Health department receives revised food service ordinance

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees received a revised food service ordinance at its regularly scheduled meeting on June 19.

Last month, around a dozen community members attended the board meeting to voice concerns about a temporary food service permit requirement that the health department began enforcing this year.

Due to the number of concerns that were voiced at the May meeting, the board voted to suspend the temporary food service permit requirement until the ordinance was reviewed and clarified.

Board members Pauline Gage and Jan Thomas worked with health department administrator Kathleen King and environmental public health specialists Jan Cox and Stephanie Shaw to revise the ordinance.

"The committee met twice," said Gage. "We believe this revision is the best work that could be done. We decided that most of the changes were needed in how the ordinance was presented and not in what was in the ordinance.

"Stephanie, Jan and Kathleen did a lot of research and contacted a lot of other counties to find out what they do and how they do it," said Gage. "This is a composite of all the work and scrutiny we did."

According to Gage, the committee decided that many public questions could be answered by providing an information sheet with the temporary food permit application.

"I suggest we take this home with us and review it," said John Starchman, board chairman. "We can bring it up for a vote at the next meeting, and once it is approved, we will put it on the table and let people come in, review it and make comments."

Gage suggested the board establish a start date for the permit requirement before enforcement begins.

"If we come back next meeting and there are a lot of revisions, we will need to move the start date back further but tentatively we would like to put it into affect on Sept. 1," said Gage. "Anyone having an event prior to Sept. 1 would not have anything to worry about."

The revised food service ordinance includes an exception for not-for-profit organizations, which will be required to obtain a temporary food service permit and receive food safety training but will not be required to pay a permit fee.

Jim Matthew, Exeter fire chief, said that he was concerned with how food safety training will be offered. Classes will likely be offered from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday.

"Our fire department has four meetings a month," said Matthew. "Then our firefighters have church night, summer ball and other things. It will be very difficult to get them here to take the class."

Shaw said that the health department will be able to hold food safety training classes in Exeter or other locations to ensure community members are properly trained.

"This ordinance is not designed for anything except the protection of the people who eat at these events," said Starchman. "Someone said that no one has ever been sick at one of these events and that may be true, but if you listen to the media you will hear the reports about food borne illnesses. If we fail to protect the public, we are not doing what we are here for."

In new business, the health department board heard an update on the Health Education Literacy Project (HELP).

"We will be working with Missouri State University," said King. "Regina Bolling will serve as the project administrator. She said that ours was the best proposal submitted."

HELP is designed to improve the health of high need populations by increasing individual health literacy skills, developing health literacy modules, providing health educator training and developing methods for implementing the program into existing health department activities.

After materials and training methods have been developed, the information will be distributed to health educators at 16 area health departments. Information will be provided to low-literacy, low-English skills and low access to healthcare areas throughout the state.

King hopes to hire a project director by Aug. 1. The director will be responsible for researching existing training modules, completing a gap analysis on available materials, creating modules for additional topics, organizing and hosting training events, translating materials into languages other than English and evaluating the project at specific intervals throughout the two-year period.

The Barry County Health Department received a $150,334 grant through the Missouri Foundation for Health to fund the project.

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

* Discussed a wastewater ordinance issue with Jeff and Angie Swadley.

* Heard an update on the Monett health department office.

* Received the 2007 audit report from Patti Weber, of CPA Group.

The next Barry County Health Department Board meeting will be July 17.

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