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Jail Time Proposed for Helping Federal Food Safety Officials

A Utah Senate bill would make it a class A misdemeanor for any person — including state officials — to help enforce federal regulations like those in the new federal Food Safety Modernization Act on agricultural products that do not leave the Beehive State.

Conviction on a class A misdemeanor in Utah can result in a one-year sentence and a fine up to $2,500.

Senate Bill (SB) 34 prohibits federal regulation of any agriculture product that remains within Utah after it is made, grown, or produced in the state. The measure was pre-filed for the current session of the Utah Legislature by Sen. Casey O. Anderson, R-Cedar City.

The jail time and fine threat contained in S.B. 34 are apparently intended to dissuade Utah state employees from helping their federal counterparts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S.Department of Agriculture.

SB 34 also permits the use of such labels as “Made in Utah,” “Grown in Utah,” and “Produced in Utah” for foods produced in the state, while prohibiting such labels on any product not grown in Utah.

The bill does allow anyone being punished for violations under the new law to request injunctive relief.

In a review of SB 34, the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel questioned whether the measure passes Constitutional muster.   

“The bill provides that agricultural products that remain in Utah after being made, grown or produced in Utah are not subject to federal regulation,” says the Legislative Review.  “Additionally, this bill provides that if an officer, employee, or agent of Utah or any of Utah’s political subdivisions enforces federal regulation of a Utah agriculture product that remains in Utah, the office, employee, or agent is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Finally, the bill provides that Utah’s district courts and the governor must enforce its provisions.”

The review says, “these provisions raise issues relating to the Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. It said the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that state laws that conflict with federal law are without effect.

It also said Congress may regulate “wholly intrastate conduct if the conduct has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” It noted the broad application of existing federal law over meat and food, which apply to Utah-grown products.

The Utah review went on to predict SB 34 would be found in violation of the Supremacy Clause.

The new FSMA signed into law by President Obama is gradually being implemented by the FDA, which often contracts specific tasks out to state health and agricultural officials.

The FSMA emphasizes prevention of foodborne illness. Small food producers selling directly to consumers, restaurants or food markets within the state (or within 275 miles of the farm) are exempt from the legislation, unless they are being investigating for causing an outbreak.

Anderson was appointed to the Utah Senate last May 17 to represent District 28.

He has not responded to requests for an interview from Food Safety News.

Anderson is a Social Service worker employed by the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (PITU), also headquartered in Cedar City. Anderson’s degrees are in psychology and forensic science from South Utah University, where he has also done work on a Ph.D. 

Keeping the federal government out is one theme of the history of Cedar City and the surrounding area. It is only a few miles from the historic site of the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre, where Mormons dressed up like Paiute Indians wiped out 120 emigrants passing through the area by wagon train.

Motive for the massacre was to keep the federal government out, historians now say.

© Food Safety News
  • The Die Hard

    Since I can’t think of anything that’s actually grown in Utah — their own site says “billions in grass and hay,” which basically describes my back yard, and I need to rent a couple of goats, since I burn out a lawnmower a week — who gives a —-?
    Several decades ago, citrus canker swept through Florida like a force-five hurricane. The county Ag people were checking your car AT GUNPOINT. The production groves still lost pretty much everything. I was on my way back to school in Texas with a box of backyard oranges for the dorm, and the car was impounded and fumigated, and so was I.
    But this is just another money-grab. “We can’t raise taxes, so we’ll make jaywalking a felony!” Food safety, my toe. If any of these people can tell the difference between a radish and a rhododendron, they should be required to eat both.