North Dakota lawmakers last week had a choice to make. Either fix their 2-year-old cottage food law or risk some botulism once in a while. In the name of “food freedom,” the North Dakota House decided to go with botulism, voting 26-to-65 not to amend  the cottage food law.

Earlier in the day when the Senate approved amending cottage food law on a 44-to-2 vote, it seemed the Legislature was going to heed warnings about botulism potential in low acid canned foods made under the Cottage Food Act. Amending the North Dakota Century Code 23-09.5 Cottage Food Production and Sales law excluded such safety steps for acid foods.

The North Dakota Cottage Foods Act went  into effect on Aug. 1, 2017, It allows for the sale of un-inspected, homemade cottage food products to an informed, end consumer for at-home consumption. 

According to the ND Foods and Lodging Office, the Cottage Foods Act “provides new opportunities for small, start-up businesses and home-based operations without having the extra burden of start-up costs for an approved kitchen outside the home and no license or inspection fee charges.”

 While enriching a new market and new food products available in our state, the  office says  it is “important to instill practical, science-based food safety guidance to protect public health and maintain access to a safe food supply.”

Meanwhile, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) recommends that food safety and sanitation standards are applied to cottage food products for sale under the ND Cottage Foods Act.   That’s where the concern about low-acid foods comes from.

But when the bill with its clarifying language got to the House last week, Rep. Daniel Johnston, R-Kathryn, said an out -of -control Health Department was undermining legislative intent about North Dakota’s “food freedom.”

Johnson also said the Health Department is opposed to “Grandma’s apple butter.”

Minutes later, the cottage food fix sought by the Health Department was dead,

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