East County News Service
November 18, 2016 (San Diego)-- County Supervisors adopted new rules Wednesday aimed at making sure people are safe when they visit the region’s hopping number of breweries and wineries and decide to have a burger with their brew or more than just a little cheese with their wine.
Supervisors voted 4-0 to adopt an ordinance and two new permits that will apply food-safety rules found in restaurants to caterers hired to serve food at breweries, wineries and other businesses.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob said the rules would be the first of their kind in California, serving as a model ordinance for other counties and cities while the county’s burgeoning winery and brewery industry grow even more.
“(With) this ordinance our county will establish a lot more flexibility and opportunity for caterers, food vendors, wineries and breweries,” Jacob said. “In the end it’s going to help to support, and enhance and expand our local farm and ag-tourism efforts that (we) have been so excited about.”
But some local vintners are voicing concerns over potentially high costs of complying with the new requirements. Teri Kerns at Ramona Ranch Vineyard & Winery told ECM, “We are still wrapping our heads around these changes and what the impact will be to small businesses, but it seems to put us at a disadvantage.” The winery’s co-owner, Micole Moore, is president of the Ramona Valley Vineyards Association.
The ordinance will allow caterers to handle the food-service for wineries, breweries and businesses that don’t have full food-service capabilities — while making sure customers are protected by ensuring foods are heated and refrigerated correctly, and that food preparers and servers have equipment for proper hygiene.
The ordinance is scheduled to be heard again by the board Dec. 14 for a second reading and public hearing. The ordinance would then take effect in 30 days if the board approves the second reading.
The County’s Department of Environmental Health recommended the new rules after conducting a three-month pilot study of 25 catering events at 10 wineries, 13 breweries and two private functions. The board approved the study in May at Jacob’s recommendation.
Environmental health staff reported Wednesday that they saw three common problems during the study that could increase bacteria and the potential for people to get sick with food-borne illnesses.
They included food servers using ice coolers, which warm up when ice melts, rather than portable refrigerators, to try to keep cold foods safely chilled; and not having ready access to sinks to wash utensils, equipment and food-servers hands. The study found that less than one-half of food servers in the study had access to proper sinks.
The board’s action Wednesday will create two new types of permits. Breweries, wineries and other businesses who want to use caterers to provide their customers’ food will have to get “host facility” permits that ensure they have readily accessible sinks for food servers to clean utensils, equipment and their hands, as well as electricity, hot water and commercial bathrooms.
Caterers will be allowed to get “direct sales catering” permits that will expand the traditional definition of “catering” from just serving private affairs to being able to sell directly to the public. The permits will require caterers to have refrigeration and hand washing.