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Keeping Fair Food Safe

August 7, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Keeping Fair Food Safe

Thousands of people expected to feast at the Sioux Empire Fair every day this week, which is why city and state inspectors are working to make sure the food is safe.

With the corn dogs, cotton candy and funnel cakes, it's not difficult to stray from your diet.

"It may not be the healthiest food, but we're here to make sure it's safe," Sioux Falls Environmental Health Specialist Mark Schuttloffel said.

Schuttloffel is one of the city employees who works with state inspectors to make sure fair favorites are safe to eat. The inspectors check every food vendor at least once a day, including The Meat Wagon.

"It's very important to temp your food and everything because there will probably be 40, 50, or 60,000 people out here on a daily basis," The Meat Wagon Owner Pat Minihan said.

Minihan carries several thermometers in his pockets so he can constantly check the temperature of his meat. That way when inspectors check up on him, he has nothing to sweat about, aside from the heat coming from the grill.

"We have a probe thermometer and all coolers are required to have thermometers in them.  So they can maintain 41 or less and then the hot holding is above 140 degrees Fahrenheit," Schuttloffel said.

While The Meat Wagon didn't have any violations, sometimes businesses do. If that's the case, they have to correct it. If they aren't able to correct it, they'll be forced to shut down.

"And whenever in doubt, we make them throw it out. If a product is in the temperature danger zone, we'll discard it right on the spot," Schuttloffel said.

But Schuttloffel says most food is fair game. In his 18 years at his job, he can only recall one vendor who's had to shut down. Most businesses, such as The Meat Wagon, want to serve up a safe product.

"We aren't in the business to make people sick so it's very important to serve safe food," Minihan said.

The Sioux Empire Fair runs through Sunday at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds.

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