I-Team: Hand-washing, food temperatures biggest missteps at North Carolina State Fair

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How safe is the food at the State Fair?

The North Carolina State Fair is famous for its artery-clogging deep-fried treats. While, it's one thing for the food itself to be unhealthy, to health inspectors it's all about preparedness.

The 150th fair features 155 food vendors offering festive favorites like turkey legs and roasted corn to the less-common but equally-delicious specialties like cheese curds and fried pumpkin pie (are you hungry yet?).

Calorie counts notwithstanding, 41 inspectors with Wake County Environmental Services patrol the fairgrounds everyday focusing on what they consider the five most important health concerns:

*Employee hygiene

*Serving food temperature

*Cooking food temperature

*Equipment

*Approved food sources (expiration dates)

Laura Lerch, Head Inspector for State Projects and Temporary Food Establishments, explained to ABC11 the most rigorous check and balance occurs right before the fair starts: obtaining the "Temporary Food Establishment" (TFE) permit. Among other requirements, the vendor must present a proposed menu, food handling procedures, including anticipated food volume and sources; food equipment list; proposed water supply; and provisions for sewage and other waste disposal.

NC Food Code Manual

No permit will be given without passing the final inspection, and random checks will continue throughout the fair. Lerch, however, said inspectors are more interested in educating vendors than they are shutting them down. In fact, inspectors do not issue violations - they only issue evaluations. Additionally, the county has not set up a computer system to organize all of the data, but Lerch says the county is working on that for the future.

Customers who have their own concerns or notice potential violations may call the State Fair Hotline at (919) 664-7700.

Vendors who sell only dipped ice cream, shaved ice, popcorn, candied apples, cotton candy, funnel cakes, doughnuts, peanuts and commercially prepackaged chips and candy do not have to get an operational permit; however, vendors should contact the NC Department of Agriculture at (919) 733-7366 to determine if a permit is needed from them.

Related Topics:
fooditeamnc state fairfood safetyRaleighWake County
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