Editor’s Note: With permission, Food Safety News today posts the 2023 Update on State Food Safety Legislature by Doug Farquhar, JD, Government Affairs Director for the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). 

Until a handful of years ago, nothing this current or comprehensive existed regarding reporting on recent actions by the 50 state legislative bodies.  

 The back story for this report, which FSN has published in several earlier versions, is the real-time technology to track the action in the 50 state legislatures. This ability was developed by Doug Farquhar when he was working for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).   He has continued the project after moving over to NEHA.

Food Safety News readers are beneficiaries of this work, and it provides the most complete report on food safety-related developments from the 2023 state legislative sessions that were in session this year in the 50 state capitols.

FSN is grateful to Doug Farquhar and the NCSL and NEHA staff who’ve worked to make technology work for us!

The following table summarizes bills related to food safety introduced by state legislation in 2023.

Food Safety Topic# of Bills Introduced
Retail food67
Food freedom66
Food safety51
Meat, seafood, or poultry24
Food deserts19
Food safety certification and training15
Mobile food venues14
Nutrition and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)13
Cannabis in food12
Food labeling10
Food donation9
Dairy and raw milk6
Food delivery6
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)6
Manufactured food5
Infant formula1

233 bills related to food safety legislation were introduced during the 2023 legislative sessions, with 63 being enacted, adopted, or passed by the legislature and sent to governors.

Retail Food

A total of 67 bills related to retail food were introduced in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, FloridaGeorgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, TexasVirginiaWashington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

The California legislature was active on retail food safety in 2023. California A 418 prohibited several ingredients used in food processing, including brominated vegetable oil and red dye 3. The food industry lobbied hard against many other ingredients from being included in the list. S 476 requires an employer to consider the time it takes for the employee to complete the training and the examination as compensable hours worked, for which the employer would pay, and to pay the employee for any necessary expenditures or losses associated with obtaining a food handler card.

Florida’s H 1279 benefits farmers in the state by requiring all food commodities purchased by state entities to be grown or produced in the state and state entities to give preference to food commodities grown in the state.

Oregon S 545, Food Establishment Customer-Owned Containers, directs the state health authority to adopt rules allowing consumers to use their own containers for refilling with food at a food establishment. Texas S 577 requires local regulators to submit their food safety requirements to the Department of Health Services if their requirements are more stringent than the state. Washington S 5341, Food & Agricultural Products creates a location-based branding and promotion program for Washington food and agricultural products.

Enacted Bills Include:

California A 418, Food Product Safety

Prohibits a person or entity from manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding, or offering for sale, in commerce, a food product for human consumption that contains any specified substance, including, among others, brominated vegetable oil and red dye 3. Makes a violation of these provisions punishable by a civil penalty not to exceed a specified amount for a first violation and not to exceed a specified amount for each subsequent violation, upon an action brought by the state attorney general.

California S 476, Food Handlers

Under existing law, a food handler card is issued only upon successfully completing a training course and examination that meets certain requirements. It requires an employer to consider the time it takes for the employee to complete the training and the examination as compensable hours worked, for which the employer would pay, and to pay the employee for any necessary expenditures or losses associated with obtaining a food handler card.

California S 725, Grocery Workers

Provides that existing law provides for a transition employment period for eligible grocery workers by requiring a successor grocery employer to hire from a list of eligible grocery workers provided by the incumbent grocery employer. Requires, for a successor grocery employer that, after a change in control, will own, control, or operate a specified number or more of grocery establishments, the successor grocery employer to provide an eligible grocery employee a dislocated grocery worker allowance.

Florida H 1279, Farm TEAM Card

Relates to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; authorizes farmers whose property meets specific requirements to apply to the Department of Revenue for a Florida farm Tax Exempt Agricultural Materials (TEAM) card; requires all food commodities purchased by state entities to be grown or produced in this state under certain circumstances; requires state entities to give preference to certain food commodities; authorizes competitive solicitations for such food commodities to give preference to certain vendors. The bill also requires the department to adopt and implement an exemption, waiver, and variance process by rule for sponsors of certain school food and other nutrition programs.

Florida S 752 permit Temporary Commercial Kitchens

Authorizes the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to adopt operational requirements for temporary commercial kitchens by rule.

Georgia H 475, Code Revision Commission

Corrects errors or omissions in and reenacts the statutory portion of said Code, including food safety.

Illinois H 2086, Food Drug Cosmetic Act

Provides that self-service by consumers is not prohibited if the take-home containers are maintained clean and are not capable of causing disease; provides that a restaurant or retailer may refill a consumer-owned container with ready-to-eat or dry bulk foods.

Michigan H 4377 Tax Use Exemption

Modifies definitions of food sold in an unheated state by weight or volume and food sold with eating utensils.

