Thursday, June 15, 2006

Potshots

G. Jack Parisi must wear latex gloves to bed at night just to be safe. Or at least that’s the impression given of Schenectady County’s director of food and environmental health unit in an article headlining in the Daily Gazette Thursday, as he warns citizens of a looming danger threatening stomachs across the region: potluck dinners.

That’s right. Potluck dinners, it’s like playing Russian roulette, only with food.

Granted, there’s a certain degree of danger in eating any food prepared by someone else behind closed doors or at foreign locations. Then again, there’s an inherent danger in eating food altogether. This is not to say that any regulation capriciously enforced by either the county or the state is going to protect people from food-born illness.

But to warn people in a more-than-ominous way about the so-called dangers of shoveling down some glazed ham and cucumber salad at the local farm's fundraiser is just asinine. And to suggest that every church group in the Capital Region apply for a county permit before hosting a Sunday potluck or congregation barbeque is even more ridiculous.

Even better is Parisi’s threat to perform spot inspections and throw out food if necessary at some of these events. Of course, he’s got enforcer Andrew Suflita, the county’s senior public health sanitarian, to back him up on this idle threat.

“We will shut them down if there’s cause,” he told the Gazette.

Only cookies and similar dry baked goods are safe from this dynamic duo, which must have gotten a large grant from the state and a massive shipment of amphetamines if they think they’re going inspect every church picnic in the county this summer. Well guys, before you start shutting down these potlucks like prohibition-era speakeasies, perhaps you should make sure all the county's restaurants are abiding by this wonderful health code of yours.

Truth be known, there’s hardly any restaurants in the region that abide fully to the state health code; simply put, it’s overbearing and just not practical. In most cases, restaurateurs will catch the health department on the way into their establishment, then rectify most of the minor problems in the back long before they ever start scribbling on their clipboard.

Granted, nobody wants food prepared in a filthy kitchen with roaches scurrying across the floor, or by a guy with jaundice and open sores. But if granny’s potato salad has stood the test of more than a half-century’s worth of stomachs without causing a region-wide bacterial infection, chances are pretty good she’s making it in a somewhat sanitary way.

This said, Parisi and Suflita should find a better hobby than frightening elderly folks looking to raise a few pennies for their organizations. Better yet, maybe the county could find a better hobby for them where they actually earn their inflated paychecks footed by public tax dollars.

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