Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Licensing festival vendors sparks controversy
Vendors required to get temporary license a week in advance
  WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County health officials continue to take flack for a policy that requires food vendors at festivals and fairs to apply for a temporary license one week in advance.
One irate vendor - who recently was late filing an application with the department - took his complaint to the Ohio Department of Health but apparently received little satisfaction, county Sanitarian Marv Selhorst told health board members meeting Tuesday.
Individual health departments are allowed to set their own policy on how early vendors must apply for a temporary food service license; however, the state suggests a 10-day waiting period, Selhorst explained.
Mercer County officials urge vendors to apply early but do give approval "on the spot" in certain cases, they say.
Grumbling often arises because of the inconsistencies, Selhorst said. He stands by his belief that rushing through the process isn't acceptable, he said.
"It's our job to protect the public," he added.
Selhorst said he and his staff need time to find out how the food will be served, how the equipment will be used, where the food originates, cooking temperatures and other information about the vendor.
"We need a reasonable amount of time to do our job," he said.
Selhorst said he believes a "pro-active approach" is best. In the past, he and his staff have urged event organizers to remind food vendors to apply early for temporary licenses.
During Tuesday's meeting, Selhorst asked the board and Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons if they support his view on the matter or believe it's time to review the policy. They unanimously voiced agreement with the current seven-day waiting period.
Besides issuing licenses to food vendors, the health department staff also reviews each booth on-site to make sure they follow food safety regulations set by the state.
In other business, board members:
• Refunded fees for two temporary food service licenses after the vendors didn't show up at the recent St. Marys Summerfest celebration. Joseph Bline will receive $35 and Donald Riley, $70.
• Approved an internal tuberculosis (TB) testing policy for staff members. The policy outlines what type of action is taken for active cases. The tests are given each February along with a routine blood pressure screening because staff members are at risk for exposure.
• Approved the submission of six grant applications. They are: Help Me Grow Part C, a stimulus grant, for $34,078; Immunization Action Plan, $40,375; Healthy Communities, up to $75,000; Injury Prevention, up to $65,000; Public Health Emergency Response (for H1N1 preparedness), $97,842; and for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), $151,000. WIC clients for August totaled 1,211 - a record high.
• Learned that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Medical Director Dr. Juan Torres explained to the board that men often neglect their health more than women. Males 40 years old and over or those age 35 with health risks should have an annual prostate screening. Recent studies have shown that early detection can reduce mortality, he said.
Grand Lake Health Systems is offering a prostate screening session Sept. 22 and 23 at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, by appointment only. To pre-register, residents should call Anne Larger at 419-394-3335.
• Learned the next board of health meeting is 8:30 a.m. Oct. 13.
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