VERIFY: Is it legal to give out food without a permit?

VERIFY: Is it legal to donate food without a permit?

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and people across Central Georgia have been helping those in need.

"People in this area and surrounding counties are still willing to give and show love," Andrea Lee, Supervisor of the Senior Center in Macon, said.

Many were willing to help some senior citizens Tuesday morning. Kids from the Mentor's Project handed out groceries at the Senior Center in Macon. Lee says it's a blessing.

"They don't have the resources and/or the funds to go and buy these things, and a lot of times, they may not have the family or the friends or the churches to help them and make sure they do have a meal for Thanksgiving," Lee said.

But is there a right and a wrong way to help out?

We wanted to Verify, is it legal to donate food without a permit?

Donna Cadwell, Environmental Health County Manager for the Macon-Bibb County Health Department, says no.

She says food giveaways without a food service permit are illegal under state law.

"You cannot take home-cooked meals and give them to the public," Cadwell said. "In order for food that is cooked to be served to the public, it has to be prepared under either a permanent or a temporary permit."

She says dry food is OK, but to hand out cooked food in a public setting, you have to fill out an application and get a permit.

"The benefits at the holidays when people want to help more, it's a blessing and it can help those people, but it needs to be done properly," Cadwell said.

She says people in need deserve food that's as safe as anyone else's.

"This process is not to stop temporary permits," Cadwell said. "The rules are there because something went wrong some time in the past and these rules are in place so that we can avoid something going wrong."

So we verified -- no, you cannot hand out cooked food to the public without a permit.

Cadwell says as long as you follow the rules, everyone can have a safe and healthy holiday season.

Cadwell says there is no fine associated with operating without a permit, at least not in their district. She says anyone operating without a permit will be asked to voluntarily cease operations and leave the area.

If the person or group continues operations, they will face administrative and legal responses from the Health Department and law enforcement as needed.

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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