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Health Officials Feel Queasy About Bill [AUDIO]

Chris McGrath, Getty Images
Chris McGrath, Getty Images

Health officials are concerned with a bill moving through the Wyoming Legislature. House Bill 8, which passed in the House Monday (yesterday) and now moves to the Senate, would remove all regulatory oversight of food preparation by non-profits.

No regulatory oversight:

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“The stated intent would be to allow and exempt any non-profit entity to obtain foods for their event from any source. It would prevent any level of government, from the state down to the local, from enacting or enforcing any kind of licensing or inspection or regulation of any kind of food event that’s being organized by a non-profit group.”

Robert Harrington, director of the Casper\Natrona County Health Department, explains the cause for alarm.

Community events source:

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“This greatly increases the risks that there will be mishandling at some step along the way, and if you combine the removal of regulatory oversight that’s in House Bill 8 with the epidemiology evidence that shows that it is precisely these kinds of community events that are very frequently identified as the source of moderate to major disease outbreaks. We are concerned that we are going to see some disease outbreaks as a direct result of this bill.”

When asked about the claim made by bill co-sponsor Rep. Sue Wallis that such occasions where food is served should be free of onerous governmental regulation, Mr. Harrington was not swayed.

Unconvincing argument:

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“I find it an interesting coincidence that Rep. Wallis’ bill has died again for a fourth consecutive time, but HB 8, the Traditional Foods Bill, contains a lot of language that’s identical to what was in Rep. Wallis’ bill, and it kind of makes me wonder if there wasn’t some idea that, well, if we can’t get one through, we’ll try to get another.”

Harrington also noted some examples of the persuasive spin being used about the bill, such as it would exempt bake sales from regulation. Bake sales, said Harrington, have never been regulated.

Misrepresentations of bill:

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“That leads to another misrepresentation in HB 8; it specifically exempts items such as weddings, funerals, branding parties and family gatherings. These are private events and would not come under current regulation, but it’s being misrepresented as if they are under current regulation.”

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