Blending ancestral kitchen traditions and new scientific research will allow fermentation to change our diet — and our planet.

In a TEDx Talk, Mara King, co-founder of fermented food store Ozukè, shares why she is proudly releasing trillions of good bacteria into the population. Her food philosophy rubs against everything the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments practice. While government agencies enforce strict sanitation standards in the name of protecting American’s food, King preaches that it’s wiping out good bacteria and dumping more toxins into the environment.

When King and co-founder Willow King (no relation) opened their Colorado-based food business, a food scientist from the Denver office of the Health & Human Services Department performed a safety inspection. The food expert was confused by Ozukè’s live, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. King: “He said ‘Your product is so weird. We follow all these FDA guidelines in food manufacturing in order to diminish bacteria and here you are making it on purpose.’”

“The food we make is actually super, super, super safe, unlike mots processed packaged fresh foods,” King says. “The reason this food is so safe is not because I’m better at this antimicrobial Macarena than anybody else. It’s because the bacteria are doing the work of making the fermented foods pretty much bomb proof.”

Though numerous cultures have been fermenting for generations (“It’s how humans have been eating raw, crunchy vegetables all through hard winters.”), King notes it’s only in the last 10 years that scientists have been able to map the complex fermentation process. By letting bacteria thrive in its own ecosystem, it “creates a food that’s no longer harmful to humans” and makes a more nutritious product.

“Nature does not operate in a vacuum and neither should we,” King says. “We need to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, then we can start to come up with solutions that do honor our heritage.”

King, who great up in Hong Kong, says older Chinese women store an impressive knowledge of food and medicine. Merging ancient tradition with new science is what will create the living solutions needed to continue living on our planet.

“In fermentation, we have a little trick that we use which is called using a started culture or a mother. I believe that our starter culture…is our human cultural history,” King says. “Once we start tapping this information…we’ll start to come up with amazing solutions, solutions that grow, solutions that rot, solutions that breath.”

Today Ozuke (which means “the best pickled things” in Japanese) still makes pickled veggies, but also teaches fermentation workshops. For more information, visit their webpage.

More Americans want their food natural, traditionally sourced and eco-friendly — and 2019 food and beverage laws reflect that philosophy.

Thousands of new laws went into effect in the U.S. on Jan. 1 2019. Fermented food and drink producers need to take note because dozens of those new state and municipal laws will aid fermentation businesses and, in some cases, hurt businesses.

From new rules (increased minimum wage in 19 states) to less regulation (lenient homemade food sale laws; fewer restrictions on craft breweries), to planet saving measures (ban on straws in California restaurants; ban on styrofoam containers in New York restaurants) here’s a breakdown of the major laws affecting the fermentation industry.

Arizona

HB2484 – Food tax is now uniform, a requirement that bans an additional tax for a specific food item. Lawmakers suggested imposing a higher tax on soda and alcohol.

SB1022 – Certain homemade food items can be sold to the public without an inspection by the health department. The food is limited to: fruit jams and jellies, dry mixes, honey, dry pasta and roasted nuts. The food also must be prepared by someone with a food handler’s permit and sales must advertise that it was made in a home kitchen not subject to health inspection.

Arkansas

Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force – Sales tax on groceries drops from 1.5 percent to 0.125 percent.

California

SB946 – Sidewalk vending is no longer a crime under the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. Vendors can determine where they’d like to operate, without asking an adjacent business for permission. Cities and counties will regulate street vendors.

AB1884 – In an attempt to curb ocean waste, single-use plastic straws are only available at a diner’s request. The law applies to full-service restaurants; fast-food establishments are exempt. Violating restaurants could be fined $25 a day and up to $300 annually.

AB626 – Amends state food code to legalize home-based food sales or “microenterprise home kitchens.” Cities and counties are now in charge of permitting small-scale home cooks who want to sell to the public.

SB826 – Publicly-held companies with headquarters in California are required to elect a minimum of one woman on their board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, a company with a  five-member board must have two women on their board; a company with six or more directors needs three women on their board. Violators face fines of $100,000-$300,000.

Colorado

SB243 – An update to an alcohol law passed from the Prohibition-era, full-strength beer can now be sold in Colorado grocery stores. Previously, the law only allowed grocery store beer with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight.

Illinois

HB4568 – Called the Healthy Local Food Incentives Program, the bill increases low-income residents access to healthy food. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars now include food from farmers markets.

Iowa

HF2391 – The law decreases liability for bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Previously, any alcoholic beverage licensee was on the hook for all damages caused by a person who became intoxicated while at the licensee’s establishment. Now, non-economic damages cap at $250,000 for an injury or death. There’s still no cap for economic damages.

Kentucky

HB136 – Repealing an old cap on craft brewers sales to customers, breweries can now sell three cases and two kegs per customer onsite.

Maine

LD1693 – Clarifying Main liquor laws, a complete separation of two retail liquor establishments is now amended. A manufacturing facility and retail establishment at the same location do not need seperation.

New Jersey

SB410 – Bakers selling their fresh baked goods can now package their product in wrapped or covered containers, for sanitation purposes. Law formerly required all dry food items to be sold without packaging so products could be sold based on their weight.

A2015 – Food – prepared by a third-party, licensed vendor — is now allowed to be sold at small breweries.

New York

SB8078 – New York’s food service businesses can no longer sell or serve food in styrofoam containers. After a six month grace period, fines will cost $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for three or more.

North Dakota

HB1433 – Known as the “Food Freedom Act,” the bill allows unlicensed cooks to sell homemade products. Meat and raw dairy products are still exempt.

