Proposed food safety rule changes cause confusion for Wyoming citizensWritten by Saige Albert
Late in April, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) announced proposed changes to the state’s food safety rules, some of which have met with opposition.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about these rules,” says WDA Director Jason Fearneyhough. “We want to make sure that people have the right information.”
Fearneyhough explains that every few years, the WDA goes through a rule changing process to amend and update food safety rules. Changes this year have been made to chapters one through 12, 14 and 15.
“Chapters one through 12 are amended in response to revisions to the Food & Drug Administration 2009 Food Code which provides the latest scientific information on food safety,” says the Department. “The revisions in Chapter 14 reflect additional changes in areas of the Code of Federal Regulations regarding food safety. Chapter 15 is added in response to small egg producers desiring to sell their eggs to licensed and inspected food establishments.”
Amendments to raw milk consumption and sales of leafy greens and egg rules have caused concern.
“It has not been legal to sell shares in a milk cow in Wyoming for decades,” says Fearneyhough of raw milk rules. “We have not changed any rule to allow for that. It also isn’t legal to sell raw milk.”
However, he notes that they sought to clarify rules regarding serving raw milk.
“The rule clearly didn’t allow for that to happen in certain instances,” Fearneyhough mentions. “We want to make sure that in the proposed rule, you will be able to provide the milk from your own cow to your family, non-paying guests and employees of your farm or ranch.”
Those operations selling greens cut into small pieces would be subject to inspection. The definition of cut leafy greens does not apply to greens that are cut from the field and sold.
“Greens cut from the field are a raw agricultural commodity which means any food in its raw or natural state by definition in the Wyoming Food, Drug and Cosmetic Safety Act,” explains Linda Stratton, the assistant manager in consumer health services for the state. “These products do not apply as a cut leafy green.”
“Once you start handling the product, there is more potential for it to be contaminated,” says Stratton. “Cut, leafy greens are potentially hazardous.”
Rules concerning the sale of eggs were identified as a point of concern for people fearing they would be unable to sell their product without inspection.
However, these rules apply to producers wishing to sell their products in licensed and inspected food establishments, and Fearneyhough adds, “We built our rules to reflect federal rules.”
“Restaurants have to have eggs from an approved source, so the rules were driven by the producers requesting to have the opportunity to sell to licensed establishments,” she says. “These changes were poultry industry driven.”
Producers wishing to sell ungraded eggs still have the ability to do so.
An overview of the rules was provided to the Joint Ag committee in early May, and the proper notices were issued concerning the comment period.
The comment period will be extended 30 days, and public meetings will be held regarding the proposed changes. Information about the upcoming public meetings will be announced at a later date.