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Food Safety Legislation Continues Brisk Pace Set Last Year

Texas will likely find out today if the third time is the charm for Republican state Rep. Dan Flynn’s (no relation) bill to allow raw milk to be sold at farmer’s markets and directly to consumers in their homes.

The bill is scheduled to be heard this morning in the Public Health Committee, where a “do pass” recommendation is needed to send it to the House floor for the first time since Flynn began pushing the legislation three years ago.

Colorado Capitol Building

The Colorado Capitol Building in Denver.

The Lone Star State currently allows raw milk to be sold only on the farm. House Bill 91 would permit milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized to be sold off the farm in Texas, which would be a first for the state.

Regular retail sales would still be prohibited, but sales at farmer’s markets or making door-to-door deliveries would be allowed under HB 91. The bill also requires permitting, warning labels, and a five-day deadline for making sales.

The possibility of getting to a floor vote is encouraging for Texas raw milk advocates, who say the bill gets further along each time it’s been introduced. HB 91 is supported by the Texas Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, but the bill is opposed by the pasteurized dairy industry and others.

Meanwhile, a Montana bill to allow raw milk sales was killed by its original supporters after amendments were said to have made it “unworkable” for small producers. After the amendments were added, they said they had no choice but to kill it.

State Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) said that supporters of House Bill 245 did not seem to understand that the bill could be sent to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences.

HB 245 would have permitted owners of small herds to sell raw milk directly to consumers. All milk currently sold in Montana must be pasteurized. The Montana House passed the bill last month on a 96-3 vote. A state liability exemption added to the bill in the Senate required a two-thirds vote, and it fell one vote short on a 32-17 tally.

Another amendment supporters could not stomach called for the state Department of Livestock to write rules governing herd ownership. The department opposes any sales of raw milk. Christian Mackay, executive officer for the department, said raw milk is still a public health risk and that Big Sky Country is better off without the bill.

Moving to the Gem State, the Idaho Legislature has called for a series of public fact-finding meetings starting Monday, April 27, after killing the chances of any cottage food bill this session. The fact-finding sessions are open to anyone interested in producing food out of unlicensed home kitchens in Idaho.

cottage-food-jams-406There were two cottage food bills introduced this session in Boise. One made it to the House floor, only to be sent back to committee, while the other never made it out of the committee. Lawmakers want to know if the issues cottage food producers have might be solved by rulemaking and called for the fact-finding meetings to help chart a course. Food safety laws in Idaho do not specifically address cottage foods.

In Vermont, the attorney general’s office is out with nine pages of rules to implement last year’s state law requiring, effective July 1, 2016, the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering.

Last year, Vermont became the first state to require the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering. Federal courts are deciding whether the state’s action was legal.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said that with the formal adoption of the rule, the state is giving ample time for food manufacturers and retailers to prepare for the law to take effect.

As it turns out, 2014 was a busy legislative year for food safety. The Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that 491 food safety bills were introduced last legislative season and 87 were adopted.

Most states moved only a few food safety bills in 2014, but the report noted that certain states had many, including Hawaii with 102 food safety bills; New York with 73; New Jersey with 26; Massachusetts with 25, and Maine and California with 21 each.

“Several bills from Arizona, California, Hawaii and Louisiana sought ways to comply with food safety requirements and the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA); other states, namely Idaho and New Hampshire, actively sought the repeal of FSMA,” NCSL reports.

In the first comprehensive wrapup of 2014 food safety action, the nonpartisan group continued:

“Arizona adopted H 2436 (Act No. 210) requiring county food handler training and certificates meet accreditation standards. California amended the Retail Food Code to exclude beer tasting facilities (S 1235, Act No. 927).

“A couple of bills on hand washing in California caused some issues. The Legislature passed A 1252 (Act No. 556) in 2013 that required utensils or gloves in all food preparation (and caused issues for certain food handling operations). This year the legislature countered with A 2130 (Act No. 75) that modified hand washing requirements for food handling, making the requirements less onerous.

