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OTHER OPINION: FOOD SAFETY

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State officials who organized a food safety workshop to help groups meet the requirements of new legislation that became known as the “church lady” bill, were expecting 200 people to take part. More than 700 signed up, and organizers had to cut off registration.

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Well, isn’t that special!

The church lady bill, named in part after the Saturday Night Live character played by Dana Carvey, took effect on Aug. 1. Introduced by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, it was intended to unravel some of the health department red tape for churches and other non-profits who hold potluck dinners, fish fries and other fundraisers that focus on food.

In exchange for dropping some health inspection requirements, lawmakers added a compromise provision in the bill that requires at least one volunteer at each site to complete a food safety course.

We’re pleasantly surprised that so many people signed up for the first course offering. We supported Drazkowski’s efforts to reduce the bureaucracy necessary for churches and service clubs to hold food-based fundraisers. But it’s absolutely imperative that the folks serving the hamburger hotdish, sloppy Joes or deep fried walleye at these events know how to keep the food safe. ...

The department has indicated that it won’t begin strict enforcement of the new education rule until there has been more opportunity for church ladies — and men — to take part in the class. We urge all church groups and other organizations that hold fundraisers to not only designate a person or people in the group to sign up for the workshop, but to conduct in-house training sessions of their own to give food preparers the knowledge they need to keep potluck attendees safe.

The training might not be, in the word of THE church lady, “conveeeenient!” But it’s the safe thing to do.

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Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2010 and works as a online reporter, content editor and staff writer. She is a world traveler, accused idealist and California native now braving the winters of Central Minnesota. She believes in the power of human resolve and hopes to be part of something that makes history by bringing an end to injustice in the world. Sarah has worked as a criminal background researcher, high school civics teacher, grant writer, and contributing writer with Causecast.org — tackling every issue from global poverty to bio-degradable bicycles. Her favorite thing about living in Minnesota is July. Sarah left the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2014.
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