When Daniel Anthony first tried selling fresh, traditionally prepared paiai two years ago, he found out that pounding the taro was the easy part.
It was much more difficult to sell it.
Anthony said that before the Department of Health shut down his small business, he was pounding and selling almost 10,000 pounds of taro a year, with another 15,000 a year used in his educational workshops. Now he can’t sell any of it.
“The (Department of Health) told me I couldn’t sell poi off the board,” Anthony said. “It’s not poi, though. It’s paiai.”
Paiai — young, unfermented and undiluted taro ground with a traditional lava rock and wooden board — first came under scrutiny by the Hawaii Department of Health in late 2009 when Anthony was cited for using traditional porous implements that could not be completely sanitized.
But a pair of proposals now before the state Legislature could make Hawaii’s food code compatible with this traditional Hawaiian food preparation practice. The bills would create an exemption for cultural practitioners like Anthony to sell their paiai, provided they sell directly to consumers, attend a food safety class, maintain hand-washing facilities and label their products as traditionally made. Continue reading