Wheeling-OhioCounty Health Department Stresses the needfor Food Establishment Health Permits

WHEELING, WV As the spring andsummer outdoor activity season approaches the Wheeling-Ohio County HealthDepartment would like to remind all organizations and business about foodpermits.

Ifan organization or business is going to hold a public event where food is soldor given away they should contact the health department to obtain a permit andhave the operation inspected before serving to the public.

TheWheeling-Ohio County Health Department seeks to maintain a safe food supply andreduce the likelihood of foodborne illness through permits, inspections andeducational activities at food service facilities throughout the county.

West Virginia’sFood Establishment rule, 64-CSR-17, governs all food establishments.A food establishment includes restaurants,retail food stores, schools, grocery stores, nursing homes, hospitals,caterers, bars, day care centers, food concession stands, churches, mobile foodunits, vending machines and various indoor and outdoor events.

Under this rule health departmentsare mandated to regulate, through a health permit and inspection, all foodservice facilities.The ruleincorporates the majority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2005 ModelFood Code.

In addition, the health department regulatestemporary food establishments (TFE) located at fairs, festivals, roadsidestands, and other locations.

TFEcan pose significant public health risks due to limited physical facilities andequipment. The lack of proper storage and preparation space, inadequaterefrigeration and hot holding units, inadequate hand washing facilities and thelack of a hot/cold portable water supply area are a few of the factors oftenidentified in TFE operations which may contribute to cross-contamination,inadequate holding temperatures and the contamination of food by infected foodhandlers.

Anevent that is advertised with fliers, banners, newspaper articles, radio or TVannouncements, or by any other means, regardless of whether or not a fee ischarged is considered a Public Event and therefore is subject to West VirginiaFood Establishment requirements enforced by the county health department.

Churchparishioner dinners, organizational meetings and private events that are formembers only, are not advertised and are free to attend, are not consideredpublic events. To determine if your event qualifies as TFE, ask yourself…

  • Is your event open to the public?
  • Are you advertising your event (on the radio or TV, with fliers or banners, in the newspaper)?
  • Are you selling tickets to attend a food event?
  • Are you planning to sell or give away prepared food and/or beverages?

If you answer yes to any of theabove questions, you will need a Temporary Food Establishment Permit for yourevent.

A permit is not necessary when sellingpre-packaged food, such as candy or canned and bottled drinks.Permits are also not necessary for private orfamily events or limited bake sales.

The Wheeling-Ohio County HealthDepartment’s overall strategy for reducing foodborne illness is to place aheavy emphasis on education about proper food storage, handling and preparationpractices.

Inaddition to the required Health Permit to operate, establishments must insurethat all food service workers obtain a Food Handler’s Card.All food service workers need to obtain avalid food handler card within thirty (30) days upon hire.Classes for food handlers are conductedmonthly and are designed to educate the proper techniques, methods, andrequirements of a food establishment.

The food handler’s course isdesigned to minimize foodborne illness and stresses employee health, properhygiene, proper handling of ready-to-eat food, cleaning & sanitizingprocedures, food temperature parameters and prevention of cross-contaminationby proper food storage and handling. Food workers will learn about theimportance of hand washing, critical violations pertaining to the food worker,the causes of foodborne illnesses and personal hygiene issues.

The Environmental Health program atthe Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department conducts monthly food service workertraining classes in both the morning and evening. The health departmentrequires that all food service workers in Ohio Countyattend a food service worker training class.

For information on obtaining a foodpermit or to register for the next Food Handler’s class call the Wheeling-OhioCounty Health Department at (304) 234-3682.