Health board discusses food permit ordinance

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees discussed its temporary food permit requirement at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 15.

"We have had several issues on our temporary food permits," said John Starchman, board chairman. "We have had many concerns as to how we will be enforcing this."

On May 6, Starchman directed Kathleen King, health department administrator, to suspend the temporary food permit requirement until the board was able to discuss the issue.

"This issue is more complex than meets the eye," said Starchman. "We have gotten our food service inspections and food service ordinance in good shape, but we felt we had a short coming when it came to temporary events."

According to the current requirement, each business or organization participating in a community event where food is served or sold would be required to obtain a temporary food permit for each event.

For example, each organization that participates in annual Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off would be required to obtain a temporary food service permit, which costs $20 and requires the event coordinator and team leader to participate in 45 minutes of food safety training.

"Our director has no time for 45 minute training," said Susie Jacobs. "In the past, two representatives of the health department have come to our office and trained the 30 people participating in the Chili Cook-Off. That training has been around one hour and we have never paid for it before."

The ordinance could also be interpreted to require each person who brings a covered dish to a community meeting or church fellowship dinner to obtain a food permit for the food that they prepare for the event, said Starchman.

"I agree that we need food safety," said Jacobs, "but your 501Cs are tapped out in this community and we live in a very giving community."

"Your questions and complaints are no different than the businesses have," said Pauline Gage, board vice chairman. "They have said that this will put them out of business, but it didn't. Believe me, I sit on as many boards as you do, and I know how hard it is for organizations to raise funds but they always do."

King said that although all of the community's organizations represent good causes, it is the health department's responsibility to protect the public health through policies and permit requirements.

"We've been doing the Chili Cook-Off for over 20 years," said Jacobs. "Not one person has ever been sick. It's not about the food training. I agree with that. It is the $20 fee that I have a problem with."

"Just because we are getting by doesn't mean we shouldn't try to improve," said Gage.

Starchman said that he does not believe a temporary food service permit is not necessary, but he feels the board should take some things into consideration and clarify the current ordinance.

"We do need training, but the safety training needs to come from you," said Jacobs. "That responsibility should lie with you, and I think the $20 should be waived."

"To be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers in Cassville, we have to have a fee," said Starchman.

Members of the Northern Barry County Relay For Life committee, the Seligman Lion's Club and the Seligman Area Chamber of Commerce also voiced concerns about the temporary food service permit requirement.

After the discussion, the board voted to suspend the temporary food permit requirement and continue to offer food service training on a volunteer basis. The permit requirement will be reviewed, revised and revisited during the board's monthly meeting in June.

"I ask of this board that before you do anything consider the ramifications of what you do," said Jacobs. "Every board tries, but the ramifications of this goes beyond this room."

In other business, the Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees:

* Voted to raise the department's mileage reimbursement to 50 cents per mile.

* Appointed Gage and new board member Jan Thomas to a committee to research the temporary food permit requirement.

* Decided to invite health department employees to attend one board meeting each year.

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