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Group hopes to change cooking guidelines for chili, soup competitions

A group of Crosslake business owners, chamber members and city council members is asking area legislators to draft legislation that would make it easier for groups to participate in Crosslake’s WinterFest SoupFest and Crosslake Days chili cook-off competitions.

Crosslake chamber staff, along with 12 business owners, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) staff, Crosslake Mayor Darrell Schneider, state Sen. Carrie Ruud and state Reps. John Ward and Joe Radinovich met Friday, March 1.

Stricter enforcement of cooking guidelines recently caused a drop in participants at Crosslake’s annual SoupFest and chili cookoff events.

Enforcement meant that all soup and chili needed to be made and cooked on-site, and could only be made ahead of time in a commercial kitchen.

Notes from chamber staff from the meeting show that while MDH rules were enacted, Crosslake was running under the radar. MDH is concerned that the quantity of food cooked for an event is difficult to cool properly if it’s prepared in advance. The use of home kitchens not inspected by the MDH is also a concern.

The group asked that legislators draft legislation that allows community based non-profit organizations to prepare chili or soup for sampling by the general public at no charge as part of a community festival in home kitchens up to three days ahead of time, as long as certain measures are met.

The first measure is that the individual responsible for food preparation completes a food safety course specifically designed for the preparation of the food items. The other stipulation would be that a disclaimer is prominently displayed at the serving place and in all print advertising saying that the food was prepared based on recommended food safety standards, but consumers assume liability for any food-borne illness that is a result of the tasting.

In an email, Cindy Myogeto, Crosslake chamber director, said the legislators plan to review the recommendations and send them to the revisor’s office for review and development. She said that MDH regulations are taking the integrity and novelty out of Crosslake’s annual activities.