Just over two years ago, around 3 oâ€™clock in the afternoon before an early flight to France and Italy to research the old traditions of charcuterie and salumi making, inspectors from the Victorian meat industry regulator PrimeSafe rolled up our driveway and destroyed all our personal salamis.
Early this year we received a letter from PrimeSafe with a vaguely threatening instruction not to run our popular Salami Days. At least three others (that we know of) who run similar workshops received nearly the same letter, and I momentarily despaired that the vibrant and delicious skill of salami making was about to come to a sad end in Victoria.
But I never despair long, and I soon requested a meeting with PrimeSafe. And so late one morning after an abattoir run in April Stuart and I parked the aromatic stock trailer out front of the South Melbourne offices and went in to meet with two members of PrimeSafe staff. The good news is that The Inspector weâ€™ve dealt with is apparently absent for now, and the staff we now deal with seem much more earnest at fulfilling their duties, and much less interested in standover tactics. Promising days.
I wonâ€™t use space here on the initial agenda items regarding rillettes and cryovac-ing smoked hocks except to say it went reasonably well, and as soon as our supply gets back to normal (a story Iâ€™ll write up soonâ€¦) weâ€™ll be getting those products approved in spite of last yearâ€™s difficulties over them.
Hereâ€™s how the discussion of salami workshops went (this is of course a paraphrase as best I remembered it when I documented it after the meeting):
Me: So can we talk about our salami days now, please?
Officer A: Yes, Tammi, first I have to ask you, are you prepared to become an RTO [a Registered Training Organisation, e.g. a TAFE or similar]?
Me: No, thatâ€™s irrelevant. We arenâ€™t trying to give anyone a qualification or certificate, so we donâ€™t need to be an RTO. I was a Senior Risk Analyst for the regulator for higher education and am well aware of the role and requirements for RTOs and universities, and they donâ€™t apply to what we do. We spend one day teaching how to transform a whole pig carcass into cured muscles and salami, we enjoy a long lunch with wine and a band, and itâ€™s a really lovely dayâ€¦
Officer B: So would you say itâ€™s more of a festival than a workshop? Because that would be regulated by your council.
Me: Not really a festival, but sure, you can call it what you want if that helps. But we canâ€™t be regulated by our council for matters you have an interest in as the regulator, as thereâ€™s a double jeopardy rule as you know. But we donâ€™t believe you have jurisdiction over our salami days as weâ€™re not processing meat for sale and none leaves the propertyâ€¦
Officer B: Okay, maybe itâ€™s more of festivalâ€¦
Officer A: But Tammi we still have concerns over you teaching people to make salami. What if one of them goes home and does it badly and somebody gets sick?
Me: Are you familiar with YouTube and Michael Ruhlmanâ€™s books â€˜Charcuterieâ€™ and â€˜Salumiâ€™? People learn how to make salami any number of ways, just as they do cheese and other cooking skillsâ€¦ surely youâ€™d prefer your licensees to teach these skills as we are knowledgeable about food safety?
Officer A: Well, we still have concernsâ€¦
Me: Officer A, I have concerns over whether you had McDonalds for lunch but I have no legislative authority over whether you choose to eat that. So if you have something in the [Meat Industry] Act of which Iâ€™m unaware about the legality of our salami days, please let me know, because if thereâ€™s nothing there to stop us teaching people to make salami, Iâ€™m frankly not interested in your concerns.
Officer A: [crickets]
Officer A: Well, I guess ultimately itâ€™s a matter for our CEO.
Me: Oh, really? Seems to me itâ€™s a matter for the Instrument [aka the Act]. Hereâ€™s my plan â€“ Iâ€™m going to run our salami days same as I have for the past three years. If you have new information you need to share with us you know where we are.
And here we are five months later, three Jonai Salami Days and many #youcantbuywhatieat potluck protests later, one Melbourne Salami Festa approaching, and on the eve of the King Valley Salami Festaâ€¦
Weâ€™re sharing this story to give hope to others who have been harassed out of running workshops that maintain these beautiful old food traditions. We called the regulatorâ€™s bluff and found that there was no ace in the hole, nothing in the legislation to stop us hosting Salami Days.
Just donâ€™t let anyone leave with meat processed outside a licensed facility and youâ€™re well within your rights to teach more people the delicious joys of skilful curing of whole carcasses. And make sure you know what youâ€™re doing â€“ that someone with experience and knowledge of safe food handling has taught you best practice. Weâ€™ve been fortunate to learn from Australian farmers and butchers, Italian saluministi, and French charcutiers, and weâ€™re about to add the Spanish masters of jamÃ³n making to our mentorsâ€¦
Itâ€™s 3 oâ€™clock the day before we fly to Spain and Italy on another research trip to learn more about the very old arts of jamÃ³n and salami makingâ€¦ so weâ€™re just going to leave this here.
â€¦but this time weâ€™re leaving a resident lawyer at the farm while weâ€™re away. 😉
Food Sovereignty asserts the right of peoples to nourishing and culturally appropriate food produced and distributed in ecologically sound and ethical ways and their right to collectively determine their own food and agriculture systems.
This year the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is fundraising to establish a Legal Defence Fund to support small-scale farmers and makers in their efforts to grow, process, and distribute food grown in ethically- and ecologically-sound ways, and eatersâ€™ right to access this food.
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