Michigan H 4378 Sales Use Exemptions

Modifies definitions of food sold in an unheated state by weight or volume and food sold with eating utensils.

Nevada A 40, Inspections of Food Establishments

Authorizes an applicant for a permit to operate a food establishment to provide an electronic mail address to communicate certain notices. Authorizes a health authority to furnish an electronic original of a food inspection report form; authorizes service written notices by a health authority to be provided electronically.

Oregon S 545, Food Establishment Customer-Owned Containers

Directs the state health authority to adopt rules allowing consumers to use their containers for refilling with food at a food establishment.

Texas S 577, Regulation of Food Service Establishments

Requires local governments adopting food safety rules that differ from state law or department rules to submit those rules to the Department of Health Services for approval.

Virginia S 146, Prepared Foods

An establishment that sells only prepared foods does not have to have a certified food protection manager on-site during all hours of operation.

Washington S 5341, Food & Agricultural Products

Creates a location-based branding and promotion program for Washington food and agricultural products.

Food Freedom

A total of 66 bills on food freedom were introduced in the following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, OklahomaOregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, WashingtonWashington, D.C, and Wyoming. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

The bills enacted in Utah and Wyoming look to temper food freedom. These two states have the most liberal policies regarding the sale of unregulated foods, yet these bills provide some restrictions on the practice.

Oklahoma H 1772 exempts Farmer’s Markets from food licensing. Oregon eased sanitation requirements for home-produced foods that are packaged.

Enacted Bills Include:

California A 1325, Microenterprise Home Kitchens

This relates to the California Retail Food Code, which authorizes the governing body of a city, county, or city and county, by ordinance or resolution, to permit microenterprise home kitchen operations (MHKOs) if certain conditions are met. It requires the food preparation to be limited to no more than a specified number of individual meals, or the approximate equivalent of meal components when sold separately, per week. It allows an MHKO to have no more than a specified amount in verifiable gross annual sales

Iowa S 314, Raw Milk

Provides for producing raw milk at certain dairies, manufacturing products using raw milk, and labeling and distributing raw milk and manufactured products.

Montana S 202, State/Local Food Choice Act

Clarifies exemptions for producers of homemade food or homemade food products; revises requirements for farmer’s markets; clarify county commission regulation of farmer’s markets; clarifies definitions; restricts the rulemaking authority of the Department of Public Health and Human Services and local boards of health.

Oklahoma H 1772, Exempts Farmers Markets from Food License

Exempts farmers market vendors from licensing requirements; provides that food establishment licenses shall not be required for farmers at farmers markets selling frozen meat that is kept refrigerated or on ice.

Oregon S 882, Sale of Home Food Processing

Relates to sanitary regulations for food and food establishments; provides exceptions for a food establishment if the foods prepared at the food establishment for public distribution are packaged and not potentially hazardous, and annual gross sales of foods prepared at the food establishment do not exceed a specified amount.

Utah S 151, Home Consumption and Homemade Foods Act

Relates to sanitary regulations for food and food establishments; provides exceptions for a food establishment if the foods prepared are packaged and not potentially hazardous, and annual gross sales of foods prepared at the food establishment do not exceed a specified amount.

Washington H 1500

Increases the cap on gross sales for cottage foods.

Washington, DC B 68, Street Vendor Advancement Act

Creates a permit for microenterprise home kitchen businesses; allows businesses otherwise eligible to be a vendor to apply for a microenterprise home kitchen permit; limits the requirements the Department of Health can impose for a microenterprise home kitchen permit.

Wyoming S 102, Food Freedom Act

Provides that transactions under the Wyoming Food Freedom Act shall be directly between the producer and the informed end consumer, except as otherwise provided by this act; provides that a producer may utilize a designated agent to facilitate a transaction; provides that homemade or uninspected food shall not be served or utilized as an ingredient in a commercial food establishment.

Food Safety

A total of 51 bills related to food safety were introduced in the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, LouisianaMaine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto RicoRhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

Several bills were enacted in 2023 that deal with many facets of food safety, many of which are covered in other parts of this article. California’s A 1627 addresses safe drinking water in the state. Louisiana’s HR 17 requests that the state Department of Education conduct a study and submit a report to the legislature regarding school lunches.

Puerto Rico’s S 343 includes the measurement of food safety in the surveys carried out by the Bureau of Statistics.

Rhode Island’s H 5345 provides that the state consents to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provisions relative to the Preventive Controls for Animal Food Regulations.

Enacted Bills Include:

California A 404, Department of Food & Agriculture Reporting

Requires the Department of Food and Agriculture to evaluate duplicative reporting requirements that affect certified organic operations. 

California A 1627, State Safe Drinking Water Act

Revises the definition of a public water system to apply to a system that regularly serves an average of at least a specified number of individuals daily at least a specified number of days out of the year.

