New Food Laws For the New Year

While you spent the final minutes of 2013 popping champagne and scarfing down heaping helpings of whatever it is you're going to try to give up in 2014, a whole slew of legislation underwent the transformation from signed bill into actually enforceable by law. (If you happened to head to the grocery store without your reusable bags on January 1, you no doubt felt the harsh reality that comes with a new year of laws.)

Now that we're in the thick of 2014, let's take a look at the other new food-based laws Californians should know about.

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- Plastic bags will now cost ten cents a bag if you need something to carry your items home from the grocery store. (Note: There are still smaller grocers exempt from this change in law until July 1.) So, make sure to stock that car full of reusable bags.

- Tips automatically added to a restaurant bill -- a practice that generally happens while dining out in parties of six or more -- will be taxable as normal wages, instead of the take-home cash it once was. Meaning, servers used to bringing home piles of cash from these large parties will have to wait until payday to get their dough.

- Workers in restaurants are no longer allowed to use bare hands on "ready-to-eat" foods. Instead, they're now forced to use plastic gloves or utensils when dishing out the items. Why this wasn't a law for years, I have no idea, but at least it's happening now?

- A federal law went into effect that will provide financial incentive for schools to stock up on "EpiPens," injections designed to counter deadly allergic reactions that some children have to certain foods.

- California breweries are now allowed to refill any "growler" with their beer, even if it's not from their specific brewery. Whether or not they actually will do so, though, is up to them.

- As I detailed previously, distilleries in California will finally be allowed to operate their own tasting rooms. Hooray!

- The state's food stamp program has been streamlined so that those signing up for benefits can do so through the CalFresh program. The hope is that this move will make it easier for low-income families to collect the benefits they qualify for.

- While this isn't exactly a new food-based law, it counts in regards to the state's collective health: All ten University of California campuses have gone completely smoke- and tobacco-free. And yes, that even means e-cigarettes. Students are going to have to find another crutch to support them through the wretched finals week.

But California wasn't the only state who saw new legislation hit the official books on January 1. Here's a quick look at the rest of the country:

- In Delaware, it is now illegal to sell, possess, or distribute shark fins. This, ideally, will lower the number of sharks killed simply for their fins to be used in soup. California, by the way, already banned shark fin a few years back.

- While Californians will be getting their own minimum wage bump up to $9 an hour, that isn't coming until July 1. This year, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have all raised their minimum wages on the first of the year.

- In Texas, consumers buying mixed drinks will have to pay an 8.25% sales tax. Restaurants providing the drinks, however, will see their tax reduced from 14% to 6.7%. What does this all mean? If you're going to Texas, don't be shocked if the menu price of the cocktail seems low. It'll all even out once you get the final tax-included bill.

- While this may seem like it's stretching the definition of "food-related laws," it really isn't if you give it a little thought: Mothers in Oregon are now allowed to take their placentas home after childbirth to do with them what they please. (Before, whether or not the placenta would find its way home was left to the discretion of the hospital.) So, you know, bon appétit!

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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