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Utah adopts a Food Freedom-lite bill; Maine town takes a bite

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has less than one week to sign or veto the “Home-Consumption and Homemade Food Act” that sailed through the state legislature with only seven dissenting votes.

The Utah Food Act is not another “Food Freedom” law because its protections do not apply to raw milk or raw dairy products, meat or some poultry.

The Utah Food Act will cover poultry producers that slaughter no more than 1,000 birds per year under a USDA exemption and for sales of domesticated rabbit meat pending a similar approval.

Utah pledges to maintain equal or better standards than required by the Federal Meat and Poultry Inspection Act for state-regulated slaughter facilities. Maine’s “Food Freedom” Act failed to include such clarifying language, causing USDA to threaten to shut down its custom meat industry.

The Utah Food Act also preserves the state Department of Agriculture’s “role in meat inspection.” It also says nothing in the new law can be “construed to impede the Department of Health in the investigation of foodborne illness.”

Herbert is not likely to veto HB181. It passed the Utah House on a vote of 64-to-7 on Feb. 13. Three representatives were either absent or not voting. Then March 2, the Senate approved the Utah Food Act, 24-0 with five absent or not voting.

The bill reached Herbert’s desk March 5. He has 10 days to act, or the bill becomes law without his signature.

Trending: ‘Food Freedom’ laws
Except for those limitations, Utah’s Food Act is a close cousin of “Food Freedom” laws adopted by Maine, Wyoming, and North Dakota. It probits state agencies from imposing any additional requirements on those covered by the act.

Utah state Rep. Marc K. Roberts, R-Santaquin, was the primary sponsor of HB181. The Senate sponsor was Sen. Daniel Hemmert, R-Orem. Roberts is an engineer who owns electronic payment companies, and Hemmert is a dry cleaner.

Utah’s Food Act exempts “home producer direct sales” from any state, county, or city licensing, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, and labeling requirements” except as provided in the law.

It applies to homemade food or homemade food products produced in Utah, sold directly to “an informed final consumer” for home consumption. Labeling showing the producers name and address and saying it is not for resale is required. Further, it has to say the homemade food product did not undergo any state or local inspection.

The label also has to list common allergens, including milk, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts, fish or shellfish. No restaurant or commercial establishment sales of homemade products are permitted, except for raw or unprocessed fruit.

Homemade product producers must “inform the final consumer that the food or food product is not certified, licensed, regulated or inspected by the state or any county or city.”

Meanwhile, Starks, ME, the town of 640 that since 1991 has welcome upwards of 10,000 to the community for its annual Hempstock festival, decides Saturday if it wants to join the “Food Freedom” movement.

Some say Starks is looking for something that will pump it up as the smoke has gone out of the cannabis party with all the competition causing Hemstock to shrink.

Starks will take the “Food Freedom” vote at Saturday’s annual town meeting. The main item of business is to approve adding $18,000 to the town’s current $888,000 yearly budget.

When finished with all the monetary decisions, Starks Selectman Paul Frederick plans to advance the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. He calls it a “philosophical statement” designed to work within Maine’s Food Freedom Act adopted last year.

Maine’s law gives cities and towns the right to regulate local food production, giving consumers the right to purchase food directly from the producer.

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