“Louisiana enacted HCR 168 and SCR 178, which creates a study committee to make recommendations regarding the implementation of FSMA.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-community-farmers-market-image20924798“The Minnesota legislature passed S 2060 (Act No. 163) which sets standards for farmer’s markets, community events and food product sampling and demonstrations by requiring persons to provide certain information to regulatory authorities, sets food safety and equipment standards, addresses seasonal temporary food stands, and addresses fund-raisers conducted by a community-based nonprofit organization.

“In New York, the legislature adopted S 2375 (Act No. 529), which requires public food services establishments to post their department of health inspection results from the past 3 years.

“Tennessee enacted Act No. 182, the Tennessee Retail Food Safety Act by rewriting Retail Food Store Inspection Act of 1986, replacing the law concerning quick fast food establishments, revising and reorganizing other food safety laws, and allowing the Commissioner of Agriculture to regulate food establishments.

“Utah adopted the Food Handler Permits and Food Safety Manager Act (H 176; Act No. 327), which amends provisions of the Health Code related to food handler permits and food safety managers, exempts an individual from food handler permit requirements and food safety manager requirements at charitable events, and makes technical amendments.

“Cottage food bills were introduced in 11 states leading to the enactment of 8 laws, mostly providing exemptions for certain producers from state food safety requirements for non-hazardous foods. Alabama enacted S 159 (Act No. 180), which provides exemptions to people selling baked goods and candies, as long as they label the foods and receive food safety training. The law also allows regulation by county health departments. California’s Retail Food Safety Act (Act No. 556) also provides exemptions for cottage food operations.

“The council in the District of Columbia adopted B 168 (Act No. 63), which permits cottage food businesses in the district, allowing the Department of Health to define cottage food operations. Georgia adopted H 101 (Act No. 242) which excludes charitable events from state food safety provisions. Illinois H 5657 (Act No. 660) prohibits local public health departments and other units of local government from creating guidelines for farmers’ markets that are more stringent than state guidelines. Louisiana H 1270 (Act No. 542) allows for the preparation of low-risk foods at home for public sale and consumption.

Massachusetts’ H 3680 (Act No. 230) exempts potluck events from state and local food safety requirements. Oklahoma H 1418 (Act No. 339) authorizes the taking home of foods from Senior Nutrition Sites, and requires the Department of Education to promulgate rules to prevent school lunch food waste and to redistribute leftover food to students in need.

“In Missouri, S 525 was enacted that allows cottage food production operations an exemption from state health and food codes, requiring local governments to maintain records of complaints against such operations and requiring notification to consumers that such food has not been inspected by the state.

“Hawaii also struggled with the cottage food issue, reviewing 6 bills (SCR 50, SCR 97, HCR 137, H 1992, H 2153, S 2561) that addressed everything from requiring food safety workshops for temporary food establishments to complete exemptions for the industry. In the end, only a bill convening a study committee made up of representatives from the cottage food industry and the department of health passed (HI SCR 97).

“From bills requiring the labeling of GM foods to labeling of allergens, state legislatures have been active on food labeling – 138 bills in 33 states. Since the beginning of 2014 52 bills have been introduced on the labeling of GM foods, with two passing in 2014: Maine H 490 and Vermont H 112 (Connecticut’s H 6527 (Act No. 183) was adopted during the 2013 session); and two resolutions being adopted: Hawaii SR 85 and Utah SJR 20.

“In 2014, 63 bills relating to raw milk were introduced. Bills providing consumer access to raw milk were introduced in 26 states.

“California A 1390 Pasteurization of Goat Milk (Act No. 107) was enacted to exempt the requirement that goat milk be pasteurized. Hawaii passed the Milk Control Special Fund (Act No. 176) to ensure funds for the Milk Control Act. Illinois S 3157 (Act No. 958) expands the definition of milk to include sheep, water buffalo and other hooved animals. Indiana enacted H 1300 (Act No. 186) to revise and update the dairy products law.

“Maine passed S 444 which would exempt ‘homestead foods’ and raw milk from state oversight, but the Governor vetoed the bill.

Vermont passed S 70 (Act No. 0149) which permits the sale of raw milk at farmers’ markets. Utah adopted SJR 20, which will study private sales of raw milk.”

As for 2015, a dozen states have already seen their legislatures adjourn for the year, with numerous others scheduled to bring the final gavel of the session down on or about May 1.

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