North Carolina State Fair

Inspectors ensure fair food is safe before crowds indulge

Posted October 9, 2018 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2018 6:04 p.m. EDT

— If your favorite part of the North Carolina State Fair is the food, inspectors were working Tuesday to make sure you won't get sick eating it, unless you eat too much, that is.

On Tuesday, health inspectors made sure all that fried and gluttonous goodness is handled and served up safe to eat.

One of the first stops for Wake County health inspectors was one of the oldest fair vendors: Big Al's Fries. There, Debbie Anderson said, they've been serving fairgoers since 1959.

New vendor or established presence, the pre-opening inspection is the same.

"We're making sure they have the ability to wash their hands, that they have the correct coolers and freezers, that they can actually cook their food all the way through, that they have thermometers," said Laura Lerch, a Wake County health inspector.

She was one of 40 making the rounds to 155 food booths to make sure they are ready to properly prepare food for hundreds of thousands of people.

"We try to keep our booth as clean as possible, buying new filter grills every year, buying new burners," Anderson said. "Everything we have is as clean as you can get it."

Fair food vendors

Once the gates open to visitors on Thursday afternoon, more inspections follow.

"At that point we're looking for anything that contributes to food-borne illness – final cook temperatures, hot and cold holding, handwashing," Lerch said.

Overall good hygiene is important for those who serve the food and those who indulge.

"Make sure they wash their hands after they handle your money before they start preparing your food," Lerch said.

Vendors do not get a grade card like permanent restaurants and food trucks. They post a permit, and Al's Fries passed with flying colors.

Another roughly 150 vendors – those that serve bakery items and ice cream – are inspected by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.