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Illinois Shutting Down Small Ice Cream Business

Written By: Michael Tennant  |  Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

             Residents of the Windy City may have to do without their favorite ice cream for a while, and possibly for good; and they have government to thank for it. According to the Chicago Tribune, Kris Swanberg, a laid-off Chicago public school teacher who chased the American Dream by starting her own business making artisanal ice cream, was recently told by the Illinois Department of Public Health that she will have to stop selling her product, Nice Cream, until she obtains a dairy license.

            Getting and keeping the license, however, may be cost prohibitive for such a small business.
            Swanberg began her career as an ice cream manufacturer in 2008 with a home ice cream maker she had received as a wedding present. As her business grew, she began producing her frozen treat out of a rental kitchen called Logan Square Kitchen. Nice Cream, which, according to the Tribune, is "made from fresh organic cream blended with local and often organic produce like basil and strawberries [Swanberg] picks herself," proved so popular that it is now sold at over 20 locations in Chicago, including Whole Foods Market.
            Consumers obviously like Swanberg's product; none seems to have complained to the state about it. Bureaucrats nevertheless turned up at Logan Square Kitchen a couple of weeks ago and gave Swanberg an ultimatum: Get a dairy license or get out of the ice cream business.
            This was news to Swanberg and other Chicago artisanal ice cream makers, says the Tribune: "Swanberg and others in her field had operated for years now without ever hearing of such a thing and, indeed, they say, the City's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, to whom they applied for business licenses, never informed them they would need one to operate."
            Swanberg told the newspaper that in order to get the license she would have to: (1) work out of her own space, not a shared kitchen; (2) have her product tested monthly for bacterial levels; (3) change all her packaging and labels to meet state standards; and (4) buy a pasteurizer, which she says the state told her would cost about $40,000, or use a pre-made ice cream mix. In addition, the bureaucrats told her to use strawberry syrup or irradiated strawberries instead of fresh strawberries (because fresh ones could have bacteria). They said she could avoid having to get a license by using a pre-made ice cream mix. And they told the Tribune that "even if she uses pasteurized milk and boils all of her ingredients together, she would then need to pasteurize it in this special machine again."
            Between the added expenses of the licensing requirements and the radical change to the product that using strawberry syrup and ice cream mix would bring about, the effect wouldl be to put Nice Cream out of business. Other artisanal ice cream makers fear that they, too, could be frozen out of the market by the licensing requirements, the Tribune reports:

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