, George Highsmith said there are several concerns.

There is the mishandling of produce, diseases can easily spread and mistakes can be made by vendors who aren't put on the same rigid regulations as restaurants.

This has prompted discussion about possibly regulating farmers markets just like restaurants come 2014.  

Highsmith admits there are challenges to regulating farmers markets.

 The health district is already on budgetary constraints and the transient culture of farmers markets also presents a challenge.

 While Kessel understands health officials' concerns, she doesn't think state regulation is necessary.

 "If they wanted to stop by and check temperatures, okay, you know I'm not going to object to that. Health concern is good for everybody," she said.  "I'm just a little concerned about over-regulation because we are not under a roof like a grocery story is so we don't have air conditioning and flies are going to come, so we can't help that."

Highsmith added that even if the state were to pass a legislation to regulate farmers markets, it would ultimately be a local government decision.

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