Flagged Bill: HB 144 – Food Freedom Act – Rep. Marc Roberts

Representative Marc Roberts (Republican - Santaquin)
Representative Marc Roberts (Republican – Santaquin)

If there is one thing lawmakers hate, it is regulations. “Let the free market do its thing and let the chips fall where they may” is a common mantra oozing out of the halls of the Capitol. Heck, lawmakers hate regulations so much they will actively push to overturn regulations that make complete and rational sense when you step back for an iota of a second.

With that in mind, we turn to HB 144 – Food Freedom Act  from Representative Marc Roberts (Republican – Santaquinn).

[pullquote]Don’t be fooled by the title, HB 144 poses a real threat to the health and safety to the citizens of Utah.[/pullquote]”Food Freedom Act?! How could anyone think this is a bad thing? Surely people should be able to eat?!” you are probably saying to yourself right now. Well, stop right there, because the reality is a bill was “Foodborne Illness Promotion Act” is not going to be as easy to sell to the public.

HB 144 would allow a food producer to sell directly to an individual food or food products to a residential customer without any interference from state or local government messing up the works with pesky things like food inspections. The end consumer of the food has to know that they are eating raw food, and the food producer still needs to meet safety protocol if they do happen to sell for commercial purposes. Finally, mercifully, this rule wouldn’t apply to meat, which would still have to go through inspections.

But yes, if HB 144 were to pass the state would knowingly allow uninspected food to enter the food chain…because…freedom.

Roberts would no doubt argue that if the end user is aware of the risk, it is their risk to take; that government regulation is terrible; and that it isn’t in the best interest of food producers to put out a bad product. He might also fairly argue that food born illnesses currently happen despite regulation.

But one wonders why Roberts is so willing to take the risk of making disease easier to spread.  Though one would hope that a knowledgeable end user of uninspected raw food will be responsible and not cross-contaminate other foods, the 5,000 people who die and 325,000 people who end up in the hospital every year nationally from food poising suggests that people screw up enough when protections are in place.

E. coli doesn’t know the difference between a knowledgeable end user and a person who, somehow, gets a hold of raw food through any one of a thousand ways. However, we do know that creating opportunities for the disease to spread can create a costly and deadly public health problem.

There is no discernable reason as to why this law is needed other than some vague feeling that there is too much regulation on this big, blue ball. The reality, however, is that people will get sick and they will die if we knowingly and willingly allow people to receive uninspected food. HB 144 creates an unnecessary health risk that a first world economy shouldn’t allow out of a perverted understanding of a political philosophy.

To contact Representative Roberts, click here or call 801-210-0155 (Cell).

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade F

8 Replies to “Flagged Bill: HB 144 – Food Freedom Act – Rep. Marc Roberts

  1. This is terribly wrong headed. Raising imaginary risks of e coli is either dishonest or uninformed.

    Where have the big e coli infections come from? Big Agriculture! Pastured chicken and turkey are far more healthy. Show me one instance where someone got sick from eating pastured turkey or chicken?

    Do you even know anything about community supported agriculture?

    What you are really doing is supporting fake capitalism, crony capitalism, and promoting a big brother mentality where the government always knows better. This ignores the history of wealth and poverty creation. Wealth comes from more options in the marketplace, that is, free capitalism. Small businesses are being crushed by your big government philosophy.

    Shame on you.

  2. Curtis Haring is ill informed about the Food Freedom Act and about the relative safety of sustainable farming and factory farming methods. First, he should be aware that all federal regulations applicable to food production remain in effect; only additional state regulations would be lifted. So there would still be safety regulations in place if the Food Freedom Act is passed. Secondly, I agree that regulations are needed to ensure the safety of foods produced and marketed through conventional channels, because in that scenario a consumer has no ability to verify the safety measures taken in production, processing, and transportation of food. In the context of a direct sale from a producer to a consumer, however, the consumer has the ability to see the methods used for him or herself. The state’s efforts to make it financially impossible for small producers to sell their products have nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with protecting large factory farms from competition. The Food Freedom Act should become law.

  3. I would like someone to clarify exactly which current state food safety inspections laws would go away if this bill is passed. And don’t just say all of them. What are the currently laws that small producers are so concerned with??

  4. You can read the bill here: http://le.utah.gov/~2016/bills/hbillint/HB0144.pdf and by clicking on the link in this article written by someone who has only done half or less of the research he needed to do before publishing this piece. After you read the bill you will see that the Utah Department of Ag would no longer have jurisdiction over direct to consumer transactions of all food products except those that have been specifically excluded in the bill. They would still have jurisdiction over all other transactions as they do now.

    This bill is not about small producers concerns. It is about local consumers concern with our ability to buy local healthy food from a farmer/producer without the government sticking its nose in where it is not needed. Current laws are preventing hundreds and thousands of needed Utah farmers and producers from starting small businesses and increasing Utahns access to local healthy food.

    As has already been mentioned the food born illness argument is a shallow fear based deception used to distract from our larger health risks (including significantly more serious diseases, and not just food born illness, ie Heart Disease, Cancer, High Blood Pressure etc) as food eaters, primarily caused by complex industrial commodity food production. The groups using this argument are wanting the continued government protected market share and profits they have enjoyed for decades now.

    Curtis, I am not telling you that you can’t eat that exponentially more unsafe industrial food. Why do you think you should be able to tell me that I can’t eat local much healthier unregulated food if I choose to?

  5. Absolute and utter nonsense! We passed this bill in Wyoming last year and there has not been a single case of food borne illness because of it. NOT ONE. On the other hand, I no longer have to travel to N Dakota to work, I stay home and milk my cows and raise my chickens and sell my products to my neighbors.

  6. I understand that the law right now may be a little much. But this bill they are trying to pass will completely deregulate all food. We need to protect ourselfs from foodborn illnesses and keep food safety our highest priority. Sign a petition to stop this bill at:
    https://www.change.org/p/mike-conaway-stop-hb-144-food-freedom-act?recruiter=479880234&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_term=mob-xs-share_petition-custom_msg

  7. This article is a poorly researched piece of big business propaganda and fearmongering.

    It saddens me that the moneyed classes will win just because they paid some dudes to instill fear in the masses.

  8. There are a couple of things that have not been mentioned:
    1. The USDA and FDA have laws in place that protect food quality. The Food Freedom advocates are only asking that regulations which are more stringent than these be overturned.
    2. Many people are finding that our food system, as it stands, is not working for them, and does not address the rampant chronic disease that has come about through our current methodologies. There is need for change. We are so concerned about pathogens that we sterilize everything, damaging even the positive and beneficial flora that builds through more regenerative agricultural and food production processes. These issues are not being considered or discussed.

    The Food Freedom act may need some tweaking but the need for it is not going away. If our legislators are really concerned about health, they need to dig into why so many people are suffering from “legal” food issues.

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