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Bill would exempt wineries from pure food and drug law regulations

Special to the Legal News

Published: May 2, 2013

Sen. Tim Schaffer is pushing for the state’s wineries to be exempt from food processing regulations under the pure food and drug law.

“Wine production has been practiced by humans for over 6,000 years and has been safely produced in Ohio since its inception as a state without unnecessary governmental interference,” Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said in sponsor testimony for Senate Bill 32.

In addressing the Senate Agriculture committee, Schaffer said there have been no complaints or cases of Ohio wine injuring the public.

“Wine’s naturally low pH (high acidity) and alcohol content makes it impossible for harmful pathogens to survive or grow,” he said. “Placing the wine industry under the regulatory umbrella normally reserved for high-risk foods does not make sense and is a burden to small businesses especially.”

Schaffer said SB 32 addresses the regulation of Ohio’s wineries in our state. The proposed legislation specifies that a manufacturer or distributor of wine, or a distributor of beer, that is regulated by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control would not be subject to regulation as a food processing establishment under the pure food and drug law.

“The current regulation practice of wineries is based on overly broad language included in House Bill 1, enacted in October 2009. As a result the (Ohio Department of Agriculture) is requiring wineries and vineyards to become licensed and subject to regulation as food processing establishments,” he said, noting that wineries are already regulated and inspected regularly by the liquor control division.

“Since they are currently classified as food processing establishments, they are also regulated and inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture as well. Based on the aforementioned facts about the wine industry, I feel that it is unnecessary to subject the wine industry to two separate inspections by two different agencies.”

In addition, Schaffer said the ODA was “saddled with this responsibility without a lot of training” in the areas of wine production.

“Therefore, the inspectors have little expertise in the specifics of how wine is made. I have heard complaints from various wine producers who have received guidelines from ODA that are contrary to the most basic industry standards and would result in a mined and unmarketable product,” he said.

SB 32 is co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City.

The bill has not been scheduled for additional hearings.

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