Voice: Wyatt defended by chambers in supporting ‘spirit' of food safety laws

August 20, 2001

We must take exception to your recent editorial wherein you criticized Supervisor Gary Wyatt for taking a position in support of many of this county's charitable organizations that raise money by selling food at community events.

We agree with Supervisor Wyatt that the county Environmental Health department is being overzealous in their enforcement of the recently adopted state food safety laws.

When Wyatt admonished the Health Department to consider the "spirit" rather than the "letter" of the law, he was not necessarily asking them to ignore dangerous situations. Much of the discussion at the Board of Supervisors meeting in question centered around the department's enforcement of discretionary parts of the new state law, particularly as they relate to "fly screening."

Nowhere in this law is there a statewide requirement for fly screening for food booths at community events. Instead, the law allows local health officers to enact additional measures they deem necessary to protect the public health.


This county has determined on its own that our fly problem is worse than other areas of California and therefore has decided to enforce a screening requirement during certain warm weather conditions.

The screens are one of the most controversial provisions of the local enforcement methods. The Fire Department contends that the screens may be a fire hazard. Charities are faced with the potential of shutting down a food booth that has screening and the Health Department will shut us down if we don't.

In the meantime a source of income for these charities that provide many community services that the county does not have the funds to provide are in danger of going out of business.

All that Supervisor Wyatt wants is for the Health Department to consider enforcing conditions that truly present a potential food safety problem such as not refrigerating perishable food or not washing utensils used in preparation, etc.

It would be a shame to see some of the traditional events such as Cattle Call, Cinco de Mayo, the Carne Asada Cookoff and others lose their popularity or cease to exist because of overzealous enforcement of the food safety laws.

Thank you, Gary Wyatt, for trying to bring some sanity to the enforcement of the rules.


President, Brawley Chamber

of Commerce


President, Calexico Chamber

of Commerce


President, Calipatria Chamber

of Commerce


President, El Centro Chamber

of Commerce


Holtville Chamber of Commerce


President, Imperial Chamber

of Commerce

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