Organic Consumers Association

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DC Underground Food Market Proves Successful

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Washington D.C. page .

On Sunday, January 31 there was an especially high amount of traffic going into Kushi Izakaya & Sushi in Gallery Place. The crowds were greeted by a young woman asking if they were there for the restaurant or market. Those in the know said that they were there for the market.

The crowd then paid $2 for entry and were allowed to go into a closed-off section of the restaurant where they could purchase goods that are considered illegal. No, there weren't pot brownies for sale, but rather unlicensed food vendors in what is know as a grey market. Grey markets are markets where those that would like to purchase from them need to sign a waiver stating that they are knowingly purchasing food from a vendor that has not been inspected by the health department. There's a loophole in which this is technically legal.

Why would anyone want to do this, you may ask? For the simple reason that if you wanted to sell food at a regular market or to anyone, for that matter, you have to produce it in a kitchen that is up to your local health code, which normally means a commercial kitchen. These kitchens usually have to be supervised by someone that was certified to understand food safety. This is a lot of effort and expense for someone who just wants to make some hot sauce. The grey market is the perfect opportunity for those that want to try and see if they have what it takes to get their business started before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in to a new business.

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