[montanafood_ag] Updates from the Food Safety front-- Bozeman meeting THIS THURSDAY

Stephanie Potts stephaniep at ncat.org
Tue Jan 14 10:28:20 MST 2014


First of all, thank you to everyone who showed up to the Missoula Food Safety public meeting last Thursday! It was a great meeting, with a number of opinions and ideas represented. We heard from people confused or frustrated by the current regulations, and some great suggestions for making them better. 

But, they need to hear from more of you! There will be two more meetings, in Bozeman and Billings. The Bozeman meeting is this Thursday, and the Billings meeting is next Tuesday —Can you be there? Your ideas and experiences are key to fixing Montana’s food laws! 

The meeting was friendly and informal; there were brief comments from the Department of Agriculture, and introductions from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Livestock. Then, the floor was open for comments from the public. Later, the folks running the meeting asked some additional questions to get clarification, and more opinions from those in attendance. Overall, it was a really welcoming and encouraging environment, and a fun public meeting to be a part of! 

But they need to hear from more of you-- We need your voice! Join us at a meeting or submit written comments by February 7 th to Cojensen at mt.gov ! The departments are seeking comments on any and all state food regulations, and they are most interested in hearing concrete experiences and suggestions (the more detail, the better!) 

Bozeman Public Meeting 
Monday , January 13th, 2014 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 
Bozeman Public Library Large Meeting Room, 626 E Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715 

Billings Public Meeting 
Tuesday , January 21st, 2014 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 
Yellowstone County Courthouse Room 105, 217 N. 27th St., Billings, MT 59101 

Written comments will be accepted through February 7 , 2014, and should be sent to Cort Jensen at cojensen at mt.gov . 

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to let me know. (Also, below my signature I’ve summarized some of the points that came up at the Missoula meeting, in case anyone is interested in learning more about what came up—and adding your own thoughts to the mix!) 

Thank you for speaking up to fix our food safety laws, 


Here is a summary of my notes from the Missoula meeting: 

According to the Departments, the process, mandated by HB 630, represents a commitment to updating and making food laws better in the state. 

They are interested in knowing: 

What is working? 

What is not working? 

What changes would you like to see? 

Some of the subjects that were discussed included: 

    * The hope that new rules and laws will result in safe food, while also providing economic opportunity for small food businesses in the state 
    * A disconnect between regulations, and the need to ensure that they recognize the overwhelming desire in the community to support local foods. 
    * Streamlining laws, standardizing rules and their implementation 
    * The importance of ensuring that our food safety laws recognize “when people are trying to do good,” and allow for innovations like local food use and systems like aquaponics and fermentation 
    * Implementing a clear, understandable, and feasible process so that small poultry producers can process and sell their product under the federal 1000-bird exemption 
    * The need for understandable guides to help people understand the regulations 
    * The need to streamline enforcement across counties 
    * The importance of due process when people are denied a permit- they should be able to get something in writing that tells them what they did wrong, how they can correct it, and how they can appeal. 
    * Different standards for farmers markets across the state, and the need for clear, predictable rules about what producers can sell. 
    * The need to address the desire for raw milk in the state through a scientific-based, safe law that is also fair to current producers. 
    * The need to support and promote small food businesses. This might be accomplished through a cottage food law, but some expressed concern about the impact that a cottage food law would have on existing businesses and/or county health inspection budgets. 
    * There was also talk of changing or updating the farmers market exemption (for low-risk baked goods and jams) to reflect and be streamlined with any new cottage food law that might be adopted. 
    * The people running the meeting seemed particularly interested in the following aspects of a cottage food law: what foods would be included? Up to what dollar value? What kind of inspections or labeling should take place? (For more information on cottage food laws, see here: http://cottagefoods.org/laws/) 
    * We also heard from sanitarians and other officials about some of the things that they are already doing to help local producers. For instance, many are flexible about commercial kitchen requirements, depending on the scope of what someone wants to produce. They encouraged local producers to contact and work with their local sanitarian to work through problems and issues. Missoula county also said they are in the process of producing guidance documents for people in their county. 
    * Some said that facilities for commercial kitchens were widely available, while others (mostly producers) said that they were difficult to access and afford. 
    * Problems with temporary food establishment licenses, which one former caterer said were a huge expense to his businesses, and should be more streamlined across the state. 

Do you have thoughts on any of these issues? Do you think something was left out? Do you have any experiences or ideas to share about how food is regulated in the state? If so, please attend a meeting and/or submit a written comment! This is the best opportunity to improve food regulations that we’ve had in YEARS—don’t miss out on your chance to participate! 

Thank you again, everyone! 

Stephanie Laporte Potts 
National Center for Appropriate Technology 
Grow Montana Coordinator 
stephaniep at ncat.org 

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