Is Festival Food Safe?

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

When you dive into that hamburger or savor that caramel apple at a summer festival or county fair, has it ever crossed your mind, is what I'm eating safe?

"Our staff go out and evaluate those concession stands against the same standards we hold grocery stores and restaurants," said the compliance manager at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, food and dairy division, Byron Beerbower.

Beerbower said it better be. The state has a team of 45 or so who's job is to go to every single county fair and inspect the food carts.

"Are they washing their hands? Is their staff trained? Are they making sure hot foods are hot and cold foods are cold? Are they wearing gloves? Is there contact with the ready to eat foods?" Beerbower said.

And if they don't comply, they shut them down until they do.

"We have identified issues in the past and asked them to fix them right then and there," Beerbower said.

For local festivals like the Chili Cookoff this weekend, they are inspected by county health departments. Turns out, they follow the same guidelines as the state.

"They submit paperwork beforehand of their menus and how they plan to wash and sanitize things, and where they're getting the food," Diane Gorch said.

Gorch supervisors the food safety program in Ingham County. She said last year her team inspected 120 events, with countless food vendors.

"If we see violations, we work it through with them, or we tell them to go home," she said.

But that doesn't happen often she said, thanks in part to special educational classes the county provides.

"Our philosophy is we educate them because we want them to succeed," Gorch said.

So do all of we, because fair food is a big part of the experience. But both experts say if you see something that doesn't look right, contact your local health department.

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