Couple suing state of Texas over definition of pickles

Local

A Hearne couple is suing the state of Texas to change how a “pickle” is defined.

Right now, state law allows people to sell pickled cucumbers at farmer’s markets with very little regulation. However, there are tougher regulations when it comes to any other pickled product.

“You can’t pickle beets. You can’t pickle anything except for cucumbers,” says Anita McHaney.

Anita and James McHaney are taking a stand after finding out the Texas Health Department decided pickles are just cucumbers and nothing else.

They planned to use their excess food they grow in their farm to pickle different vegetables to try to make a living, but the new Cottage Food Law doesn’t allow them to. 

“They have an arbitrary definition that is preventing you from making a living on your farm,” Anita says.

The Cottage Food Law says a “pickle is a cucumber preserved in vinegar, brine, or similar situation and excludes all other picked vegetables.”

“We spent quite a bit of time writing to and communicating with a variety of people, the legislators around the state, about how did this come to be, how can we get this resolved,” Anita adds.

When they got no answer, they decided to sue the state. It turns out it’s not an easy process to sell any other pickled item.

“You have to have a licensed kitchen, and a licensed kitchen has a lot of specific rules,” Anita says.

Including a three-park sink, a different sink for washing, a mop sink, a floor drain – basically all the things a restaurant has. And that’s not all – you also have to go through a class, get your recipe blessed and then tested.

All of this adds up in expenses, and the class is only once a year.

The McHaneys say the Texas Health Department changed the definition of a pickle after the state legislature approved the law to where all vegetables could be pickled. 

“Does the Health Department get to change what the legislator thought they did? Can they come behind the legislator after the legislator goes on for years and change it?,” James asks.

And this is what they hope gets answered in court.

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