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Caterers Must Follow Specific Food Safety Rules

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DURHAM, N.C. — Anyone who is good in the kitchen can probably handle fruit, but if you prepare food to serve to the public, your kitchen first has to be inspected. One caterer is in trouble after being accused of serving baked beans that made churchgoers sick.

"The sanitation systems are in place, approved dishwashing and utensils sanitation, appropriate refrigeration," said Durham County Health Director Brian Letourneau said. "They are held to the same standard that any restaurant business is held to in terms of food permits."

More than 50 members of Peace Missionary Baptist in Durham got salmonella food poisoning earlier in July. Authorities said caterer Carl Privette did not prepare his food in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen. Durham health officials claim it can be a common problem.

To get a permit, caterers must follow special food safety rules. For example, they must have several sinks for specific tasks, an oven hot enough to prevent bacteria growth and commercial refrigerators.

"I have a $17,000 grease trap and that's why a person who is not licensed, inspected or insured can do it for $4 a person and I can't," caterer Barbara Boney said.

Boney said no one has ever gotten sick from her food. She believes it is because she follows the rules, but following the rules is still not foolproof.

"There's no guarantee even with a permit that you're not going to get sick, but the odds are less," Letourneau said.

Privette is scheduled to appear in Durham County District Court on Aug. 9. The charge is a misdemeanor.


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