Wyoming, Utah and Virginia are among the states that have completed their legislative business for the year. The others might be best said to be at their halfway point. To keep track of state action on food safety and related bills, we’ve again turned to Doug Farquhar, JD
Farquhar is the Director of Governmental Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association. In his previous post at The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Farquhar’s team produced systems to track legislative action across all 50 states in real-time.
NCSL, established in 1975, is a nonpartisan public officials’ association composed of sitting state legislators from the states, territories and commonwealths of the United States.
According to NCSL, Republicans currently outnumber Democrats in state legislative positions by 4,021 to 3,273. Republicans have dominated at the state level since the 2010 elections. It translates into a 58 to 40 split in favor of the GOP on control of the 98 legislative chambers.
Farquhar is gracious enough to share his recent blog with Food Safety News readers. It focuses on state food safety legislation for the 2023 state legislative sessions. He’s identified the four bills that have been enacted; three in VA and one in WY, and he is tracking 161 as of today; still waiting on bills from Louisiana after they convene.
From this point forward, we turn it over to Doug Farquhar:
“At the halfway point of the 2023 state legislative sessions, 161 bills have been introduced regarding food, meaning bills related to cannabis in food, raw milk and dairy, food delivery, food donation, food safety, retail food, manufactured food, meat production, food freedom, nutrition, food deserts, and mobile food delivery.
By March, states are beginning to adjourn (Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming), while others have not convened yet (Louisiana). Every other state remains in session. Most will adjourn by June; however, 10 states have full-time legislatures and will remain in session going into 2024.
With session adjourning in Virginia and Wyoming, bills in those states have either died or been enacted.
In Virginia, bills were passed regarding food donations (VA H 1249, Chap. 633), on-site certified food managers (VA S 146, Chap. 393), and revisions to the Food and Drink Law (VA H 837, Chap. 204).
Wyoming amended its Food Freedom Act (WY S 102, Chap. 96), which states that transactions must be directly between the producer and the informed end consumer. It also provides that homemade or uninspected food shall not be served or utilized as an ingredient in a commercial food establishment.
Food safety was the key issue for 23 bills in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. California S 701 seeks to ensure that general food safety requirements are updated and aligned with the evolving goals of the legislature. Florida H 865 revises the approval of food safety training programs and responsibilities of public food service establishments. Montana S 473 authorizes the Department of Agriculture to limit the availability of food that contain a food additive or food color identified as having a negative toxic effect by the state’s panel on food safety. New York A 2262 and S 2461 establish the Sanitary Retail Food Store Grant Program that provides funding to correct deficiencies in retail food stores that fail inspections.
Food donation saw nine bills introduced this year in Hawaii, Illinois, North Dakota, and Virginia. North Dakota H 1243 provides that a restaurant, grocery store, or an individual offering apparently wholesome food at no cost may not be held liable for any acts or omissions resulting in the offering. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Retail foods were addressed in 46 bills in 21 states. California S 476 requires an employer to pay the employee for any cost associated with the employee obtaining a food handler card. Connecticut S 1066 increases the number of certified food inspectors in the state. Florida H 415 and S 752 relate to temporary food kitchens. Hawaii H 1350 appropriates funds to the Department of Agriculture for the establishment of a food safety training and certification program. Nevada A 40 requires an applicant for a permit to operate a food establishment to provide an electronic mail address for purposes of communicating certain notices. New York S 3155 establishes the State Fast Food Franchisor Accountability Act that will hold fast food restaurants jointly liable for violations of laws, orders, rules, and regulations related to employment and worker safety. Texas H 1247 and S 577 relate to the regulation of food service establishments, retail food stores, mobile food units, roadside food vendors, temporary food service establishments, and food managers.
Food Service Training and Certification
Overall, 14 bills related to food service training or certification were introduced. Arizona H 2016 relates to food handler certification and training. Iowa H 278 provides for the issuance of annual statewide licenses for certain establishments offering food for sale. West Virginia H 2978 seeks to eliminate the food handler examination and card.
Mobile Food Vendors
There were 12 bills introduced that relate to mobile food vendors. Illinois H 2099 creates the Food Truck Freedom Act and provides that a unit of local government may not require a separate license, permit, or fee beyond an initial or reciprocal business license for a food truck business. New York A 3575 and S 1739 will require street vendors to obtain a permit. Oklahoma S 185 creates the Mobile Food Vendor Act which requires persons who operate as mobile food vendors to obtain a license and prohibits political subdivisions from restricting vendors. Texas H 2878 relates to the operation of certain mobile food service establishments in more than one county.
