Arizona’s War on Tamales

For more than three years, Maria—not her real name—has been working in one of Arizona’s illegal trafficking rings. He makes more money, he can set his own schedule to spend time with his family, and customers are attracted to his products.

But Maria isn’t a liquor dealer or a drug dealer—she’s a tamale dealer, part of Arizona’s beloved illegal economy.

“I used to work as a housekeeper but I was paid very little and sometimes I couldn’t take my son to school,” she says. Because. “I always like to cook a lot and they tell me that I cook deliciously.” [food] so I said to myself, why?” In January 2020, his mother loaned him money to start his home business. He began making and selling homemade red tamales every week, made fresh, “not reheated.”

Excited reviews read: “‘Your tamales are [the] bomba,’ ‘I’ve never tried tamales so delicious,’ ‘I’ve never had tamales like my dead mother’s,’ and more… that makes me happy,” says Maria.

“Many people who work all day and come home hungry and tired and don’t want to cook,” he says, “all they want is to come and eat home-made food and they’re fine, we’re here!”

The government ban did not prevent tamale sellers from entering the market or consumers from eating them. Scroll through Facebook or walk through a parking lot in southern Arizona and you’ll run into a tamale seller.

Arizona almost brought this the black market top last month. HB 2509 is bill which would have authorized the sale of “hazardous” products containing perishables, passed the House and Senate unanimously. help. But Gov. Katie Hobbs was having none of it.

“The bill would significantly increase the risk of foodborne illness by expanding the ability of home food retailers to sell high-risk foods,” he wrote in a statement. veto letter. “It fails to establish sufficient minimum standards to inspect or certify domestic food businesses.” Hobbs cited “hazardous chemicals” and “rodent or insect damage” as possible hazards.

Arizonans are now legally allowed to sell “homemade food” – goods prepared in a non-commercial kitchen – for a reason in ten years. However, that law has limitations. A home cook can sell cookies, fruit pies, and muffins under Arizona’s modern food menu authority, but not salsas, tamales, or dried fruit. “Breads with hard icings or frostings” are allowed, but “breads with custard filling” are not. Any chef who wants to sell “dangerous-looking” foods has to walk a tightrope. steps such as obtaining a license from the state health department and preparing all food in a licensed kitchen.

Officials point to health risks to justify the laws. Tom Herrmann, director of public information for the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), says Because that “about 128,000 people are hospitalized each year nationwide because of foodborne illness, and about 3,000 people die.” But he says “the cause of the disease is not always known.”

“Because food prepared outside of food preparation areas, such as residential areas, is often small, outbreaks due to these foods often go undetected and underreported,” Herrmann said.

From a 2014 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Time magazine he realized that 44 percent of foodborne illnesses may have started in restaurants, while 24 percent occurred at home. “This means you are twice as likely to eat a fatal meal in a restaurant than you are at home,” it said. The Institute for Justice, a human rights organization that works to stop food service in homes, has introduced the law. he said that “those who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what is possible because the actual situation is rare or non-existent.”

“My gut says HB2509 would be a net [public health] benefits,” Will Humble, former director of AZDHS, tweeted last month. After helping create Arizona’s current state food pantry back in 2008, “some in the environmental health world thought the sky was going to fall. It didn’t,” wrote Humble. On the contrary, “it has been very successful and a great benefit to public health in doing it well [social determinants of health] & I believe #HB2509 would have it too.”

There were approx 15,000 home cooks registered in Arizona as of March 2023, according to the Common Sense Institute in Arizona. But the polls mean many Arizonans, including Maria, will have to work harder. Paul Avelar, managing attorney at the Institute for Justice’s Arizona office, expects the veto to “harm thousands of hard-working Arizonans who just want to make an honest living or increase their income.”

This will become more difficult for women – the Institute for Justice said he realized that 83 percent of domestic food producers are women—and immigrants, many of whom sell homemade food to start making money in their new communities. If passed, HB 2509 would be produced About $55.3 million in annual fresh food sales, according to the Common Sense Institute.

Maria knows many tamale sellers. Others sell red tamales like him. Some sell different types of corn, and others prepare recipes from their own countries in Mexico or countries of origin, including Guatemala. They also know people who sell other items banned by state law, including pupusas and homemade pizzas.

Maria says the city officials don’t want to harass them. Some of his customers are uniformed police officers.

Foreclosures are generally easier in Arizona. But keeping the ban on books—along with the brutal penalties a $500 fine and six months in jail for violators – means the state can call in to punish unlicensed home cooks. This is already done in other states: Carrollton, Texas, to be sent Dennise Cruz was “arrested” and fined $700 for selling tamales without a license. In New York, the police handcuffed A woman sells churros inside a Brooklyn subway station.

Hobbs’ veto amounts to the government “continuing to destroy business and make it harder for home-based businesses to support their families and grow their economies,” Rep. Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) he wrote about Arizona Daily Star. Hernandez was one of only five Democrats voted defeating the veto at the end of April – an effort in the end they decreased. The ambassador has not arrived yet he said which would need to be changed to sign the cabin food bill into law.

On the campaign trail, Hobbs to be invited Arizona’s working families are the “backbone” of the state’s economy. Apparently, his dedication to the staff does not extend to home cooks like Maria.

They must continue to operate in the dark, but there is no doubt that customers will still be hungry for their tamales. Maria said: “It is impossible to stop the sale of such things.

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