Let health refs call potlucks

Four years ago, Brae Surgeoner and Ben Chapman wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal that health inspectors should oversee any commercial potluck or community function to make sure that everyone follows the rules.

Umpires and inspectors alike are not there to control the game, just to ensure it is being played right.

The Patriot-News in Pennsylvania reports
that even though the state capital cafeteria was closed because it was such a dump, legislators, led by Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver, got around to introducing legislation to bring what he calls common sense into the state’s food safety laws.

His bill, Senate Bill 828, would allow nonprofit groups, including church groups, Boy Scouts and youth sports teams, to sell homemade baked goods provided they put the consumer on notice that the food was made in an unlicensed, uninspected kitchen.

The Rev. Michael Greb, the pastor at St. Cecilia’s in Rochester, said he was pleased that something was being done "to take out the controversy over eating dessert" at future Friday fish fries, a fundraising tradition that the 3,000-member parish has held for decades to help keep its doors open.

Greb said he understands the food safety inspectors’ concern, but "these are our own people making these desserts out of their love for community. They weren’t out to hurt anybody. … The [desserts] people bring in notoriously are clean and good, and to imply anything other than that is just ridiculous."

I’ll be ridiculous. Faith aside – and the vast majority of food transactions are based on faith – as a parishoner I would have no idea of the sanitation, handwashing or food safety of the good folks preparing the food. I would want someone – or the threat of someone – to oversee food prep for commercial sale.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the Governor’s Food Safety Council voted Wednesday to oppose any efforts to loosen regs on local sales.

Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, said, "The bottom line is I think I should be able to buy good wholesome food from my neighbor without the government interfering."

People know their neighbors and know what they are buying, she said. It also was absurd to regulate non-hazardous breads, jams and pies sold at bake sales and charitable events, she said.

"You’re 19 times more likely to get sick from mass-produced-and-processed food," she added. "I think I have a constitutional right to buy what I want and to feed my family fresh, healthy food."

There is no basis for that statement.

And as Chapman and Surgeoner wrote, Food safety isn’t a game, but having the health umpires around to make sure things are running smoothly isn’t a bad thing.