October 6, 2004
School districts and parent groups are playing catch-up to learn county food handling rules that have existed for decades: No more homemade goodies for class parties, and most food sales require a permit.
"This is the first year we are requiring permits from booster clubs and PTO organizations. Even though these guidelines have been in place for years, they have not been enforced," said Mo Heydari, a manager with Maricopa County Health Services, on Tuesday.
County officials cut the number of permit options on Monday from eight. "We realized the parent groups fit into three or four different types of permits," Heydari said.
Sue Bettenhausen, director of food services with the Scottsdale Unified School District, told the Scottsdale Parent Council on Tuesday that in the county’s "attempt to simplify and streamline they made it more stringent."
Parent volunteers can get free food handler cards to serve prepackaged foods, such as soda and chips, after taking a 25-question multiple-choice test. The groups still need at least one person with a catering permit if they are selling open, potentially hazardous food, such as pizza and ice cream. And the groups need to have a caterer, such as the school’s cafeteria, that has an operating permit.
Food prepared at home is strictly forbidden. "If something happened, there is no way to trace it back. By asking for these requirements, and inspecting, we can have a better idea, what is being prepared, what is being served and where this food comes from," Heydari said.
Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Paradise Valley school districts began enforcing the rules after a county request in a July letter.
Mesa Unified School District discouraged parents from bringing in homemade treats after a hepatitis A outbreak in 1998. This is the first year the district has contacted parent groups about food handling and sales.
The county plans inspections of booster club concessions this fall. Inspectors can shut down an operation and/or issue a citation requiring a court appearance and a judge to decide up to a $2,000 fine.