The Burlington Board of Health voted unanimously this week to approve a new fee structure for restaurants to better reflect the way the Public Health department conducts food safety inspections at each facility.
Rather than charging restaurants based on the number of seats, the new system charges based on the complexity of the food preparation being done on site. A restaurant with lots of seating but simple cooking processes could end up paying less in the new system, while a restaurant with few seats but complicated cooking processes may pay more.
According to Burlington Director of Public Health Susan Lumenello, no other towns in the surrounding area charge based on this fee structure, but it seemed like the best approach for Burlington. “The number of seats in an establishment does not reflect the complexity of an operation,” she said.
Process 1 establishments are those with no cooking and no trips through the “temperature danger zone,” the range of temperatures in which bacteria growth occurs most rapidly. Process 2 is food preparation for same-day service with one trip through the temperature danger zone, for example, “hot-holding.”
“If you’re taking something and you’re hearing it up and you’re holding it hot, that’s a trip through the temperature danger zone,” Lumenello said.
Process 3 is complex food preparation with two or more trips through the temperature danger zone.
The new fee system also adds a $100 fee for the organizers of temporary food events like Taste of Burlington or the Gluten Free Festival, and a $150 once-per-year charge for the organizers of seasonal events like farmers markets.
Fees will be waived for nonprofits.
“We need to be able to take a permit away if we go in and do an inspection and they’re not in compliance,” Lumenello said. She said the new system allowed the department to make sure there was someone on site to make sure each vendor had handwashing stations, thermometers, and other food safety tools.
The new fee structure is estimated to bring in an additional $2,900 for the town.