For several years, Representative Marc Roberts has been attempting to persuade his legislative colleagues to allow for “food freedom”—the ability to buy and sell directly between food producers and consumers without heavy regulation.
Three years ago, we outlined some of the compelling reasons why this approach was necessary in a public policy brief titled “Farms, Food, and Freedom: Informed Consumerism in Utah.”
This year, Rep. Roberts sponsored HB 181, the Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act. The bill states that food producers are “exempt from state, county, or city licensing, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, and labeling requirements” if their food is:
- produced and sold only within Utah (to avoid interstate commerce issues);
- sold directly to the consumer—and not to a store or restaurant;
- only for home consumption;
- free from raw dairy products; and
- properly labeled to indicate that the food has not been inspected and cannot be resold.
Regulation only has justification to protect ignorant third parties. For example, if somebody at a store wishes to purchase a food item they cannot inspect the farm, the kitchen, or the processes used to prepare it. But if the consumer can directly know these things, or waive their ignorance by consenting to purchasing something that is declared to not be inspected, then regulation has no justification.
It’s for that reason that this bill is so important. But it barely survived its first committee hearing; the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee passed the bill out on a split 6-5 vote, barely allowing an opportunity for the rest of the legislature to consider it.
From there, the House voted on the bill 64-7 and then it was supported by the Senate unanimously. Now having been signed into law, the bill takes effect in May. With the new law in place, Utah is among only a very small handful of states that reduce the regulatory burden on food producers who wish to sell directly to their consenting customers.