Friday, April 10, 2009

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Government Cracks Down on Homemade Pies

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article (may be gated) on a Pennsylvania state code-enforcement officer's shutting down the sale of homemade pies at a church in Rochester, PA:

On the first Friday of Lent, an elderly female parishioner of St. Cecilia Catholic Church began unwrapping pies at the church. That's when the trouble started.

A state inspector, there for an annual checkup on the church's kitchen, spied the desserts. After it was determined that the pies were home-baked, the inspector decreed they couldn't be sold. . . .

The problem is the pies are illegal in Pennsylvania. Under the state's food-safety code, facilities that provide food at four or more events in a year require at least a temporary eating and drinking license, and food has to be prepared in a state-inspected kitchen. Many churches have six fish fries a year, on Fridays during Lent. St. Cecilia's has always complied with having its kitchen licensed, so food made there is fine to serve. But homemade goods don't make the cut.

The article also includes a nice little lesson on how "safety" regulations become a weapon that private actors can wield indirectly against their competitors:

Mr. Chirdon [the PA Dept. of Agriculture's food-safety director] says the pie episode has shed light on an often-overlooked aspect of food safety. "I've gotten a lot of letters from churches that are tattletaling on churches down the street that aren't licensed and don't meet standards for food service."

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