BY LELA NARGI
Food Policy, Food Safety, Local Eats
Last month, Maine’s Governor Paul LePage signed into law a bill that gives municipalities the power to regulate direct farm-to-consumer sales within their own borders. It’s the third so-called “food freedom” bill—also often called “food sovereignty” bills—to successfully make its way into state law in the U.S.: the first one was signed in Wyoming in 2015, and the second in North Dakota this past April. A wide range of regulations can fall under the term food freedom, including cottage food laws that allow home cooks to sell their products to the public or donate rescued food without fear of liability. But food freedom proponents are hailing Maine’s new law as a groundbreaking win, and one they hope is emblematic of the future success of their movement.
The new Maine law is the first to allow municipalities to enforce their own food regulations. In each town or city that passes an ordinance, farmers can now sell their products directly to consumers. But, by potentially bypassing state and federal licensing and inspections that pertain to foods like raw milk, some food safety experts are concerned that the new law may sidestep important food safety precautions.