Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-373-2391

Summer Events Challenge Health Department

With the arrival of summer come lots of outdoor events, most of which include food. Licensing these temporary food events is a full-time effort for the Marion County Public Health Department's Food and Consumer Safety program. With more than 300 events and more than 1,400 licenses granted annually, temporary food licensing includes fairs, festivals, trade shows and business grand openings.

"If food is being prepared or served for the public, it is likely we will have issued a license and inspected the vendor," said Kelli Whiting, the health department's staff member responsible for the temporary licensing program.

Whiting says consumers should apply common sense when considering eating food at events. "Is cold food cold and is hot food hot? Temperature control is often an issue. If the food doesn't look or smell right, or if the vendor does not look reliable, that is a sign you should consider other options," said Whiting. There should be no bare hand contact with ready to eat foods. Last year health officials responded to concerns that an individual was selling tacos out of the trunk of a car. "If something seems out of place avoid it and contact the health department," added Whiting.

Health department inspectors ensure all food code requirements are met. If not, the vendor faces having to make immediate changes or having to throw food out or be shut down. "Most of the vendors I have worked with the last 20 years have been very good. Every now and then we encounter someone who does not know or want to follow the food code and we are always prepared to take the appropriate action, said Whiting.

The health department works closely with event organizers and vendors. In the case of events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which allows non-profit groups to sell food to raise funds for their organizations, the health department provides free food handling education.

The Marion County Public Health Department licenses 4,098 food establishments, with 2,359 classified as restaurants. For more information about the Department of Food and Consumer Safety, please call 221-2200, or to find food establishment inspection reports, go to www.mchd.com

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