Friday, October 22, 2010

Serve Food? Get a Permit

Durham has one of the most vibrant food cultures that anyone could hope to find - from fine dining restaurants to mobile food vendors, there is great variety and quality of food available here along with a population that exudes enthusiam for its culinary traditions.  Including churches and non-profits that apply for permits in order to prepare and serve food, there are more than 550 permitted food service operators in Durham.

However, business climates that are this successful also draw operators who don't alway play by the rules. The Durham County Health Department now has some bite to its bark when it finds those operating outside the they can, and will, be working with the Durham Police Department to ticket illegal food vendors, requiring a court appearance with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Despite the fact that there are more than two dozen permitted mobile operators in Durham, there are some who try to fill the demand without going through proper channels; some intending to skirt the law and others simply uninformed.  For example, many non-profit groups raising funds for various causes aren't always aware they need a permit to sell food.  This is major concern as proper food handling practices are critical to maintaining the public's health.

"Durham is a place that thrives on exciting food and authentic preparation," says Shelly Green, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.  "Mobile food service has fewer barriers to entry, therefore lets more people through the door.  That's a plus and a minus, and this initiative by the Durham County Health Department looks like it has the right ingredients to make the scene in Durham approachable and enticing for everyone," she added.
Billing this initiative as education as much as enforcement, the DCHD is using this as an occassion to let citizens know how to report violators and also to inform those operating without permits how to obtain them and serve a safe product.  The number to call is 919-560-7800.

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