Lawmakers Get into Mix of Hand Prepared Poi

February 9, 2011, 3:36 PM HST · Updated February 9, 3:36 PM
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By Wendy Osher

State lawmakers are considering two bills this session relating the health of hand-prepared poi. Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 1344 seek to strike a compromise between pa’i ‘ai practitioners and the state Department of Health (DOH).

Ke'anae taro farm. Photo by Wendy Osher.

In testimony on HB 1344 earlier this month, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs noted the importance of taro (kalo), in tradition as the elder sibling of Native Hawaiian people, and as a staple food in a traditional diet. With a resurgence of traditional hand pounding techniques for poi preparation, OHA officials said the bill represents a “reasonable compromise” that allows for hand-pounded pa’i ‘ai to be sold, provides DOH with the authority to inspect producers, and informs consumers about the product.

Under the proposed house bill, customary practitioners would be allowed to sell hand-pounded poi directly to customers, exempting them from preparation in certified kitchens and from other DOH permit requirements. Producers in turn, would have to attend a food safety class approved by the department, abide by best practices, and label each batch with a detailed description including the date of production as well as a disclaimer that states: “This hand-pounded product was not produced in a certified food-processing establishment.”

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HB 1344 is scheduled for another hearing, this time before the House Committee on Health on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 9 a.m. in the House conference room 329. Testimony can be submitted online for those unable to attend at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/emailtestimony/?measure=HB1344

The Senate version of the bill, SB101 SD1 is under current referral to the Senate Committee on Health.

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