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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Regulations, The Church Fish Fry, and The Fish Wrap

One story causing a bit of a stir up here in the lower Fox River Valley is one most of us consider to be a staple of Wisconsin culture & life — The Lenten Church Fish Fry. Well the Green Bay Fish Wrap errr the Press Gazette recently came out with an article questioning the food safety of such events.

Jerry Bader is responding by giving churches time on Friday to promote their events on the air, so if you have a fish fry on Friday tune into am 1360 from 8:30 am - 11:00 am and get the details as to when to call in. BTW a representative of the church has to go live, don't send an e-mail expecting it to be read.

That all said. For about the past three years I have participated in a small scale food manufacturing, production, and selling business (to support a non-profit I am a part of). None of the team members have any real serious food professional background (I worked in a cannery for two summers, others may have worked as waitresses & waiters, etc).

When we plan and execute such an affair we do not have what I consider to be real stringent rules we have to abide by, mostly because we have become used to them. The only rule that is a pain in the... is the requirement we have to do any required preparation work in a licensed establishment. That is, we have to find a state certified commercial kitchen in which to do our work, whether that be a church kitchen, a restaurant's kitchen, a hall's kitchen, or what have you. Problem is, many such kitchens are reluctant to let strange third parties come in and use their facilities even if you volunteer to pay and pay well for it.

The license gives health inspectors an opportunity to test the kitchen's equipment and make sure at least one person on site has some training in food preparation and storage.

The absence of a permit doesn't mean the food is less safe, and patrons should be cautious nonetheless with food prepared at community dinners.

Karen Lacey is a registered dietitian and director of the dietetics program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She said fish fries can be tricky for the untrained chef because it's hard to tell whether the interior is completely done.

Lacey said cooks should be "checking some random samples, especially when you're deep frying, to make sure the internal temperature is appropriate."
[emphasis added]
That is why God gave us the ability to create thermometers. We are required to have a digital thermometer on hand and let me tell you, I use it and do so frequently. I use to check my colds and use it to check my hots. I use it to spot check product coming off of the grill, out of the deep fryer, and product in the display case. In fact, one former colleague in this project made fun of me due to this (as well as other things I used to monitor).

There is one major thing the health inspectors really focus on and that is your temperatures. I don't know about the health department in Green Bay but the group in Appleton is pretty tight about this and they make it known up front when you are in the process of getting your food license about the need for temperature checking. Every Octoberfest booth selling food is inspected and if you are a Farmer's Market booth you can be expected at least one if not more inspections.

In Mr. Kyle's article he did not report on any discussions with local health officials, but only a state official. I really wish he would have talked with some folks from the Brown County or the Green Bay health departments.