Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Legislatures Weigh Bills on Soda Labels, Microbeads, Marijuana, Powdered Alcohol, Among Others

State legislatures remain in session from Alabama to Wyoming, with food safety mostly getting only a light touch from lawmakers who seem largely focused on budgets and education in this non-election year.

In Alabama, where a new cottage food bill took effect last June 1, Extension services are getting more money for training people to use the new law.

Meanwhile, making it easier to get marijuana-derived cannabis oil for treating epileptic seizures is the goal of a bill being considered in the current session. Last year, Alabama adopted the so-called “Carly’s law,” which opened the University of Alabama at Birmingham as the current sole source in the state for the marijuana-produced oil.

Alaska lawmakers apparently have no interest in regulating the state’s latest foodie craze. Since the state fair last July, chaga fungus found growing on about one in 20 birch trees in Alaska has turned out to be a popular treat in some circles.

The fungus is harvested in winter, using a hammer and chisel to pop it off trees. At this point, chaga fungus is just a cottage industry in Alaska, where boosters cite its health benefits.

In the Golden State, the Berkeley soda tax may lead Sacramento to adopt a label on sugary pop. California House Majority Leader Bill Monning (D-Carmel) has again introduced a bill to label sugary soda with a warning that it contributes to “obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.” Berkeley voted to tax sugary soda products last year.

In Colorado, a bill to ban the production, manufacture or sale of all products containing synthetic microbeads, including face scrubs, acne treatments and toothpaste, is awaiting final approval by the Senate after passing the House of Representatives.

The fear expressed in House Bill 1144 is that such particles are too fine to be caught in wastewater treatment plants, and the plastic bits can pollute lakes and rivers. If the bill clears the Senate and gets the governor’s signature, the ban would be in effect from Jan. 1, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2020. Rep. Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield) and Sen. Nancy Todd (D-Aurora) are the sponsors.

The Connecticut Legislature is considering two bills to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. It appears they would leave the details on edible marijuana to the regulatory stage.

In Delaware, wine is getting a legislative salute. Since farm winery licenses were first established in Delaware in 1991, only four such licenses have been issued. A fifth might be in the works for later this summer. In the meantime, lawmakers did recognize the existing industry.

Florida grocery stores currently sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor. Bills to change that by allowing both liquor stores and grocery stores to sell the hard stuff are being considered in Tallahassee, but the measures have come under fire from the state sheriff’s association.

At play are Senate Bill 468 and HB 499, both to permit liquor sales in Florida grocery stores. The liquor store owners say grocery stores would become easy targets for youths out to steal booze by the bottle. They say access to liquor stores is more carefully guarded and that all customers entering are carded.

Georgia might be a year away from becoming the South’s first medical marijuana state. HB 1, similar to a measure that received a 168-2 favorable vote in the Georgia House in 2014, is expected this year to go to a study commission for the balance of 2015. That might well set it up for passage in 2016, according to supporters.

As drafted, the bill would allow access to marijuana for medical purposes, including cannabis oil, but would not allow everyone to grow their own. Colorado’s tax income from both medical and recreational pot is getting plenty of attention in Atlanta, even though actual receipts came in at less than original estimates.

In Hawaii, a number of bills involving genetic engineering have been introduced. SB 885, for example, mandates the state department of agriculture to take precautionary measures “to anticipate, prevent, or minimize the adverse effects of biotechnology and genetic engineering.” It was the subject of a public hearing earlier this month, but the Senate Agriculture Committee deferred taking any action on the measure.

The same committee has also deferred action on SB 381, which would have permitted the acquisition of raw milk and raw milk products by owners of cows, goats, and sheep, and would also allow cow, goat, and sheep shares if certain conditions are met.

Three years ago, the Idaho Legislature for the first time added a felony provision to its animal cruelty law. This year, Reps. Ken Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs) and Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) are teaming up to add another first-time felony to the code. It would apply to anyone who commits an act of animal torture in front of a child.

A cottage food bill is also moving in the Gem State. HB 106 proposes that home kitchens making non-potentially hazardous foods be exempt from licensing requirements. The bill defines such foods as those containing a “water activity value” of 0.85 or less and a pH level of 4.6 or below when measured at 75 degrees F.

If adopted, Idaho would become one of 45 states that have adopted such measures during recent legislative sessions. The bill is supported by the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, which has worked on HB 106 with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Iowa lawmakers have changed the legal definition of beer to include high alcohol content beverages that are not more than 12 percent alcohol by weight or 15 percent by volume. It means that India pale ale is now beer in Iowa. Stouts? Also beer. And porters are now beer as well.

Nothing really changes for beer drinkers in Iowa, but the definitions have been off for some time and that’s now fixed. It might even be good for food safety.

Kansas is among several states looking at banning powdered alcohol, but the Sunflower State may be unique in being open about doing so at the behest of the Kansas Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association, which represents the interests of those who sell liquid booze.

“We as an industry want you to go ahead and help us take care of this powdering product before it becomes an issue,” liquor lobbyist Spencer Duncan told the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs committee this week.

HB 2208 would prohibit the sale of powdered alcohol, known as Palcohol, by licensed liquor stores and distributors. The product is sold in 4-by 6-inch one-shot pouches and, when mixed with water, produces alcohol that comes in six varieties: rum, vodka, cosmopolitan, mojito, lemon drop and powderita.

In Kentucky, a medical marijuana bill introduced by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) to spur debate is likely dead for this session. It received a hearing in the House, but did not come to a vote. The speaker says it will eventually become law.

Lawmakers are not yet in session in Baton Rouge, but they are pre-filing bills. Rep. Dalton Honoré (D-Baton Rouge) has pre-filed the Louisiana Therapeutic Use of Marijuana Act (HB 6). It would expand legal access to medical marijuana in the Pelican State.

Louisiana first approved medical marijuana in 1991 for people with glaucoma and cancer, but the law did not contain methods to legally obtain cannabis. Pre-filed HB 6 would expand access to include seizure disorders (including epilepsy), multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, terminal cancer, or severe nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy. Patients would have to be at least 21 years old.

In Annapolis, Maryland lawmakers are considering HB 911 to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. Introduced by Delegate Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), the proposal would enact a law very similar to that imposed by Colorado voters in a 2012 vote.

Anyone 21 or older could posses up to one ounce of marijuana at a time and grow up to six plants in their home. New revenue from the excise tax on marijuana would generate almost $96 million per year and another $39 million from the added sales taxes.

Massachusetts fixed its wine shipping rules to allow its farm wineries to continue doing direct distribution to stores and restaurants. A mistake in another law briefly put the distribution system in question for the state’s 34 wineries, but it’s all back to normal now.

In Jackson, the Mississippi Senate has been busy passing bills over to the House, including SB 2582, which would make it harder to sell farm implements and pieces of farm implements as scrap metal. Agricultural thefts of metal for scrap have become common in the Magnolia State.

(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part story on state legislation related to food safety. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)

© Food Safety News