Clean Kathy Posner

Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria) is the chief sponsor of Illinois Senate Bill 137, aka the Cottage Food Bill. The bill looks to amend the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act to change some of the food sanitation laws in Illinois. The mere thought of it is making me sick!

The synopsis of the bill as introduced is:

“Amends the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act. Sets forth definitions for "cottage food operation" and "non-potentially hazardous food". Provides that notwithstanding any other provision of law, neither the Department of Public Health nor the Department of Agriculture nor the health department of a unit of local government may regulate the service of food by a cottage food operation providing that certain conditions are met. Amends the Sanitary Food Preparation Act to make a corresponding change.”

According to definitions in the full bill, “ ‘Cottage food operation’ means a person who produces or packages non-potentially hazardous food in a kitchen of that person's primary domestic residence. ‘Non-potentially hazardous food’ means a food that is not potentially hazardous food as that term is defined in the Federal Food and Drug Administration Food Code (FDA 1999, Pt 1-201.10(B)(61)), which includes, but is not limited to baked goods, jams, jellies, fruit butters, candy, granola, granola bars, vinegar, dried herbs, and dry seasoning blends.”

The Chicago Tribune reported that Koehler said, "We looked at legislation from other states, in particular, Minnesota, where they have, in a sense, deregulated some of the requirements that small vendors have to go through to be able to make their jams and jellies and baked goods … for farmers markets sales."

How did the Illinois Department of Public Health react? "We are very concerned," said Sean McDermott, director of policy development at the Cook County Department of Public Health. In the Tribune story he pointed out that “allowing people to prepare food in an unregulated environment could lead to an increase in food borne-illness outbreaks. For instance, he said, parents and pet owners might contaminate food if they don't wash their hands after changing diapers or cleaning up after their pets.”

Pardon me while I retch.

Current state laws require kitchens that produce food for sale have a three-compartment metal sink to wash, rinse and sanitize dishes. The floor must have a drain and carpeting is not allowed. There are also various regulations on lighting, plumbing and ventilation. I understand that outfitting a home kitchen to those specifications would be expensive, but if you want to produce food for sale from your residence, you need to comply with the law. Don’t change an important health law just to make it cheaper for a home-based business to operate. Not when sanitation is involved!

My track record lobbying for or against proposed bills has not been stellar, but I urge all Illinois citizens to tell their legislators to vote against Bill SB 137. Do it 1, 2, 3 before you join me at the vomitorium.

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