Tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Bill Marler recently teed off on a Wyoming legislator’s (Sue Wallis (R-Recluse, WY)) sponsorship of a bill that would exempt food producers in Wyoming from licenses, inspections and certifications when selling directly to consumers. Ms. Wallis asserts that Wyoming citizens have "the fundamental right . . . to eat whatever they want to eat." (Incidentally, neither case law or either of the applicable constitutions–Wyoming or US constitution–would support this fundamental right; in fact, it is well within the regulatory powers of both the state and federal government to impose regulatory measures on the sale and consumption of food). And now Ms. Wallis seems to be hearing it from all quarters, including Chuck Jolley, a freelance journalist who writes on a wide variety of agricultural topics, including all things beef.
Chuck’s stance on Sue Wallis’s bill is easy to discern. He writes:
Wallis’ bill would allow all cottage foods, even those that are potentially hazardous, to be sold at farmers markets and roadside stands. No inspections or licensing required. Momma can sell anything she can make in her kitchen to anybody that wants to buy it. So can any idiot. Critics fear an increased risk for foodborne illness outbreaks if House Bill 54 is passed into law.
Food safety experts opposing the bill support inspection and licensing because it allows inspectors to help cottage businesses minimize the risk of distributing foods contaminated with foodborne pathogens, which cause foodborne illness. It also allows them to identify and pinpoint outbreaks.
In other words, if state authorities aren’t aware of a food production facility, even if it is Momma’s kitchen, illness and death can occur and no one will be the wiser. And the inescapable truth is every home kitchen is not as safe and well-run as your Mother’s kitchen. Some, to be painfully blunt, are absolute disasters.
Bottom Line: House Bill 54 is an incredibly bad idea and should be stopped in its tracks. Bill Marler has enough money and he needs to stay out of Wyoming and your Momma’s bank account.
Chuck and Bill. Strange bedfellows? After all, one makes his living writing about agriculture, and beef, and the other makes his living suing beef manufacturers. Maybe not. The better reasoned argument is that both do their jobs, including calling out certain ridiculous, misguided actions of industry and government, that will inevitably lead to bad law, major injuries, and more lawsuits.