SANTA FE ― Republican members of the House and Senate met Wendesday with New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary Butch Tongate to discuss the department’s new food handling regulations.
Lawmakers expressed concerns about the impact the regulations would have on community groups, businesses and nonprofit organizations in their districts.
The new regulations require anyone who handles food at a public function to have a food handler card. The requirement applies to any location where food is served, including movie theaters and community fundraisers. The new regulations were implemented in March 2016, but NMED provided a one-year grace period for organizations to comply with the new standards. Full enforcement of the regulations is scheduled to begin on March 1, 2017.
Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-Otero), Cathrynn Brown (R-Eddy), Randal Crowder (R-Curry), and Rebecca Dow (R-Grant, Hidalgo and Sierra) joined Sens. Gay Kernan (R-Chaves, Eddy and Lea) and Pat Woods (R-Curry, Quay and Union) to share issues their constituents are encountering with the new regulations. The legislators informed Secretary Tongate of the burden the regulations were placing on small businesses in their rural communities and the ability of community groups to hold traditional gatherings and fundraising events. They noted some inconsistencies in the regulations and asked NMED to solicit more input from rural residents and non-restaurant food servers.
Tongate thanked the lawmakers for conveying the concerns of their constituents. He agreed to delay enforcement of the regulations and gather more information on the impact of the regulations on rural communities.
“I appreciate Secretary Tongate’s willingness to consider the issues our constituents have raised,” Herrell said. “We all want to ensure safe handling procedures, but the new regulations are a burden to our small businesses and community organizations. Some aren’t even sure they can continue serving food at their events. I’m glad the secretary agreed to take a step back and expand the dialog with these groups.”