Newnan shuts down unlicensed vendors
by WES MAYER
Newnan Police Department recently shut down numerous unlicensed food vendors within the city limits.
No cases were made against any of the vendors in the sweep last month, but they were ordered to cease producing food until they acquired the proper licenses.
According to Patti Gammans, an inspector with the Coweta County Environmental Health department, the summer season is when many vendors begin to sell their food on the streets. Gamman surges consumers to be wary of food they may purchase from these vendors.
“I believe they try to do a good job,” Gammans said. “But they don’t know the rules and regulations.”
The many problems that vendors run across is that they don’t have access to running water or electricity, Gammans said. Because of that, vendors often do not have the ability to maintain proper temperatures for their food or the ability to wash their hands and keep their area sanitary. Cross contamination of their food can be a serious issue.
Vendors often don’t even attempt to get a license to serve food because of the money it would cost them, she said.
According to Gammans, even some businesses that offer catering are unlicensed to do so. Vendors and caterers must have designated kitchens that have been inspected by officials and cleared for serving food.
“People need to be aware,” Gammans said. “Not everyone is allowed to sell food. If it is not inspected, it is not permitted.”
There is one exception to the rule. Gammans said that nonprofit organizations are allowed to serve food without a license as long as they obtain a 501(c) exemption from the IRS. Then the registered nonprofit may sell food for a short period of time from their property. Usually this will be a church nonprofit selling food for an event, but occasionally vendors will try to use the nonprofit exception as an excuse, Gammans said.
There are several mobile trucks in the city that are permitted to sell food. After spending the money to purchase these vehicles, Gammans said, these mobile vendors usually get their businesses properly licensed as well. There are also a few vendors that can get away with serving non-hazardous foods that they don’t need to touch with their hands, like cotton candy or popcorn, and these vendors are usually safe to buy from.
Gammans said that licensed, inspected and permitted food vendors will always have their inspection grades and documents clearly posted. Without these, the vendor is illegally selling you food and may be endangering your health.
“They have to pay money, and they have to follow the rules,” Gammans said.
The entire list of food service regulations can be found on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website at health.state.ga.us .