North Carolina

N.C. Farm Act of 2018 – The act includes two sections relating to the fermentation industry. First, vegan, plant-based milk (like almond, rice, soy or coconut) cannot label itself as “milk” — but only if 10 other states adopt similar mislabeling policies. Second, the food and vegetable handler definition has expanded. Anyone dealing with the transfer of fruit and vegetables from a North Carolina farmer will be required to register with the state’s agriculture department.

Pennsylvania

Malt Beverage & Liquor Tax – Starting in July, the state will collect 6 percent sales tax from breweries and taprooms. Breweries have been tax exempt under state law, helping the state’s thriving craft brewery scene.

Rhode Island

S2502 – Eliminates the state’s confusing regulations for street food vendors. The law simplified and streamlined the registration process for food trucks and food carts. Local municipalities now oversee location and hours of operation.

South Dakota

SB173 – Craft and microbrewers can now sell their beer directly to restaurants without a distributor, as long as it’s under 1,500 barrels. Brewers can also make up to 30,000 barrels a year while still keeping licenses that allow offsite taprooms and wine and cider sales. Former law put the limit at 5,000 barrels.

Utah

HB345 – The state passed the strictest drunk driving law in the nation lowering the level for driving under the influence as .05 BAC. The National Transportation Safety Board urged all states to drop the BAC to this level in 2017, but many in the alcohol service industry criticize the law for targeting social drinkers rather than drunk drivers.

The new “it” clean food label: Glyphosate Residue-Free Certification. The main ingredient in weed killer, glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in the world. A probable human carcinogen, Forbes estimates it’s about to become a household name consumers will cut out of their food. Though glyphosate is banned in organic crops, it still drifts into the organic food supply, especially in anything oat-based. The new label is awarded by 3rd-party The Detox Project, who regularly tests brands for glyphosates. Costing $1,472 per year, the certification was first granted to Foodstirs, the organic baking company launched by actress Sarah Michelle Gellar and Galit Laibow.

Read more (Forbes) (Photo by: Foodstirs)

Brew Dr. Kombucha became the first nationally distributed kombucha brand to receive a B Corporation certification. The prestigious ranking is given to companies that score high in social sustainability and environmental performance. Brew Dr. sources 100 percent renewable energy, implements a closed-loop brewing process and donates 1 percent of revenue to local environmental non-profits. Matt Thomas, founder and CEO of Brew Dr. Kombucha, said the B Corp certification “is one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced since founding Brew Dr. Kombucha.” He stressed that his company places “equal value on people, planet and profits.” More and more consumers want healthy products, but they also want their products to be created using both environmentally and ethically responsible efforts.

Read more (BevNet) (Photo: Brew Dr. Kombucha)

“Use By” Dates Becoming Uniform

“Use By” dates are becoming uniform, with nine in 10 grocery store products now printing consumer-friendly labels. By 2020, all products will carry the more simplified date. The industrywide initiative aims to stop confusion over product expiration dates by standardizing wording on all products. The 10 date-label categories are now paired down to two – “Best If Used By” or “Use By.” Surveys found “when in doubt, throw it out” causes massive food waste in America, partly because of unclear food labeling. Over 90 percent of Americans throw out food because of a misunderstood label. Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food a year, a third of the U.S. food supply.

Read more (Supermarket News)

Researchers have developed a way to identify the “flavor-giving protein fragments” in fermented dairy products. The exact taste of fermented foods has been somewhat of a mystery to scientists. Of the thousands of different protein fragments in fermented milk products, it was always unknown which protein was responsible for flavor. But new research from TUM (Technical University of Munich) whittled down those approximately 1,600 protein fragments responsible for the bitter fermented flavor to just 17. This research is important to foodpreneurs wanting to optimize flavors in their fermented products 

Read more (Science Daily) (Photo: Foodies Feed)

Starting in January, cooks will be able to legally sell homemade food in California. The state passed a law decriminalizing the sale of homemade food in the state. This is exciting news for home fermenters who can now legally sell their home-cooked food without paying hefty licensing fees and adhering to strict food handler rules. The new law, though, still falls short. Earnings are limited to $50,000 a year, the kitchen must employ only one cook and a $500 license is still required. In the heavily—regulated state of California, though, the LA Times notes it’s a step in the right direction: “…reflecting bipartisan recognition of the ways that overzealous food regulation disproportionately hurts those at the very bottom of the state’s economic ladder, robbing them of opportunities to better their lot, undermining their self-reliance, and leaving them vulnerable to needless legal sanctions.”

Read more (LA Times)

Should big beer brands be allowed to patent barley? In Europe, a major win for a group of small brewers who were suing Heineken and Carlsberg. The European Patent Office allowed the brewing giants to patent several kinds of barley. Heineken and Carlsberg say they invented the barley strains. Critics of the patent, though, say the barley naturally occurs and it’s based on fermenting science that brewers have used for thousands of years. In the first of three hearings, the patent office says the big beer brands could only have patents to barley with a specific genetic mutation.

Read more (The Times)

The U.S. Association of Cider Makers is creating a universal dryness scale, a number that can be put on labels to designate whether the cider is dry, semi-dry, semisweet or sweet. As ciders experience a revival in the U.S., the No. 1 issue is customers assuming all ciders are too sweet. Many feel this was the downfall of the popular Riesling wine movement of the late 2000s/early 2010s. The scale could be applied to all fermented beverages, where dryness factors could be tested in a lab.

Read more (Washington Post)

The U.S. Association of Cider Makers is creating a universal dryness scale, a number that can be put on labels to designate whether the cider is dry, semi-dry, semisweet or sweet. As ciders experience a revival in the U.S., the No. 1 issue is customers assuming all ciders are too sweet. Many feel this was the downfall of the popular Riesling wine movement of the late 2000s/early 2010s. The scale could be applied to all fermented beverages, where dryness factors could be tested in a lab.

Read more (Washington Post)