California Bill Could Shut Down Small Restaurants

The State of California has one of the worst proposals of any legislature in the country this year with a new bill that would force every restaurant and food service business in the state to commission an expensive "risk assessment" test for every menu item.

Such a test could cost thousands of dollars for every food item sold. This outrageous and cost prohibitive testing would certainly cause all but the biggest chain restaurants to go out of business almost instantly.

In another exercise in nanny-statism, California's State Senate Democrats want this "risk assessment" conducted to determine whether food being sold "contributes significantly to a significant public health epidemic."

The bill, Senate Bill 747, is an addition to the current health and safety codes and is currently set for a hearing on April 17. It was written and introduced by Sen. Mark DeSauliner (D, Concord).

The introduction of the bill clearly says that the law would require the food service companies to pay the state for the testing in order to fill state coffers. It notes that without the assessment, the state would have the right to shut an offending restaurant down.

This bill, known as the Public Health Epidemic Protection Act of 2013, would require the department, for every product intended for consumer consumption for which it has credible evidence that the product significantly contributes to a significant public epidemic, to conduct a risk assessment evaluation to determine whether the product contributes significantly to a significant public health epidemic, as defined, and whether the adverse public health risk would have a fiscal impact on the state of $50,000,000 or more. The bill would authorize the department to charge the manufacturer of the product for the reasonable costs of producing the risk assessment and would create the Public Health Fund, to be used by the department, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to fund the program. If the department determines that the criteria are met, the bill would require the manufacturer to create, for approval of the department, a public health impact report (PHIR) containing specified information, including a list of adverse public health impacts and a mitigation plan for those impacts. The bill would authorize the department to enforce the PHIR and would authorize the department to restrict or suspend sales of the product in the state if the PHIR is insufficient or if the manufacturer is not complying with the terms of the PHIR.

As California politics watchdog Stephen Frank points out, "Pass this and hundreds of thousands of Californians are out of work on Day One--and tens of thousands of Californians have lost their investments and businesses."

But there are other, perhaps unintended, consequences in the offing here. This law would benefit large, multi-million dollar national chain restaurants in as much as it would eliminate their competition at a local level. Mom and Pop restaurants, small local chains, and one-location restaurants could never afford to have expensive tests done for every food item they sell. The big chains, however, have a whole country of locations and customers upon which to spread the costs of this "risk assessment."

The big chains could afford the cost of these tests, but small restaurants would just have to close their doors before the state's inspectors do it for them.

Further, this requirement would tend to limit menu options at restaurants, as those that could not afford the tests would cut menu choices down in order to keep testing costs lower. Additionally, menus wouldn't change very often to avoid constant costly state testing requirements. This would prevent restaurants from trying new menu items to appeal to the changing tastes of customers.

And this is not to even mention that the expense of eating out would go up as restaurants pass on the costs of these expensive tests to customers. 

Interestingly, the bill's sponsor, Sen. DeSauliner, is a party jumper; until the year 2000, he was a Republican. DeSauliner is also a big opponent of the Second Amendment and is supported by the anti-gun advocacy group the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.


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