Wyoming’s Joint Agriculture Committee decided yesterday to sponsor the hotly contested Wyoming Food Freedom Bill in next year’s legislative session.  The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, would exempt all “cottage foods”, or foods prepared in home kitchens and sold directly to consumers, from regulation.   

Supporters of the bill argue that consumers should be able to purchase food directly from ranchers and farmers without government inspection.

In 2008, Wallis introduced a bill to exempt all cottage foods, including potentially hazardous foods such as dairy products, canned foods, and sauces, from regulation.  The bill did not pass through the Legislature, so last year she introduced a modified version of the bill, which exempted only non-hazardous foods, such as jams, cookies, and bread, from regulation.  

This second bill passed, and as a result on July 1, 2009 it became legal to sell non-hazardous home-produced foods at roadside stands and farmers markets.  

There is some question as to what foods will specifically be regulated under the new bill.  According to the Casper Tribune, Joint Agriculture Committee members disagreed on whether the current bill would cover meat and milk products.


In January, members of the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Food Safety planned to send letters to Gov. Dave Freudenthal and legislators cautioning against an expansion of the cottage foods exemption.

Opposition to the Wyoming Food Freedom Bill comes not only from the council, but from public health officials, who support the inspection and licensing process because it allows inspectors to help cottage businesses minimize the risk of distributing foods contaminated with foodborne pathogens, which cause foodborne illness.  

At a committee hearing this week Robert E. Harrington, director of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, demonstrated that the majority of foodborne illnesses in Wyoming and other states are linked to poor food handling in unregulated settings.

“Regulation does not guarantee absolute safety,” Harrington said in prepared testimony.  “But it REDUCES risks and facilitates traceback vis-à-vis.  Exemption guarantees INCREASED risks and impedes traceback.”

More Food Safety Battles to Come

The Joint Agriculture Committee will also sponsor a bill that will allow for “cow-share” agreements in Wyoming.  Under a cow-share agreement, a person can purchase a “share” of a cow and therefore the right to a share of the raw cow’s milk produced by the cow.  

It is currently illegal to sell raw milk in Wyoming.

  • As a grower, processor and marketer of tree nuts, I feel that it is essential that ALL processors of food products for sale for public consumption, regardless of size, must fall under the regulation umbrella that all processors face. After all, if you die from a food borne illness you are just as dead if you get it from a “cottage” source as if you got it from a multi-national company. No exemptions should be allowed. Period.

  • Doc Mudd

    Well said, Tom.
    Pathogenic bacteria do not distinguish large operations from small setups or the farmer next door from my own spouse in our own kitchen.
    Dead is dead, of course, but I’ve also noticed common stomach cramps and diarrhea are no less bothersome just because I was poisoned by a well-intended acquaintance. For the sake of domestic tranquility I do play down the occasional in-house incidents – it’s a practical tradeoff between a bout of transient diarrhea and something far more emotionally draining!
    Bring all food producers and merchandizers into safety compliance, no exceptions.

  • dangermaus

    You guys want there to be no problems with food – but that’s never going to happen. The trajectory we’re on now is one where more and more regulation has lead to there being fewer and fewer producers of lower and lower-quality foods. If we keep on this track, we’re going to be eating capsules and filter cake by the end of this century – and there will still be bad bugs in it.

  • Ron

    Food safety requires education. It is not healthy for a messy cook to prepare our meals. But, a dirty cook that utilizes a “certified kitchen”, can be cleared to sell food to the public. A good, educated, clean, responsible cook that happens to use their own facilities faces restictions. It is how the food is handled, rather than where it is prepared that determines the quality of the product. We have more than enough regulations for the food industry. Let us take care of ourselves. It is never in the best interest of a producer to “kill off” their customers. If a customer purchases a product that is not healty, they will not return. This is not good for business. If we do business by the Golden Rule, that is the only “law” we need.