Cannabis in Food
Cannabis in food led to 11 introduced bills. California S 285 authorizes a local jurisdiction to allow for the preparation or sale of non-cannabis food or beverage products by retailers who sell cannabis food or beverage. Delaware H 2 seeks to regulate and tax cannabis for recreational use in the same manner as alcohol. Minnesota H 100 and S 73 establish the Office of Cannabis Management. Tennessee H 85 and S 168 enact the Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act.
Food deserts are an issue that has emerged in state legislatures in the past decade. In total, 18 bills were introduced in 10 states to incentivize food operations in areas lacking in grocery or other retail food options. California A 853 and S 725 prohibit a grocery establishment from ordering a mass layoff, relocation, or termination to prevent the creation of a food desert.
Connecticut H 5775 expands access to affordable and nutritious food in food desert communities. Connecticut H 6854 establishes the Office of the Food Access Advocate and provides tax incentives for grocery stores in food deserts. Florida H 727 and S 778 authorize local government to enact land development regulations to permit land use for small-footprint grocery stores located in food-insecure areas.
Missouri S 143 establishes a tax credit for grocery stores in a food desert. New Jersey A 1299 provides incentives to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate in food deserts. Texas H 1118 relates to tax credits for entities that establish a grocery store or healthy corner store in a food desert. West Virginia H 3016 establishes the Food Desert Produce Pilot Program.
Concerns regarding meat production led to 15 bills in 10 states. Hawaii S 1590 requires the Department of Agriculture to assess the steps necessary for the state to supplement federal authority to perform meat inspections within the state. Maryland H 606 prohibits the sale of food products containing or consisting of insect flour. New York S 5702 prohibits pink slime—a meat byproduct that is used as a food additive to ground beef and processed meats as a filler or to reduce overall fat content—to be served in schools. New Hampshire S 23 establishes a committee to study federal laws regarding meat processing and inspection and to review best practices for farms looking to process for sale meat from nonamenable species.
California has three bills related to nutrition. A 605 establishes the California Fruit and Vegetable Supplemental Benefits Expansion Program (SNAP). S 628 declares that it is the established policy of the state that every human being has the right to access sufficient affordable and healthy food. S 701 states the intent of the legislature to enact legislation regarding food and safety standards.
Raw Milk and Dairy
Overall, four bills introduced address raw milk and one addresses dairy. Illinois S 152 authorizes a dairy farm to sell, distribute, or offer to sell or distribute unpasteurized milk or milk product for human use or consumption without being issued a permit. Minnesota H 1167 permits registered small farm producers to sell fluid raw milk and fluid raw milk products to consumers. Rhode Island H 5557 permits and legalizes the sale of raw milk. Utah H 320 defines raw milk products as any product produced from raw milk.
Oklahoma H 1420 designates the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry as the state agency that oversees the dairy inspection and grading.
Food freedom remains popular, with 56 bills introduced. Georgia H 287 regards the Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations Act that allows home kitchens to sell food products in the state. Hawaii H 520 and S 756 establish the Access to Local Food Act to allow cottage food operations to sell cottage food products after receiving a permit from the Department of Health. Illinois H 2099 introduced the Food Truck Freedom Act. Massachusetts H 3178 allows for the licensing of home kitchens.
Mississippi H 362 creates the Food Freedom Act that prohibits any county, municipality or other political subdivision from restricting the retail sale or distribution of unprocessed agricultural or farm products grown or raised directly from the producer to the consumer. Mississippi also introduced S 2537 which expands gross sale requirements allowed under their cottage food law. New Hampshire H 122 provides for microenterprise home kitchen operations, as does New York S 1057.
Oklahoma H 1722 exempts farmers’ market vendors from the license requirements. Oklahoma S 1038 creates the Oklahoma Food Freedom Act that exempts certain homemade food products from state licensure, permitting, inspection, packaging, and labeling requirements. The bill also prohibits the sale of meat products, prohibits the sale of food to commercial food establishments, authorizes the sale of products in retail spaces, and requires producers to provide information to consumers.
South Carolina H 3214 authorizes residential food production operations in which food is prepared in a private residence and served to customers to be eaten within the residence.
Texas has eight bills related to food freedom, most notably S 829, which seeks to expand the state’s cottage food law. The bill would prohibit any local government authority, including a local health department, to employ a person who knowingly requires or attempts to require a cottage food production operation to obtain a license or permit.
Utah S 151 provides that a farmers market selling homemade food shall display signage indicating that the food products sold by producers at the market have not been certified, licensed, regulated, or inspected by state or local authorities. This bill is eligible for the Governor’s signature.”
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