California S 628, Safe Healthy Food Access Policy

  • Declares that it is the state’s established policy that every human has the right to access sufficient, affordable, and healthy food. All state agencies must consider this state policy when revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, and grant criteria when those policies, regulations, and grant criteria are pertinent to distributing sufficient affordable food.

Louisiana HR 17, School & Foods Programs

Requests the state Department of Education conduct a study and submit a report to the legislature relative to school lunches.

Maine H 183, Wild Blueberry Transportation Permits; FSMA

Removes the requirement for wild blueberry transportation permits; states that the Wild Blueberry Commission has determined that theft of wild blueberries from fields is no longer a significant concern because of the food traceability requirements imposed by the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

North Dakota S 2082, Food & Lodging Establishments

Relates to food and lodging establishments and assisted living facilities; defines child care food service establishment, food establishment, lodging establishment, and transient guests.

Puerto Rico S 343, Measurement of Food Safety

Amends Law 15 of 1931, the Organic Law of the Department of Labor and Human Resources, to include the measurement of food safety in the surveys carried out by the Bureau of Statistics.

Rhode Island H 5345, FDA FSMA

Provides that Rhode Island assents to the provisions of the FDA’s FSMA relative to the Preventive Controls for Animal Food Regulations; allows for the electronic submission of reports, registrations, and fees to the Department of Environmental Management from various agencies and/or dealers relative to the distribution of certain products, and would also amend the provision for the importation of psittacine birds; amends the definition of pests for purposes of agriculture.

Meats, Seafood, and Poultry

A total of 24 bills related to meat, seafood, and poultry were introduced in the following states: Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, MontanaNew Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North DakotaTennessee, and Texas. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

Legislation in Louisiana shows the impact imported seafood has on the state’s economy. The state’s desire for more aggressive inspections of imported seafood will curb some of these imports. Texas H 1333 is designed to limit uninspected seafood as well.

Concerns over cell-based meat continue to plague the meat industry, with a bill in Texas (S 664) designed to label such meats as different from traditionally raised meats.

Enacted Bills Include:

Louisiana HCR 88, Inspection and Testing of Imported Seafood

Requests the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fulfill its duties regarding inspection and testing of imported seafood.

Louisiana HCR 105

Expand testing of imported shrimp. Urges and requests State Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand testing of imported shrimp.

Maine H 1131a, Meat & Poultry Processing Education by the University of Maine

Requires the University of Maine to provide education regarding meat and poultry processing; provides that the University provide cooperative extension education regarding meat and poultry processing, including quality control training and hazard analysis critical control point training and plan development for meat and poultry processors.

Tennessee H 394, State Meat & Meat Products Act

Establishes a state meat inspection program; limits application of the present State Meat and Poultry Inspection Act to poultry; hires a state meat inspection program director; authorizes rules to establish standards for poultry and poultry products, and prescribes labeling and advertising standards for poultry and poultry products.

Texas H 1333, Sale & Purchase of Certain Fish

Exempts Texas wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants from finfish import license requirements when selling fish raised by an operator of a Texas commercial aquaculture facility. The legislation would also allow the importation and sale of finfish raised in the exclusive economic zone, eliminate the requirement that imported fish be dead, and remove conflicting or redundant language.

Texas H 3419, Transportation of Horse Meat

Repeals the law restricting the transportation of large quantities of horsemeat between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Texas S 664, Labeling of Analogue & Cell-Cultured Meat

Provides that a cell-cultured product must be labeled in prominent type equal to or greater in size than the surrounding type and close to the name of the product using cell-cultured, lab-grown, or a similar qualifying term or disclaimer intended to communicate to a consumer the contents of this product clearly.

Food Deserts

A total of 19 bills related to food deserts were introduced in the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

Food desert legislation has proliferated in the past 10 years. Before 2010, very few bills addressed food deserts; this year, 19 bills were introduced in 13 states and Washington, D.C. California enacted the Healthy Food Access Policy and declared that every human has a right to sufficient, affordable, and healthy foods.

Illinois enacted the Farm to Food Bank Program, which is designed to acquire and distribute agricultural products from Illinois agricultural entities to the Illinois emergency food system. The law also provides grants to improve the capacity of the emergency food system to allow for the proper transportation, storage, or distribution of agricultural products to underserved areas.

Enacted Bills Include:

California A 853, Retail Grocery Stores and Retail Drug Stores

Prohibits a person from acquiring any voting securities or assets of a retail grocery firm or retail drug firm, as those terms are defined, unless both parties give, or in the case of a tender offer, the acquiring party gives, specified notice to the state attorney general no less than a specified number of days before the acquisition is made effective.

California S 701, Fruit & Vegetable Wholesalers

Authorizes county board of supervisors to set the fee schedule up to a maximum registration fee for fruit and vegetable wholesalers and authorizes the board to require registration and fees.

