After the first week of the year, it appears few state legislatures plan
on tackling potential bills dealing with the issue of food safety. According
to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), laws linked to
food safety are not a "hot issue" for state lawmakers this year.
With most states boasting the best financial conditions since the economic
downturn of 2008 in the new year, it may mean that health departments
across the country receive much needed funding again. With increased resources
for inspecting restaurants, grocery stores, and other entities, it could
greatly improve the nation's food service industry.
Furthermore, 2015 should have fewer obstacles for those wanting to push
new legislation through. On the federal and state level, the GOP took
control of law-making bodies across the country. In around 30 of the nation's
states, Republicans gained control of both chambers last November. Of
the nation's 7,383 combined legislative seats, Republicans obtained
roughly 4,100 of them and also control the governor's office in 33 states.
What about food safety laws?
The few indications of state movement on food issues so far seem to be
primarily focused on so-called cottage food industries. These are certain
foods made in private homes and sold to the public. This is the same trend
that was around when Republicans last had control of state legislatures
in 2010. During that time, roughly two dozen states passed cottage food
laws. These bills made most kitchens exempt from having to obtain licenses
or having inspections made by state or federal food safety agents.
Related bills involve pushes to sell raw milk in grocery stores. As of
now, raw milk is banned in stores in 12 states and only legal in 10. 28
states allow for raw milk to be sold on the farm or via herd-share agreements.
The interstate sale and transportation of raw milk is prohibited by the
Food and Drug Administration.
Wisconsin may look to move forward with raw milk legislation as it did
in 2010. After a bill was passed lifting the ban on unpasteurized milk,
the then-governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, vetoed it.
While states like Wisconsin look to begin the legislative year this week,
it does not seem that there is much concern over food safety, though there
is still plenty of time for legislation changes.