It may seem a bit early to be thinking about County Fairs, but the updated Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide is now available in the Extension Store. Each year, for the past few years, we have updated this guide to assist 4-H members, their parents, 4-H leaders, and fair judges in preparing and evaluating exhibits. At times, the rules may seem confusing, arbitrary, or even unfair to some people. The rules are actually designed to ensure the safety of fair judges as they evaluate foods at the fair and the safety of the general public as they view exhibits and gain knowledge from the exhibits.
We get a lot of questions about what foods can be exhibited at both county fair and the Iowa State Fair at AnswerLine. We consult the publication and advise callers to the best of our knowledge. Often callers want to know why we did not list everything in the guide. It really would be impossible for us to list everything that a 4-H member might want to exhibit. We have tried to use broad categories to describe different food products. Listing the foods in the chart style allows for a quicker reference than reading through several pages listed in paragraph form.
The only two real changes for this year are the discontinuation of using the Ball brand books as safe tested resources for food preservation exhibits. At this time, Iowa is one of several states in the midwest disappointed at the direction the Ball brand has taken with research and development of their recipes. This year only, 2020, we will allow exhibits using the Ball branded information at the fair. The reasoning for this is that 4-H members may have already processed their exhibits for the 2020 fair in the fall of 2019 and it would be unfair to disqualify those exhibits. Next year, we will strictly follow the change in the rules that only allows USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Extension information as trusted resources.
The other change is in frosting allowed on exhibits. We are waiting on some research being done by Kansas State University on butter cream frostings to ensure that frostings on baked goods will be safe when sampled at the fair. Many of the frostings that members choose have too much moisture in them and could potentially harbor bacterial growth.
Please call or email AnswerLine if you need some clarification on what foods are considered safe to exhibit at the fair this summer.