Not Your Everyday Pork Bill

State Rep. Marty Wilde introduces bill for plant-based food in hospitals, prisons

Courtesy WikiCommons by cyclonebill

No, state Rep. Marty Wilde doesn’t want to take your bacon away. 

With the 2021 legislative session in full (remote) work swing, Wilde Introduced House Bill 2348. The bill makes plant-based meals available for people in Oregon prisons and hospitals. A similar bill was introduced during the 2019 legislative session. 

On Jan. 27, the conservative blog Oregon Catalyst posted a story alleging Wilde’s bill is going to take bacon away from dying patients at hospitals, adding that a “criminal on death row would have more rights to a last meal” than someone in hospice.

If passed today, the bill would indeed prohibit processed meats at hospitals, but the bill’s sausage-making process isn’t over yet. 

Wilde, who represents parts of Lane and Linn counties, tells Eugene Weekly the bill’s language will change soon. He tells EW in an email that he is working on an amendment to the bill and that processed meats were intended to be prohibited unless requested by a patient. He says the bill is only designed to preserve healthy, ethical choice for people in residential care and hospitals. 

In 2015, the World Health Organization labeled processed and red meats as a type 1 carcinogen. The WHO said that there is convincing evidence that it causes cancer based on epidemiological studies.

As it reads now, the HB 2348 says a hospital or long-term care facility shall make 100 percent plant-based meals and beverages that are low in fat, sodium and added sugars available for everyone. The meals must be marked as plant-based and offered at no additional cost beyond a comparable meal that isn’t plant-based. The bill does not affect meat that isn’t processed meat.

Wilde says the bill is about protecting a patient’s choice to eat a diet free of animal products for reasons of religion, ethics or health when ill or incarcerated. 

In 2019, Wilde sponsored a similar bill, HB 3342. It passed with bipartisan support but died in the Senate. 

In testimony for that bill, Michael F. Gower, assistant director of operations for Oregon’s Department of Corrections, listed available meat alternative menu items. He said adults in custody can receive an 8 oz. bowl of beans for an entrée, but the meal includes animal byproducts such as eggs and dairy. The breakfast protein replacement is four tablespoons of peanut butter. 

There was support for the bill from individuals and organizations. The Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of Oregon testified in favor, saying that for every 10 grams of fiber (only found in plant foods) added to one’s diet, the risk of heart disease and colon cancer is reduced by 10 percent. 

In addition to Catalyst, there were others not happy about the 2019 bill. Among the critics were the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, which said it was concerned about the state not recognizing dairy foods as nutritious. The Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics called the bill too bureaucratic. 

But Wilde assures he’s not trying to steal the bacon. “This is to keep the substitution of cheap processed meats for healthier options,” he says. “Put another way, it’s not about good bacon, it’s about cheap bologna.”

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