The Lincoln County Health Department Office of Environmental Sanitation is the regulatory authority for all food establishments within the county. Grocery and convenience stores, as well as food pantries also provide food to the general public, and are therefore considered Food Establishments. There are approximately 110 full-time food service establishments permitted within Lincoln County. In 2013, 348 temporary food service permits were issued; more than triple the number of full-time establishments. With over 400 certified food handlers within the county, residents can rest assured when supporting these permitted events and establishments. However, there are still some who are unaware of the permitting. These situations indicate a need for continued education in safe food handling and permitting regulations.
What is a Food Establishment?
(a) stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends food directly to the consumer, or otherwise provides FOOD for human consumption such as a restaurant; satellite or catered feeding location; catering operation if the operation provides food directly to a consumer or to a conveyance used to transport people; market; vending location; conveyance used to transport people; institution; or food bank; and
(b) relinquishes possession of food to a consumer directly, or indirectly through a delivery service such as home delivery of grocery orders or restaurant takeout orders, or deliver service that is provided by common carriers.
Here in Lincoln County, this consists of athletic event concessions, fundraisers, fairs, church picnics, dinner auctions, grand opening celebrations, farmers’ markets and food pantries, in addition to restaurants, grocery and convenience stores. It does not matter if the food is being given away or if a fee is charged. If your organization prepares, serves, or distributes food to the public, the Lincoln County Food Ordinance applies to you. All organizations providing food are encouraged to contact the health department annually to incorporate these guidelines in their planning process.
All food service establishments are required to submit a permit application and permit fee at least 30 calendar days prior to the event or opening date. The application process simply requires the organizer to submit event details to the health department for review. An additional late fee will also apply for expedited permits.
Temporary operations often require the food service to be set up outdoors or in locations where keeping foods safe and sanitary is challenging. Therefore, food service operators should have a basic understanding of how improper handling of Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs) and poor hygiene can cause a foodborne illness. PHFs are foods which require temperature control, such as meat or dairy products.
The Lincoln County Food Ordinance requires at least one person with Safe Food Handling Certification be on-site throughout the event. This can be obtained by attending a Food Handler’s Certification Course at the Lincoln County Health Department. Class dates for 2014 have been scheduled as follows: Tuesday, Feb. 25, Thursday, March 20, and Monday, April 7. All classes will be held at the Health Department on Highway H and begin at 6 p.m. If interested in attending, please call Kim at 636-528-6117 ext. 201 to reserve your place in class.
The LCHD’s office is also interested in hosting a class directed towards educating food pantry workers. These establishments have regulations unique to their type of food distribution, so a separate class may be beneficial. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to call the office at 636-528-6117 x201 for more information.