In our second installment of the Top Food Safety Stories of the year series, the Number 16 story is “Taylor’s Maid-Rite Cannot Get ‘Red Violation’ Waiver From Iowa House.”
In March, when the Iowa Senate by voice vote exempted a popular restaurant from a red code violation of the state’s food code, it looked like politics was going to prevail over food safety in the Hawkeye State.
Taylor’s Maid-Rite, a landmark restaurant in Marshalltown known for its “loose meat” sandwiches, had gone to the Iowa Assembly to get a waiver for its original Maid-Rite cooking vessel.
Problems with the original Maid-Rite cooking vessel include its potential for under-cooking meat as well as for cross contamination, in that it both cooks and stores meat.
Iowa’s iconic 70-unit Maid-Rite franchise retired the original cooking vessel about 10 years ago. Taylor’s Maid-Rite, owned and operated by the same family for more than 80 years, has been fighting ever since to keep using the original cooker.
Taylor’s has been operating under a waiver that dates back to the administration of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now Secretary of Agriculture. Since Vilsack left office, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has wanted to withdraw the waiver.
Iowa Health Director Tom Newton heard a final administrative appeal over the waiver, but in almost a year there’s been no decision. Last year the slow-moving administrative appeal process gave Taylor’s owners Don and Sandy Short the opening they needed to go political.
At “Marshalltown Day” at the General Assembly in Des Moines, Taylor’s passed out their tasty loose meat sandwiches to members of the Hawkeye legislature. A week later, they won the voice vote in the Senate. A vote to let Taylor’s get a pass the food code, however, fell short in the House. The vote was 50-41.
Taylor’s lost, but did they? Marshalltown residents held supportive rallies and Taylor’s has 12,000 fans on its Facebook page.
Iowans in November elected Republican Terry Branstad over incumbent Democrat Chet Culver, and gave control of the House to the GOP as well. Gov.-elect Branstad has already named Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to replace Newton.
The waiver could be back at center stage in Iowa at some point during 2011.
Number 15 on the 2010 top story list is: “Wyoming Holds Line on ‘Food Freedom’ for Cottage Foods”
Republican State Rep. Sue Wallis of Recluse, WY, is sometimes called “Slaughterhouse Sue” for helping to bring a slaughterhouse to the Cowboy State for processing horsemeat for human consumption.
Wallis is also known for digging into her causes, and for the last three years she has tried with some success for a “food freedom” approach to Wyoming’s food safety regulation.
What she wants is to exempt all “cottage foods,” or foods prepared in home kitchens, including potentially hazardous foods such as dairy products, canned foods, and sauces, from any regulations or regulatory oversight whatsoever.
When she failed the first time, Wallis scaled back by proposing to exempt only non-hazardous foods, including jams, cookies and bread, from regulation. Since July 1, 2009, that has allowed non-hazardous home-produced foods to be sold at roadside stands and farmer’s markets in Wyoming.
But food safety professionals in Wyoming have attempted to draw the line with that 2009 bill, opposing the rest of Rep. Wallis’ Food Freedom Bill.
The Wyoming Governor’s Council on Food Safety and local leaders like Robert E. Harrington, director of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, have worked hard to educate lawmakers on food safety.
Wyoming food safety experts argue that licensing and inspection of cottage food businesses allows them to help owners prevent contamination by foodborne pathogens.
Wallis, however, says the “food inspection bureaucracy” has “gone overboard” and is “infringing on our constitutional rights to produce things and sell things and consume things and buy things that they have no justification for doing.”
Food safety survived in Wyoming in 2010, but the threat is not going away in the New Year. Willis will be back with Food Freedom.
And state Sen. Eli D. Bebout, R-Riverton, is going to be pushing the Traditional Community Events Act, which would exempt charitable and religious organizations from regulatory oversight when they stage potluck dinner or other food events.
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, want to exempt raw milk producers and set up a “Cow Share” program.
We pick up again with more Top Stories tomorrow.
Note: Both of these stories were the result of tips from food safety professionals in Iowa and Wyoming.