Local Food Ordinances: Fair to all?

  • What should the role of the Federal, state and local governments be in regulating food safety?
  • Should local jurisdictions be able to supercede Federal or state regulation?
  • To what degree does relaxing the rules for small farmers’ local sales put food safety at risk?
  • How will the general population “know” whether less-regulated local products are safe until there is an issue?
  • Assuming support for local farmers is a key objective, are such ordinances fair to those farmers who follow the rules?
  • Does this issue cut across traditional ideological lines, aligning “conservative libertarians” with “organic liberals?”

7 thoughts on “Local Food Ordinances: Fair to all?”

  1. Scott, et. al.

    This food issue has come to the fore here in Brooklin recently. You have probably heard that a local family had their child temporarily removed from their home by the DHS for feeding him a goat’s milk baby formula. This child has since been returned to his family, but the issue has gone somewhat viral, drawing national attention. An event is scheduled in Bangor for this Thursday in support of this cause. My understanding is that there is talk of trying to pass some kind of a food freedom ordinance here in Brooklin. I would like to learn more about this subject and would be interested in seeing the topic come up in our discussion group. I am also giving some thought to trying to put a discussion together here in Brooklin associated with the forum “Let’s Discuss It” that I have been developing.

  2. I don’t think a Blue Hill-style “local food ordinance” would have covered the situation you describe (and which I’ve been following in the local newspapers). The local food ordinance seems to be based on the notion that we should support local food providers by allowing relaxed regulatory burdens for them (under the theory, I think, that local providers don’t have the anonymity of national players and mega-farms, so they have a strong disincentive to provide anything unsafe, so we should relax the regulatory oversight to make their businesses more profitable).

    The issue you cite seems to me to be more of a question of how much latitude parents and families should be given in raising their children…and when does an unusual practice become “abuse” (or whatever label the DHS prefers).

    Personally, I’m skeptical of the local food ordinance movement (for lots of reasons I’d be happy to discuss online or in person at one of our weekly meetings), but supportive of the Brooklin mother (to the extent of what’s been covered in the press).

    Does “Let’s Discuss It” have a substantially different agenda than Beyond Labels?

  3. Scott

    I don’t know much about the food related issues in Blue Hill and I am sketchy on what is coming to the surface here in Brooklin. My understanding with regard to the latter, though, is that the food freedom issue goes beyond the freedom for a family to use goat’s milk formula for an infant. It has something to do with people being able to sell baked goods to friends and neighbors without any kind of regulatory approval. My understanding at this point is limited to a less than 5 minute discussion that I had with someone today.

    The agenda of “Let’s Discuss It” is essentially the same as “Beyond Labels.” I think the primary difference is that the participants here involve more local people, many of whom have not participated in this kind of forum in the past. In other words, they have less experience with the process than the “Beyond Labels” group. We also do not have a regular schedule at this point. So far there has been only one meeting on the subject “Guns: Freedom and Responsibility.” A second meeting on this subject is planned for next Sunday afternoon. I have put together a very basic web site at http://www.letsdiscussit.org and there is access there to a Word Press site, similar to (but not as well developed) as the Beyond Labels site.

  4. When I read in the local paper that the DHS had taken a child from his parents seemingly simply because they were feeding him goat’s milk formula, I was amazed and appalled. Cleanly handled goat’s milk offers really good nutrition. I would like to know more details of this story–especially why the DHS felt this infant was in need of “rescue.” On the surface, it seems that the state government was hugely over-reaching in this case.

    This is definitely not the first DHS v. parent conflict I’ve read about. But have there been other cases in which the state agency decided that a healthy child’s well-formulated diet could be considered abusive? Was this family being singled out for reasons that remain unclear or untold? Taking a well and well-supported child away from his parents seems horribly invasive.

    Is there a link between what happened to this family and the local food ordinance movement? Or do we have two separate topics here?

    On the food-ordinance topic, I, like Scott, am rather skeptical. There is likely no major problem in selling uninspected baked goods. However, when the product for sale is in other areas of the food market, the issue grows more complicated.

    1. Mike

      Here is a link to an article in the Packet that provides a good account of what happened:
      http://weeklypacket.com/news/2013/aug/15/feeding-goat-milk-to-infant-lands-brooklin-woman-i/#.UiUpcMXD9Ag.

      Any connection between this and a Food Ordinance is probably peripheral. I don’t think there is much demand for goat milk baby formula here in town. It is more likely that this incident has simply added fuel to a fire that was already burning (or at least smoldering). I am interested in learning more about Local Food Ordinances issue in Blue Hill, as I suspect they are related. Perhaps Scott has a link to some past articles.

  5. Many thanks for posting the link to the Packet article. I remain appalled and mystified at the treatment of this young couple.

    I wish I could give you information on Blue Hill’s position on the Food Ordinance. I had mistakenly assumed that Blue Hill’s focus was the same as Brooklin’s. Tomorrow, I’ll look around a bit.

  6. http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/04/news/hancock/blue-hill-raw-milk-ruling-could-be-crushing-blow-for-local-food-sovereignty-movement/?ref=search

    Here is an article about “food sovereignty” specific to Blue Hill. It seems that the focus of state control is on milk, rather than vegetables or baked goods.

    Perhaps, the controversy over pasteurization of cow’s milk for sale was indirectly background to the goat’s-milk-formula issue. I don’t know.

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