Oregon consumers expect the food they eat to be safe, and the 2019 Legislature is poised to make that more likely.

State senators approved House Bill 2060 May 16 and sent it back to the House to gain approval for a Senate amendment to the bill. Gov. Kate Brown is likely to sign it.

The measure puts teeth into the state Department of Agriculture’s food safety program by allowing the agency to shut down food providers who either fail to get the proper license or fail to renew a license that has expired. The agency already has the power to immediately shutter establishments that pose a threat to public safety.

While the Oregon Health Authority inspects restaurants and food carts, it’s the agriculture department that keeps track of such things as a grocer’s in-house bakery, egg handlers, dairies and licensed home kitchens.

Until the bill becomes law, the department can only encourage food producers to get licensed in the first place or renew licenses when they’ve expired. The number of providers who don’t play by the rules is relatively small, to be sure. Of the roughly 12,000 providers licensed by the state, only about 600 of them are not properly licensed, so the problem isn’t huge.

HB 2060 will give the department the power to shut unlicensed food providers. It won’t be able to do that immediately, except where safety is at issue. The bill is a sensible approach to what could be a serious problem.

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