Yesterday was spent doing what I'd been putting off doing for awhile: making application to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service for the "Approval for Labels, Marking or Device" using FSIS Form 7234-1 which means I must submit to the government the new sausage recipes that I intend to make, along with a mock-up of the package label that has the name of the sausage, the ingredients (in descending order by quantity), the USDA FSIS legend (seal & number) of the processing plant that packs the sausage for me, the Safe Handling Instructions, my farm name and address.
I am debuting seven new lamb sausage varieties and I need FSIS approval for each to sell them retail; here is the recipe for my Cajun Chaurice Lamb Sausage:
• Ground Lamb: 1 lb.
• Coarse salt: 1/2 tablespoon
• Diced onions: 5 tablespoons
• Ground cayenne: 1/4 teaspoon
• Ground cinnamon: 1/8 teaspoon
• Ground cloves: 1/8 teaspoon
• Powdered thyme: 1/3 teaspoon
• Ground bay leaf: 3 leaves
• Chopped parsley: 1 tablespoon
• Crushed garlic cloves: 1-1/2
This Chaurice sausage goes well in a gumbo or alone, simply with rice.
The FSIS wants recipes expressed on Form 7234-1 in percentages. In order to do this I must first weigh teaspoons and tablespoons of spices. For example 1/8 teaspoon of Ground Cloves, that weighs 0.44 grams, is to be expressed as 0.097%—less than one one-hundredth of one percent of the sausage weight.
I guess, in addition to the maddening work of responding to the government using its standardized formulae, I'd put this chore off because of an experience I had in 2007 with a USDA FSIS bureaucrat when I first made application for the lamb sausages that I now sell.
Not understanding what was asked of me about an "HACCP Process Category," I called the USDA FSIS at an 800 number. I assumed that I would be on hold for a punishing amount of time, listening to tinny top 40 hits, but to my surprise the phone was answered after several rings by a live person. I've forgotten her name; I described as best I could what I didn't know and listened to her explanation before attempting to politely sum up her reply by saying, "I see, then you are suggesting..." She interrupted me, "I am not suggesting, I AM TELLING YOU..." I heard myself reply, "Yes, ma'am, yes you are," at once realizing that not only could she reject my application for a procedural error; but if angered, she could lose my papers in the federal labyrinth. I listened calmly, I thanked her, I couldn't believe it.