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Churches, organizations selling food should be prepared for inspections

| Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Churches and other organizations that prepare and serve food to the public should expect a surprise inspection by the city's new health code inspector.

The Connellsville Health Board, which hasn't met since July 2008, came together Monday at which time the city's new health code inspector, Tom Currey, told members Connellsville has not been enforcing the Pennsylvania Food Code.

Under the code, any place that serves food to the general public must be licensed and must be inspected once a year.

Currey said he has conducted surprise inspections on two churches in the city. Both were licensed and permitted to sell food.

"The two places were very nice and very good," Currey said.

Currey said the board should set a fee for a license.

Currey was unaware of what other municipalities charge.

Restaurant licenses are approximately $150, he said.

Not only would a church have to be licensed to sell or even give away food to the general public, the food in question must be prepared at the licensed site. In other words, foods for church bake sales or festivals cannot be prepared at the homes of members, under the law, Currey explained.

Currey said if someone would bring homemade food to a church, members or volunteers would be permitted to eat. However, even if the food is being given away, the general public is not permitted legally to have it.

"I know this is an inconvenience, and I understand," Currey said. "But God forbid that someone gets sick or dies. I don't want that on my shoulders and the churches don't want that on their shoulders either."

The Pennsylvania Food Code can be found online at www.pacode.com

In other business:

• Connellsville Police Chief Ed McSheffrey said the city will begin to pursue residents who have not paid garbage bills. He said unpaid garbage bills and littering are becoming problems in the city.

• The board voted to allow Currey to look into a program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture that would allow restaurant inspections to be posted on the department's Web site. The department would supply the board with a computer, software, training and licensing for two years, but after that, the board would have to pay an annual licensing fee.

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