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Minnesota Legislature

New Law: Food inspection exceptions

Published (7/15/2011)
By Hank Long
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The efforts of a couple of self-professed “church ladies” from Goodhue County saved their church dinners thanks to a new law that exempts meals served by faith-based organizations from certain Health Department food inspection regulations, including inspections.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) and Sen. John Sterling Howe (R-Red Wing), the legislation grants certain organizations with tax-exempt status exemption from food regulation statutes. It would also affect organizations that are affiliated with or related to a sportsman organization. It also adds a limitation that events must be held in the organization’s building or on the grounds.

Pat Irrthum and Kathy Theel began their efforts to reform the law that jeopardized their church dinners at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Zumbrota after Goodhue County relinquished its food inspection service for nonprofits last year as a cost saving measure. The Department of Health took over the duties for the county and last spring informed parishioners at the church and other area churches that they were in violation of a state law that requires permits for nonprofit events where homemade food is served. Irrthum testified in House and Senate health committees that her church never received previous communication prior to the health inspector’s arrival at their parish.

The law exempts church dinners from inspection provided that a certified food manager, or a volunteer trained in a food safety course, trains the food preparation workers in safe food handling practices. The exemption does not apply to faith-based organizations at the state fair or county fairs or to faith-based organizations that choose to apply for a license.

The law also states that school concession stands that serve commercially prepared, non-potentially hazardous foods are exempt from food inspection.

Additionally, the law adds an exception for food service events following a disaster as long as commercially prepared, non-potentially hazardous food is served.

The law is effective Aug. 1, 2011.

HF637/ SF477*/CH92

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