Food-prep rules keep safety in mind
Food prepared in the home cannot be sold to the public; however, not everyone may be aware of the law that prohibits this type of business.
Tracy Monroe with the Harrison County Health Dept. has been working diligently to spread the word and educate the public about the wholesale and retail food establishment sanitation requirements.
‘People just don’t know,’ Monroe said referring to state rules that prohibit the sale of foods that are manufactured or processed in a home kitchen.
Food prepared to market must be made in a kitchen or facility that is separate from the vendor’s living quarters. It can be a converted garage or basement, provided it has its own entrance, among other things. The business work area must be constructed to meet building codes and zoning laws and is subject to inspections by the health department.
‘I have no idea how many illegitimate home businesses there are,’ Monroe said, adding that she believes most are started innocently with no intention of circumventing any laws or codes. ‘They probably are hoping to just make a few extra bucks.’
As with most things, there are exceptions. These include bake sales and dinners offered by nonprofit organizations, as long as they don’t exceed 15 events a year.
‘If it’s more than that, then they are considered the same as a restaurant,’ Monroe said.
Also, House Enrolled Act 1308, which was signed into law in 2009 by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, allows home-based vendors to prepare non-potentially hazardous foods in their home to sell at farmers markets and roadside stands. HEA still prohibits against preparing items containing meat, eggs or temperature-controlled prepared foods to be sold.
Monroe is willing to inspect church kitchens or other facilities used by nonprofits at no charge.
For those who are considering starting a business that involves prepared food sales, Monroe said they should call the health department.
‘Ideally, they should have a little plan to look at,’ she said. ‘I’ll go out as many times as they need me.’
Information is available on the county health department’s website, www.harrisoncountyhealth.com.
The process for getting approved generally takes a week or less. There is a permit fee based on the number of employees.
Monroe said her job is to educate those who prepare and sell food products. She has about 200 businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, public institutions, which include shelters and schools, and fraternal organization meeting places, like the Moose Lodge and VFW, to inspect at least once a year. (Schools are required to be inspected twice a year.) There are also temporary events, like the Harrison County Fair, SummerFest and Lanesville Heritage Weekend, and traveling stands, that require health department inspections. Vendors at farmers market who sell meat, which require temperature-controlled storage, also must be inspected.
‘We’re trying to keep the public safe,’ said Monroe, who has been with the health department for 15 years.
During her ‘surprise’ inspections, Monroe checks things like proper water temperature, properly la-beled containers, proper storage of bulk items and cross-contamination. A thorough walk-through can take 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the establishment.
Monroe said persons who have any doubt about whether someone is permitted to sell food products can call the health department.
For more information, contact Monroe at 738-3237, ext. 1013, or by e-mail at [email protected] The health department is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Indiana State Dept. of Health Food Protection Program can be reached at 1-317-233-7360. And a list of frequently asked questions, as well as a copy of HEA 1309, can be found at www.ag.purdue.edu/foodsci/Pages/IN-HEA-1309-info.aspx