Retail Food Regs Discussed at Commissioners Meeting

What foods are safe to eat?  The issue of regulating and licensing retail food outlets was discussed recently by the Prowers County Commissioners and Jackie Brown, Director of the County Health and Environment Department and Keith Siemsen, Manager of Environmental Health.   The commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the county in which county health officials will issue a license of operation to retail food outlets.  The licenses are now issued by the State Department of Revenue.  Brown and Siemsen said all the protocols of obtaining a license will still be in effect, but the license will be issued locally.

Food safety was discussed, partly in light of the recent developments with listeria contamination, but because the commissioners had been asked just who has to obtain a food vendors license.   Brown and Siemsen said it’s mostly a matter of commerce.  If you cook and sell food, you need to be licensed by the state.  That means submitting an application, studying retail food regulations and passing a test.  The kitchen equipment used in the cooking, handling and storage of food are also specifically addressed in the regulations.  Commissioner Gene Millbrand said he had been approached by some dutch oven cooking groups who wanted to know, if because they may charge a fee for their meals, they would be subject to licensing.  Brown said the answer is simply yes, whether a person is charged individually for a meal or a gathering pays a fee for a buffet-style meal.   

“Suppose there’s no charge for the food, and it’s just given away,” Millbrand asked.  Siemsen replied in that instance, you would not need a license, but you could still be held legally liable if someone were to become ill from your food.  “The license offers a form of protection,” he added, “It’s not complete, but it shows you have followed and understand the health guidelines in these situations.”  Brown made a comparison during emergency operations several years ago following the Holly tornado.  She said there were groups that prepared food for homeowners and relief workers alike, but they weren’t licensed to do that, and even under those extreme circumstances, could have been held liable for any ill-prepared food.  At the same time, the Salvation Army, who also helped in the aftermath, has licenses that allow them to prepare meals.  Brown said the county has taken steps to regulate any future episodes if they occur.

Brown and the commissioners agreed that a general public meeting would be the best way to present the legalities of retail food operations to current and potential chefs in the county.  No date has been set for that meeting.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessCommissionersCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedHealthPublic Safety


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