New Report Documents the Attack on Food Freedom

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 19, 2014

Arlington, Va.—Imagine your family and employees terrorized while armed FDA agents trashed your business because you sold raw—or unpasteurized— milk. Or your raisin crop — worth half a million dollars— seized without a single dollar compensated. A new report released today from Keep Food Legal Executive Director Baylen Linnekin and the Institute for Justice shows how food producers across the U.S. are increasingly dealing with government officials who want to tell them what they grow, raise, sell and eat.

The Attack on Food Freedom outlines case after case of local, state and federal officials cracking down on farmers, chefs, grocers and other artisans. In Utah, restaurants have to erect a literal wall between customers and bartenders. Houston prohibits residents from sharing food with the poor. From bans on front yard vegetable gardens to bans on subjectively large sodas, food freedom is under attack.

According to Linnekin, “food freedom” is the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink the foods you want. But government officials frequently pass laws that undermine the right of food entrepreneurs to earn an honest living. The report finds that overzealous food safety regulations, bureaucratic hoops and the “new” public health threaten the livelihood of small business owners nationwide.

“This report demonstrates that food freedom is a vitally important part of America’s history and that we’ve moved away from respecting that right,” said Linnekin. “I hope this report will spur legislators, regulators and courts at all levels of government and people from all political, ideological and dietary perspectives to recognize the importance of food freedom.”

The report is part of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which fights laws that interfere with the ability of Americans to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice. Currently, IJ is challenging Miami Shores, Fla.’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens and Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers. IJ recently won a challenge to Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw milk when the state agreed to stop enforcing the ban. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“These laws pose a serious threat to the economic liberty of food entrepreneurs,” said Michael Bindas, senior attorney at IJ and director of the initiative. “Small-scale food producers are tired of the government dictating what foods they can grow, sell and eat. IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative seeks to end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices.”

The report is co-written by Michael Bachmann, and is the first in a new IJ series, Perspectives on Economic Liberty. IJ is a public interest law firm dedicated to fighting for the economic liberty of entrepreneurs nationwide.