Iowa Scarecrow Fest food safety

The Scarecrow Fest in Akron, Iowa, has one of the better names for the various fall festivals.

Michelle Clausen Rosendahl, of the Siouxland District Health told

Le Mars Daily Sentinel, "In Iowa for the most part, if you’re selling food, you have to have a license to do that.”

For short events like the Akron Scarecrow Festival, vendors can purchase a temporary food license. Vendors buy the licenses the day of the event if a district health representative is present to sell them.

They cost $33.50.

Rosendahl said the district health office doesn’t always know when food vendors are going to be at an event, and health officials request that event organizers notify them.

Glenn Eckert, an environmental specialist with Siouxland District Health said, "If we know there is a festival going on, we’ll stop in and check the vendors. There’s lots of things that go on during weekends in smaller towns we don’t even know about."

Things going on in small towns like in a David Lynch movie?

One of the biggest things district health officials see is food vendors that don’t have a place to wash hands right where they are working.

"If they have any kind of food or beverages that are not prepackaged, they would have to have a handwashing station," Rosendahl said. "It doesn’t have to be a sink with actual running water."

Using hand sanitizer is not enough to take the place of washing hands, Eckert said.

The district health website gives instructions as to how to set up a temporary handwashing station.

The health inspectors also will want to know where the food being sold came from.

"It has to come from a licensed or approved source. If they have meat we would look at if it’s inspected meat," Rosendahl said.

Inspectors also want to know where food was prepared.

"In this situation, it’s not allowed for food to be prepared at home and brought to a temporary food stand and sold, with a couple exception of some non-potentially-hazardous baked goods," Rosendahl said. "We don’t know what issues may be in the home. It’s not an inspected kitchen."

A non-profit organization can serve food one day per week on its premises without a temporary license.

That means, for example, at a church potluck, people can bring food prepared at home, and no temporary food license is needed.