  • Doc Mudd

    A lot of erroneous underlying assumptions to your claimed “trajectory” there, dangermaus.
    You assume regulations are responsible for modern food production trends – more likely market demands by consumers have shaped the industry.
    You assume there are fewer producers – maybe a greater proportion of our food is produced and distributed by fewer professional operators, but USDA counts plenty of “producers”, especially little ones (the “small” category has been growing during the past few years).
    You assume that food “quality” is eroding when, in fact, quality and safety have always kept pace with consumer demand for product and price (and met the few regulatory requirements).
    Seems your worrisome gloom and doom “trajectory” is entirely mythical. Seems, in fact, you are advocating for more producers of food with dubious quality and safety attributes. Accomplished somehow through deliberate regulatory failures? And that would be a good thing because…?

  • dangermaus

    Confidently incompetent, you blather on.
    1. There are a lot of things that go into something like how food is produced, and a lot of them are strongly government-influenced. I’m not assuming any single cause, either – you’d be nuts to think there is a single cause for something as complex as demand for food. Price of ingredients is one factor – and federal grain subsidies have made corn and soy artificially cheap commodities that are way over-used. What is permitted by regulators is another – One-size-fits-all regulation has made it impossible for many small producers to stay in the game when the regulator requires you to own a multi-million dollar facility to sit at the table.
    2. This one is obvious, as well… One would have to believe there has not been massive consolidation in the food industry (or that there have been hordes of new players – neither of which have been the case) over the past several decades for one to think this is false. One of the problems refer to when I say “fewer producers” is bad, is that, in addition to a lack of choice for consumers, is the way they produce food in large volumes. When food gets processed in huge volumes, all on the same machinery, a small amount of contaminated ingredients can adulterate a much larger batch – 1000 sick folks instead of 2. If one avoids big processing plants, you keep the contaminated food from reaching so many people.
    3. I don’t have to assume anything on the topic of quality. The quality of the food that we actually consume, in terms of freshness, nutrition, flavor definitely is OBVIOUSLY declining. Have you not seen the obesity and diabetes? (I’m still not convinced you’re an MD) Haven’t you seen the increase in soda consumption? Have you been asleep for the last 40 years? Maybe you just have always eaten frozen dinners in front of the TV, and think that’s the only way to live… Apparently you’re not judging quality by nutrition or flavor (other than flavor from salt, sweeteners, and other additives).
    All producers have the capacity to be dubious. The problem bigger organizations have that small ones don’t, though, is that the owners of the company are much farther from the work floor than small farms are. It’s easier for an exec at giant slaughterhouse to get excited about ground beef that can be sold 10 cents a pound cheaper when s/he don’t have to see the impact on the conditions under which the food is produced.

  • Greenie

    I find it nothing short of outrageous that a fringe group in Wyoming feels it can skirt the regulations that honorable, hard-working small businesses comply with every day. It’s offensive to small processors everywhere that these nutjobs claim “excessive intervention” and “undue cost” to willfully break the rules and spit in the faces of everyone who understands that compliance with the law is a price one must pay to open a business that impacts the public.

  • Fleur

    Hey, Greenie there not “fringe” groups. Its uneduated morons like you that have made it impossible for people to eat real healthy food. I meant “real” food, too. Because no processed or pasteurized junk is real. And if people would quit being so brainwashed all those supposedly “honorable” businesses would start making real food and fighting for food freedom.
    The FDA are a bunch of corporate cronies. Healthy pure food should be a basic human right. Nature is far superior to anything weak, stupid easily manipulated humans could ever possibly dream up. Pasteurized milk deserves to be banned and thrown in the garbage pile, which is all it is. It has no health benefits whatsoever. Anyone who believes otherwise is a brainwashed idiot. And that goes for the scientists and that crackpot fraud called Pasteur who ripped off Bechamp and came up with the ridiculous notion of “germ theory” thats so ruined public health and food today. http://www.ahealedplanet.net/medicine.htm
    Real food takes education not propaganda.