Illinois H 2879, Farm to Food Bank

Establishes the Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program within the Department of Human Services; provides that the program shall acquire and distribute agricultural products from Illinois agricultural entities or aggregators to the Illinois emergency food system and provide grants to improve the capacity of the emergency food system to allow for the proper transportation, storage, or distribution of agricultural products to underserved areas.

Food Safety Certification and Training

A total of 15 bills about food safety certification and training were introduced in the following states: ArizonaCalifornia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Virginia and West Virginia. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

Several innovative policies on food training and certifications were enacted this year. A bill in Arizona exempts volunteers at a school where food is being handled or served outside of the school’s regular food service from obtaining a food handler certificate or participating in a food handler certificate training course if a certified food protection manager oversees the person. California’s S 476 bill requires an employer to pay an employee for any necessary expenditures or losses from obtaining a food handler card. A bill in Hawaii appropriates funds for establishing a GroupGAP food safety training and certification program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Virginia enacted three bills related in food safety certification. Virginia S 1546 expands the term “restaurant” to adult and child daycare centers and schools.

Enacted Bills Include:

Arizona H 2016, Food Handler Certificates & Training

To food handler certificates; provides that a county may not require a person who volunteers at a school activity or function where food is being handled or served outside of the school’s regular food service to students to obtain a food handler certificate or identification card or participate in a food handler certificate training course if a certified food protection manager oversees the person.

California S 476, Food Handler Cards

Requires an employer to consider the time it takes for the employee to complete the training and the examination as compensable hours worked, for which the employer would pay, and to pay the employee for any necessary expenditures or losses associated with obtaining a food handler card.

Hawaii S 1588, Food Safety Training & Certification

Provides that the U.S. Department of Agriculture created the GroupGAP program in 2015 to assist small farms with attaining good agricultural practices (GAP) certification; appropriates funds for establishing a GroupGAP food safety training and certification program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Virginia H 837, Food and Drink Law

Provides that the commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall issue a permit to any food manufacturer, food storage warehouse, or retail food establishment that, after inspection, is determined to comply with all applicable provisions of this chapter and any regulations adopted thereunder.

Virginia S 146, Prepared Foods

An establishment that sells only prepared foods does not have to have a certified food protection manager on-site during all hours of operation.

Virginia S 1546, Food Establishment Permits

Relates to the Department of Health and restaurants; includes any place or operation that prepares or stores food for distribution to child or adult day care centers or schools, regardless of whether the receiving daycare center or school holds a restaurant license within the definition of a restaurant.

Nutrition and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

A total of 13 bills on nutrition and SNAP were introduced in the following states: California, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

New Jersey was the only state to enact a law (A1715) regarding SNAP, which establishes a standard certification period of not less than a certain number of months within SNAP. It provides that certification periods shall not apply to initial certification periods for expedited benefit issuance if a shorter certification period is necessary to align with the certification period of another program or to ensure the proper issuance of benefits.

New Jersey A1715, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Certification Period

Relates to the State SNAP; provides that the commissioner of Human Services shall establish a standard certification period of not less than a certain number of months within SNAP, with certain exceptions; provides that certification periods shall not apply to initial certification periods for expedited benefit issuance if a shorter certification period is necessary to align with the certification period of another program, or to ensure the proper issuance of benefits.

Cannabis in Food

A total of 13 bills related to cannabis in food were introduced in the following states: California, DelawareFloridaMinnesota, New Jersey and Tennessee. Bolded states indicate where bills have been enacted.

States continue to struggle with cannabis regulation, including cannabis in food, which proves to be a popular and more used approach to ingesting cannabis. 

Enacted Bills Include:

Delaware H 2, Marijuana Control Act

Designed to oversee nonmedical marijuana. Regulates and taxes marijuana for recreational use in much the same manner as alcohol; creates a framework for production, manufacture, and sale in a legal recreational marijuana industry; provides that the offenses and penalties under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act do not apply to marijuana-related conduct allowed under the Delaware Medical Marijuana Control Act or the Delaware Marijuana Control Act.

Florida S 1676, Hemp in Food

Relates to hemp; provides that hemp extract is considered a food that is subject to certain requirements; revises the requirements that hemp extract must meet before being distributed and sold in this state; provides that hemp extract may only be sold to businesses in this state that meet certain permitting requirements; requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt rules.

Minnesota H 100, Office of Cannabis Management

Establishes the Office of Cannabis Management; establishes the Cannabis Advisory Council; legalizes and limits the possession and use of cannabis by adults; provides for the licensing, inspection, and regulation of cannabis businesses and hemp businesses; requires testing of cannabis flower, cannabis products, and hemp products; requires labeling of cannabis flower, cannabis products, and hemp products; limits the advertisement of cannabis flower, cannabis products, hemp products, and hemp businesses product.

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