NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 29, 2022) – Yesterday, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill that will increase food freedom in the state and undermine some federal food regulations.
Sen. Frank Nicely (R) introduced Senate Bill 693 (SB693) on Feb. 9. Rep. Justin Lafferty (R) filed the companion (HB813) in the House. Titled the “Tennessee Food Freedom Act,” the legislation would exempt the production and sale of homemade food items from all state licensing, permitting, inspecting, packaging, and labeling laws as long as the producer meets certain conditions. Homemade food items are defined as “a food item, including a non-alcoholic beverage, which is produced and, if packaged, packaged at the private residence of the producer.”
The House passed SB693 with some minor amendments by an 82-3 vote. The Senate gave final approval to the bill by a 32-0 vote. The bill will now go to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his consideration.
According to the legislative findings in the bill, “There is great interest in small-scale, home-based food businesses in this State; however, current law restricts entrepreneurs’ ability to establish and grow such businesses.”
The enactment of SB693 would ease those regulations and allow the market for homemade food products to flourish. Food freedom has flourished in states that have enacted similar laws with no reported increase in foodborne illness.
The law could also undermine some FDA regulations.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL REGULATION
While state law does not bind the FDA, the enactment of SB693 would create an environment more hostile to federal food regulation in Tennessee. And because the state would not enforce regulations on home-based food producers, that means it would not likely enforce FDA mandates either. Should the feds want to enforce food laws on these small producers in Tennessee, it will have to do so by itself.
As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway. The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive food laws will likely have a similar impact on FDA regulation. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce their will within the state.
Constitutionally, food safety falls within the powers reserved to the states and the people. The feds have no authority to enforce food safety laws within the border of a state. Nevertheless, federal agencies still want more control over America’s food supply, and they go to great lengths to get it.
For example, the FDA actively bans the interstate sale of raw milk. But, not only do they ban the transportation of raw milk across state lines, they also claim the authority to ban unpasteurized milk within the borders of a state.
“It is within HHS’s authority…to institute an intrastate ban [on unpasteurized milk] as well,” FDA officials wrote in response to a Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund lawsuit against the agency over the interstate ban. The FDA ultimately wants to maintain the complete prohibition of raw milk across the United States.
However, federal ambitions go far beyond controlling your access to raw milk. In fact, the FDA wants to enforce universal, one-size-fits-all control over everything you eat and drink.
The “Tennessee Food Freedom Act” takes an important first step for food freedom. It decentralizes the system down to the local level and recognizes the fact the one-size-fits-all regulation enforced from the top down by Nashville or Washington D.C. is not necessary for, and it sets the stage to nullify in effect FDA schemes to control the food supply.
Gov. Lee will have 10 days (excluding Sunday) from the date SB693 is sent to his office to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.
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