By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - A bill in the Montana Legislature would allow producers to sell food out of their own kitchens, either directly to customers, or for community social events, like weddings or potlucks.

Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is carrying House Bill 352, or the Montana Local Food Choice Act.

“We cook food in our own kitchens every day for our family,” Hertz said. “We have our neighbors over. It’s being done, no one’s getting sick.”

Matt Kelley, a health officer with the Gallatin City-County Health Department, says the lack of regulation could put Montanans at greater risk for food-borne illness. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services also opposes the bill.

Wyoming passed a similar bill in 2015, called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act.

Last session, the Montana Legislature passed a cottage food law, which allows wider sales of low risk foods like jams and baked goods made in personal kitchens. House Bill 352 would expand on this law, allowing for the sale of a broader range of foods.

The hearing for the bill is Tuesday in the House Agriculture Committee.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.