While Americans are distracted by the Covid-19 panic, our elected officials are trying to reduce our local food supply.

Senator Luis Sepulveda and A10399 and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, both of New York State, introduced Bills S8291 and A10399 on May 2, 2020, prohibiting the licensing of live markets and immediately closing existing live markets in New York State.

Local small and medium live markets in our neighborhoods are unfairly compared to the “wet markets” in China.

S8291 /A10399 will victimize hard-working people in communities that provide fresh, halal, and Kosher foods at a reasonable price. Closing these markets will negatively impact many businesses that support the live market industry and would devastate local farmers. As a result, community members will lose a local food source that follows religious traditions and national heritage. City dwellers may resort to backyard slaughtering activities that have biohazards and food safety risks of their own.

We can not compare live markets in New York City to wet markets in China.

The legislative intent of Bill S8291/A10399 inaccurately compares the health and safety of licensed custom-exempt slaughterhouses, aka “Live markets” to “wet markets” in China. Live markets in New York State sell domestic livestock and fowl, are approved for food by USDA, and follow NYS food code standards. The “wet markets” in China sell exotic wild animals without regulation.

This proposed Bill that amends legislation would completely shut down existing live markets and prohibit licensing future live market venues. This Bill victimizes hard-working businesses and taxpayers who provide a wholesome and religious food source to thousands of people in the tri-state area. This Bill will negatively impact many businesses that support the live market industry and would devastate our American farmers. As a result, members of our community will lose a local food source that follows religious and ethnic traditions. It will encourage backyard slaughtering activities that have biohazard and food safety risks of their own.

Why are Live markets preferred by most immigrants, religious, and those who prefer locally sourced foods?

When you patron a Custom Exempt Slaughterhouse to buy your meat and poultry, you can choose your animal or bird. You can ensure that the animal or bird is slaughtered humanely, sanitary dressed, washed with clean water, and butchered to your specifications. No more than three people handle your food. The product is ready in minutes, and it is the freshest, most wholesome meat and poultry you can ever consume at a reasonable price if you choose to eat meat and poultry.

How do we maintain a healthy and safe environment in live markets?

Live markets are defined as custom-exempt slaughterhouses by the USDA.

The rules and regulations, specifically the code of Federal Regulations of meat and poultry sections, describe food safety, animal welfare, humane slaughter requirements, biohazard controls, and traceability procedures. When followed, these guidelines control, eliminate, and prevent risks of foodborne illness and inhumane treatment of animals.

Many industry sanitarians, such as I, look for innovative ways to maintain their client’s facilities in a clean and sanitary manner. We reach out to farmers and 4H members and academia to guide us with animal husbandry. We also reach out to The USDA and NYS, who advise us on the codes’ public health significance.

The regulatory authority provides us the tools we need to provide employee training and monthly audits, helping the operator understand and comply with the regulations. Regulatory sanitarians of New York State and The USDA FSIS inspect these facilities at least once per year and enforce the rules. Both industry and regulatory food safety professionals ensure the safety and well-being of livestock and birds and food products.

Indeed, many markets need facility improvements, food safety plans with processes and procedures, employee training, and better sanitation.

The challenge that live markets face regarding sanitation is that the live market facilities do not have the required specifications. There are no plan review requirements in NY state for live markets. A facility built correctly has adequate airflow and filtration, sufficient refrigeration capacity, accessible handwashing stations, cleanable surfaces, suitable drains, proper cleaning and sanitizing equipment, and potable water protection.

The USDA has plan review requirements for Federally inspected facilities. However, live markets selling to customers are federally exempt. Therefore, there are no facility specifications that are required.

Once the market passes its first pre-permit inspection, the business soon outgrows the facility causing cramped spaces, poor sanitation, and unsatisfactory animal husbandry practices, all resulting with disappointing inspection results.

The live market industry would benefit from an Advisory Board and education initiatives.

Section 2 (a-e) of the proposed 96-ee of the Bill (s) S8291 and A10399 describes the creation of a “task force “to monitor public health and animal welfare and report the findings to The Governor. Most live market operators are new Americans. Their experience comes from working on the family farm or working the live markets in villages in the mother country. They come to the United States with an entrepreneurial spirit and determination of independence. Our live markets are operated by folks who have life experiences influenced by their traditions, religions, and customs.

This proposed “task force” to police the Live markets is dangerously biased, and it can lead to harassment, fueling aggressive animal rights activists’ agendas that have infringed on the rights of citizens for decades. The “task force” members would be ordinary citizen volunteers who do not have the expertise and professional judgment needed to assess establishments accurately.

An Advisory Board comprised of members of the meat and poultry industry, regulatory, academia, as well as special interest groups, would be a better solution. The board can meet regularly, and members can be appointed by the Governor, State County Executives, and public health officials of the animal and poultry inspection programs.

An advisory board would be an informative, helpful way to discuss concerns, review food safety and animal welfare legislation, and develop tools and training initiatives. The operators of the live market industry can implement these tools, and have confidence in training employees. This guidance can ensure livestock and fowl are transported, cared for, and slaughtered in a humane and sanitary manner.

It is my goal to keep the live markets safe and open so that people will continue to have fresh, locally sourced, meats, and poultry for their families.