Montana’s First Judicial District Court is being asked to review the state Legislature’s “Food Freedom” bills enacted in 2021 and 2023. The legislation is known as the “Montana Local Food Choice Act.”
The legal action challenging the law was brought by Helena, MT, resident Jeffrey P. Havens, who, from 2012 to 2022, was Montana’s commercial food safety officer. He is currently a state-licensed biology science teacher
Havens has filed a 429-page pro se lawsuit, naming Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and the state’s other top officials as defendants.
The Havens complaint claims the Montana Local Food Choice Act violates the Montana Constitution in at least three separate Articles because the Act fails to uphold:
EQUAL PROTECTION — the Act negligently focuses on food product transactions and food producers, not superseding consumer protections and rights, which results in consumers being “denied the equal protection of the laws,” required in the Montana Constitution, Mont. Const. art. II, §4, despite the vague and ambiguous “informed end consumer” provision;
SEPARATE SUBJECTS — the Act failed to separate the actual and real subjects of this deceptive law, which are local intrastate commerce from nonlocal interstate commerce, in which the Montana Constitution requires each “bill … shall contain only one subject, clearly expressed in its title. If any subject is embraced in any act and is not expressed in the title, only so much of the act not so expressed is void,” Mont. Const. art. V, § 11 (3). Reasonable persons understand that there is nothing “local” about nonlocal and international food ingredients that have already been subject to interstate commerce and
LOCAL GOVERNMENT POWERS — the Act denies local government powers from being exercised on behalf of the prevailing and superseding rights and protections for consumers entitled to unadulterated commercial “homemade” food that meets reasonable safety standards. The reasonable safety standards in this circumstance for homemade food were codified in 2015 under Montana’s cottage food allowance in § 50-50-101 et seq., MCA, and further clarified in 37.110.501 et seq., Administrative Rules Montana (ARM).
The Havens complaint further charges that: “This newly updated Act unconstitutionally dismisses any prevailing and superseding rights and protections of consumers to reasonable expectations of being provided unadulterated commercial food while simultaneously hoodwinking “home-based producers” into using the deceptive law into manufacturing food products that have likely already been subject to interstate and international commerce regulations through its allowance of both interstate and international ingredients, and denial of local authorities from exercising their consumer protections through abusive preemption by the state legislature.
The state act further removed “local from any meaningful application in this Act by prohibiting operators of local farmer’s markets and local county boards from establishing their own local rules to defend the prevailing and superseding rights and protections of consumers from very preventable sources of a future botulinum toxin outbreak, which are often fatal to humans.”
Havens charges that Food Freedom sponsor Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, and Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte have willfully and negligently disregarded sound public health warnings, especially for homemade high-risk canned foods.
“The deceptive Act already has at least one known outbreak attributed to it in which five human illness cases consumed ‘raw milk’ adulterated with the pathogen Campylobacter jejuni in November 2021, during which plaintiff led the onsite investigation team and authored the final report for the Montana Department of Public Health Human Services (DPHHS),” Havens wrote.
He added:” Confirmation of the pathogen source was obtained through laboratory analysis of a bovine cow rectal swab. Therefore, with understandable reason, plaintiff makes this complaint for his professional duty and obligation and in the interest of all consumers. The plaintiff has an ethical duty in good conscience to file this complaint in retention of national Registered Environmental Health Specialist certification.”
The plaintiff also suffered retributive suspension from his DPHHS job without pay in November 2022. He was coerced into finding other employment for disclosing and reporting this MLFCA legislative abuse to his superiors. . . establishing standing with this court.
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