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Are Pepperoni Rolls Legal?
What? These tasty treats might be unlawful?
"In some states pepperoni rolls aren't legal. It's that way in Virginia. Since the pepperoni is baked in the roll and you can't see the meat, it's illegal. I don't understand how they can ban pepperoni rolls, though, when a pizza pocket is OK. It's exactly the same thing. It's made the exact same way."
        - Joe Colasessano,
a third-generation owner who runs Colasessano's Carry Out with his Mom
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In 1987 Senator Jay Rockefeller of WV "saved the pepperoni roll"

from Senator Rockefeller's website in 2001:

"Pepperoni Rolls are part of our state's heritage, and Rockefeller saved them - and the jobs of bakers in north-central West Virginia. Rockefeller fought to eliminate the federal government's unnecessary and burdensome regulations, thereby preserving the entire industry."
A letter to me from
Senator Rockefeller in 2002
Read the entire letter

letter from sen. rockefellerrockefeller signature
In 1987 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was implementing a change that would re-classify pepperoni roll bakeries as meat packers. This change in designation would require these mostly small, family-owned bakeries to meet the more stringent safety and sanitation standards that meat processing businesses must follow despite the fact that the pepperoni used to make a pepperoni roll is already certified by the USDA before the bakeries slice it for their rolls.

Costs associated with meeting the new classification requirements were estimated to exceed $100,000 or more, potentially delivering a devastating blow not only to the future existence of the West, Virginia pepperoni roll, but more importantly, to the family-owned businesses that produce them. Because of the proposed classification, the pepperoni roll may have ceased to exist.

Senator Rockefeller contacted the then-Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng to let him know that this decision would severely affect their ability to continue to operate.Because of this action the USDA decided to hold bakeries that produce pepperoni rolls accountable only to existing inspection standards. This enabled the bakeries to continue making their signature product which accounted for much of their revenue - signifying a big, victory for these small businesses in the state.

Is Pepperoni Raw Meat?

Well, yes. Pepperoni is many things, but cooked is not one of them. Pepperoni is actually preserved through curing, fermentation and drying.

Pork and beef are first ground up and mixed together with spices and flavorings. Then, salt and sodium nitrite are added as curing agents to prevent the growth of unwanted microorganisms. The nitrite also gives pepperoni its characteristic pink color. Next, the ground meat is inoculated with lactic acid bacteria, as in yogurt or cheese making. The ground meat can now be stuffed into casings, traditionally made of pig or sheep intestines, but now more commonly made of cellulose. Over the next two or three days the ground meat undergoes fermentation inside the casings. This is when the lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid, causing the meat's pH to drop, a key step in preservation. Then, the sausages spend the next twelve to twenty days in a drying room to reduce the moisture level, also critical to preservation. After drying, the pepperoni is sliced, packaged, and shipped to supermarkets and restaurants where it can make its way onto our pizzas and subs.

from How Food


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