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Cottage foods bill fails to pass North Dakota House

BISMARCK — Legislation meant to clarify North Dakota's cottage foods law from 2017 died after passionate debate in the House on Thursday, April 18, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The Senate had passed the bill 44-2 that morning but it failed 26-65 in the House that afternoon.

Arguments around personal liberty and food safety returned in a 20-minute floor debate as the bill's conference committee brought amendments that essentially banned low acid canned foods, such as green beans. Lawmakers have expressed concerns for allowing low acid canned items due to health risks, such as botulism. 

"This is a reasonable compromise," said Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, who carried the bill in the Senate. 

Cottage food producers clashed with the state Department of Health over a rule-making process on the 2017 law that expanded direct-to-consumer sales of mostly home baked and canned items. No rules came, and Sen. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden, brought the bill to clarify intent and definitions in statute.

Rep. Daniel Johnston, R-Kathryn, pointed to the Department of Health seeking to "undermine legislative intent" and limit North Dakota's "food freedom."

Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, carried the bill in the house, expressing support for cottage foods but calling concerns over the risk of botulism "a stopping point."