Catering and home-based food businesses must have food-service permit
Rome, GA: “Catering and home-based food businesses need a food-service permit to prepare and serve food to private parties and events.” That’s the message Tim Allee, Environmental Health Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Northwest Health District, wants to impart to northwest Georgia citizens who operate or might operate this type of business.
“We want folks who use or might use these types of business to understand the rules, too” Allee says. “Our objective is to help protect the public’s health by minimizing food-borne illnesses.”
Allee advises anyone having any questions about permits for catering or home-based food business to contact the environmental health office of their local county health department. Those phone numbers are available at http://nwgapublichealth.org/ under the specific county.
“With rare exception, anyone preparing and serving food to the public must have a permit” Allee explains, “and this includes catering and home-based food businesses. Individuals that cater food for special events, such as weddings and other social gatherings, are required to have a food-service permit and are not allowed to prepare foods in home kitchens.”
In Georgia, these permits are issued by the Georgia Department of Public Health, by way of the local county health department, or by the Department of Agriculture. In the ten northwest Georgia counties comprising the Northwest Health District, according to Allee, the health department is responsible for permitting local food-service establishments, including restaurants, coffee shops, catering facilities, school cafeterias, institutional facilities and mobile food trucks.
“Most folks know we regularly inspect local businesses serving food to ensure restaurants and other food retail outlets are following safe food handling procedures,” says Allee, “but not many people know we also issue food-service permits.”
Exceptions, Allee notes, are “food-sale facilities such as grocery stores, convenience stores and similar businesses where the majority of foods are packaged for off-site consumption. These are permitted and inspected by the Department of Agriculture.”
Allee also want northwest Georgia residents to know that local food-service facilities receive at least two surprise or unannounced inspections each year and that the results of those inspection can be viewed at www.nwgapublichealth.org. Scores are updated in real time as inspections are made, Allee says.
According to Allee, “when inspecting a food-service facility, we focus on the things that have the greatest potential to cause food-borne illness if not managed correctly, things such as handwashing, protecting foods from potential contamination and keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.”
State laws regulate how frequently these inspections take place and what specific items the inspectors look for, but, in general, according to Allee, “environmental health inspectors check that safeguards are in place to protect food from contamination by food handlers, cross-contamination and contamination from other sources in the restaurant.”
For additional information about food-service permits and inspections, contact the environmental health office of your local county health department, contact the district environmental health office at 706-295-6650 or visit http://nwgapublichealth.org.