The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 12, 2011

Shutdown: Fairs don't get state food inspectors

When Minnesota Lake Festag Chairman Richard Staloch phoned state officials last week to inquire about food stand inspections at the town’s annual celebration, the response was terse.

“They just kind of said, ‘You’re on your own.’”

As the state government shutdown drags on, food concessions at smaller county fairs and festivals statewide are going uninspected by the state Department of Health due to a dearth of available staff. 

If the shutdown remains in place through the fair and summer festival season, officials of some events may have to get creative.

“We’ll do the inspections ourselves and go by state guidelines,” Blue Earth County Fair Board President Jerry Kramer said. “We’re not professionals, but we’d do our best. (Determining) cleanliness is common sense.”

With less than 20 percent of its food inspectors on duty, the Health Department will focus its inspection work on events drawing the largest numbers of people.

Department spokesman John Stieger said inspectors will only go to fairs and festivals expected to draw 10,000 attendees or more.

That would appear to leave the Blue Earth County Fair (annual attendance 10,000 to 12,000) just off the bubble while New Ulm’s annual Bavarian Blast this weekend (attendance 6,000) would be skipped.

This story will be updated in the Wednesday print edition of The Free Press and on the replica electronic edition.

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