Some questions have arisen recently regarding “Potlucks” at the Oracle Community Center. The following is provided by County Health staff for residents’ information. I hope it helps answer some questions:
We understand there has been some recent confusion between food service and potlucks at a local senior center. Senior centers, which are open to the public, often serve meals to the local community. Since they are preparing and serving food to the public, this requires that they have a permit from the local health department and that they follow food safety guidelines.
One food safety rule that applies to all food establishments is that food prepared in a home kitchen may NOT be served to the public. All food must come from an approved source and be appropriately prepared by trained staff in the approved kitchen. In cases where home prepared foods are being served, this is a violation of the health code from a safety perspective.
The Arizona Legislature recently clarified language to clearly exempt non-commercial social events such as potlucks from permit requirements. Potlucks are events where a group of people get together socially and share food that they have prepared with each other. It is a private social gathering, NOT OPEN to the public, where food is shared. Potlucks have neither historically nor currently required any approval from the health department.
One important point where people may become confused is how the determination of what is food service and what is a potluck is made. Simply calling things a potluck does not make it so. Persons who are participating in the potluck should be those who are contributing food or effort to the cause. The event should be social, not commercial. The potluck should not be open to the public.
Pinal County Environmental Health Services is always happy to answer any questions or clarify any concerns regarding food safety and food service permitting. For more information on Pinal County’s food safety program, please visit the Pinal County Environmental Health Services webpage at http://pinalcountyaz.gov/ehs, or call 866-287-0209.
/s/ Pete Rios
Pinal county Vice-Chair Dist. 1