Montana Public Radio

Proposed Homemade Foods Bill Makes Health Officers Queasy

Feb 13, 2017

A bill in the Montana Legislature would allow Montanans to sell food out of their own kitchens, either directly to customers, or for community social events, like weddings or potlucks.

Republican Representative Greg Hertz of Polson is carrying House Bill 352, or the "Montana Local Food Choice Act."

"We cook food in our own kitchens every day for our family," says Hertz. "We have our neighbors over. It’s being done; no one’s getting sick."

Matt Kelley, a health officer with the Gallatin City-County Health Department, says the lack of regulation could put Montanans at greater risk for food-borne illness. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services also opposes the bill.

Wyoming passed a similar bill in 2015, called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act.

Last session, the Montana Legislature passed a cottage food law, which allows wider sales of low risk foods like jams and baked goods made in personal kitchens. The hearing for House Bill 352 is Tuesday in the House Agriculture Committee.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.