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March 03, 2010

“Little Pink Box of Love?” Or “Little Petrie Dish Of Deadly Contamination?!?!”

It’s the arrogance that really sticks in your craw. And so Ventura County, California Health inspectors finally put a stop to one hardware store’s reckless practice of giving away complimentary doughnuts and coffee to its customers without the proper permitting.

You read that right: Without. The. Proper. Permitting.

The owners have been putting out coffee and donuts in what they called their “little pink box of love” for their customers to enjoy for over 15 years in the complete and flagrant absence of a stainless steel sink with hot and cold water as the law, nay, as common decency, demands.

What were they thinking?

Simple answer: They weren’t.

Sadly, this is all too familiar a scene. Citizens across the United States seem to believe that they can do simple everyday things without the permission of the authorities.

That is why we must have strict code enforcement, to make sure consumers are prevented from using their own haphazard judgment, and business owners are properly incentivized to avoid unnecssary innovation and novelty.

What would we do without strict code enforcement?

Let’s take a look at the applicable California Retail Food Code (pdf).

Under Chapter 9, Article 1, Section 114266(a), all Permanent Food Facilities are required to have “Floors, Walls, and Ceilings.”

We don’t even want to think about what tragedies have been averted were greedy permanent food facility owners allowed to save a few bucks and skip the walls.

But that’s just common sense, such as the provision requiring that:

Floor surfaces shall be coved at the juncture of the floor and wall with a 3/8 inch minimum radius coving and shall extend up the wall at least 4 inches, except in areas where food is stored only in unopened bottles, cans, cartons, sacks, or other original shipping containers.”

Well, “duh.”  What idiot would use a ½” radius coving? 

But these rules don’t just cover critical areas such as floor coving.  They also address what kind of bag you can put French bread in under Chapter 4, Article 6, Sec. 114063 (c):

"French style, hearth-baked, or hard-crusted loaves and rolls shall be considered properly wrapped if contained in an open-end bag of sufficient size to enclose the loaves or rolls."

You know what you get if you allow business owners to sell, and willing consumers to buy, French-style hearth-baked loaves in open ended bags of insufficient size to enclose the loaves?

Chaos.

Similarly, Chapter 4, Article 7 Sec. 114073 stipulates that:

"Bulk milk container dispensing tubes shall be cut on the diagonal leaving no more than one inch protruding from the chilled dispensing head."

What if you were to cut the milk container dispensing tubes at something other than a diagonal?

What, you want to kill someone?

So we salute the Ventura County Code Enforcers.  Without you, we’d have no walls, our floor covings would be deficient, our loaves would be dangling and utter mayhem would rule when it came to cutting milk dispensing tubes.

Sure, we’re missing out on some free doughnuts, but unfortunately, the risk of offering donuts and coffee to people in a setting that is replicated in conference rooms, homes, and office areas hundreds of thousands of times each day without incident is just too damn risky.

Wait, that didn't come out right...

J.

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March 3, 2010 at 05:41 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

I frequently enjoy your links, but I am flat-out not going to click on this one. This has to be one of your "Onion" pieces, there's no way I can sleep at night thinking that a small town requires a sink and a food service pantry to give out donuts.

Nice one, though. You had me going.

Posted by: Michael | Mar 3, 2010 8:35:32 PM

These food codes all make sense. The milk thing is to make sure you don't create a way for milk to collect and spoil in the spout of a dispenser. The use of floor-to-wall quarter-round is to keep out bugs, and the french bread thing is an exception to have sealed bread bags to keep bugs out. Food sanitation gets blown off all the time, so the rules are there for a good reason for once.

Posted by: JP | Mar 4, 2010 3:19:42 PM

If they make sense, why do we need a rule for them?

Lots of things make sense, including wearing a hat and mittens when it's cold out, but I don't want government inspectors citing me in front of the 7-11 for improperly failing to yield to common sense.

Likewise, I neither want nor need the health inspectors of Ventura County telling me how many insect parts are acceptable in my French bread. (Hint: A LOT if the price is right!)

Posted by: Planet Moron | Mar 4, 2010 4:00:31 PM

If people had any sense we would not need rules for common interest issues, but most people don't know jack about sanitation, and fewer people learn how to cook every year. The sense should be applied when it comes to something like free doughnuts in a box. It is not like the hardware store is making the doughnuts. My question is how does the doughnut in the box go from being sanitary out on the street to unsafe once it enters a business. Now, I know how the government manages the same stunt, but that is a different story.

Posted by: JP | Mar 4, 2010 6:50:23 PM

People might very well not have sense but it does not necessarily follow that the health inspectors of Ventura County or the authors of the California Retail Food Code do.

In fact, the piece demonstrates emphatically that they do not. Once you accept that the state has a right to tell you the precise amount of floor coving you need in your restaurant (most likely the product of heavy lobbying by the floor coving inudustry), you are conceding they have the right to tell you to put away your free box of doughnuts. You are essentially elevating their judgment above yours.

And they've just demonstrated that they're a bunch of morons like the rest of us.

Which is actually a pretty good summation of my Planet Moron book. (And yes, I'm actually in the midst of writing it. Again.)

Posted by: Planet Moron | Mar 4, 2010 7:33:55 PM

I hope you are confining yourself to specific morons or it is going to be a golden gate project writing that book.

Posted by: JP | Mar 4, 2010 11:19:35 PM

It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Made out of fish. ;)

Posted by: Planet Moron | Mar 5, 2010 8:35:31 AM

Without such actions, the public would not be protected from another 15 years of no fatalities or illnesses. The Peoples Republic of California and subordinate entities would only get credit for periodically shipping large quantities of salmonella tainted food. One also needs to consider that by giving away the coffee and donuts, government entities are being deprived of sales taxes not charged. Perhaps, too, one should consider that by blaming the code, you are blaming the weapon instead of the wielder; e.g., blaming the crowbar instead of the mugger. And, without such jobs for inspectors, they might have to go back to being cable guys, and really screw things up.

Actually, the entire incident is a diversion. The real transgression was using “pink” and “love.” The Peoples Republic reserves that color and action word as their own.

Posted by: Ran | Mar 5, 2010 9:18:06 AM

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