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State Government News

New Law Protects County Fairs from E-Coli Lawsuits

Linn County Fair
2013 4-H FFA Beef Show

New signs are going up at county fairs across the state warning of the possibility of infections, including e-coli, as part of a new state law protecting fairs from lawsuits.   

The law absolves fair boards from liability if they properly advise fairgoers to wash their hands after touching animals in livestock exhibits and take other precautions to prevent infection.    

All of our fairs are getting those signs prepared. -Tom Barnes

Tom Barnes with the Association of Iowa Fairs in Cresco says county fairs have posted similar warnings in the past, but the new law spells out exactly what they have to say.

“There has to be a sign posted at the first point of entry into the livestock area warning fairgoers of the possible pathogenic diseases,” Barnes said.   “All of our fairs are now getting those signs prepared.”

Barnes says in some states visitors to animal exhibits have sued after contracting infections, and that prompted the Iowa legislature to act.   

“If fairs do their due diligence and do everything in their power to prevent such a thing, then the onus is not on the county fair if something should happen,” Barnes said.

A lot of people have never been exposed to animals.

He says the guidelines advise against bringing food or beverages into livestock areas because pathogens can live on in an environment for several months.

The law also spells out requirements for properly cleaning livestock areas before and after the fair.

Barnes says many rural residents who spend time around livestock have built up an immunity to e-coli, but that is less true of urban dwellers.

“A lot of people have never been exposed to animals,” he said.