Friday, August 2, 2013

Foxboro Taking Bake Sale Rules Too Far

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, August 2, 2013

By Bill Gouveia

            The world today is very different from the one that produced my generation.  And yes, I did walk to school every day in all kinds of weather, uphill both ways.  Except for the days I rode my bike (without a helmet, which might explain a lot to frequent readers).

            I’m grateful for the progress we have made in this country over my lifetime with regard to safety and health concerns.  That’s why I accept the need for bicycle helmets, car seats, and background checks on adults who work with children.  The newer rules might be a little more restrictive than those of 40 years ago, but they make a lot of sense.

            Well, many do.  But someone is going to have to explain to me just what in the name of Sara Lee the Foxboro Board of Health thinks it’s doing.

            In case you missed it, the BOH in that community recently released an email announcing that if you want to have a bake sale in town, you must get a permit from their board.  In fairness, they did note the permit is free.  All they require is that you fill out a simple form and comply with some simple rules, all for “trace back purposes” only.

            That form asks for the name of your organization, your name, your address, telephone number and mailing address.  You must give them the date, time and location of the sale, as well as the hours of operation.  You must tell them what items you intend to sell or give away, and you must sign and date the application to attest to the accuracy of the information provided.

            The application informs you that “potentially hazardous foods” such as eclairs are not allowed.  They require you to label all products with the ingredients and the initials of the person who baked them.  On a separate index card you must list what the item is, the ingredients in decreasing amounts, and the baker’s full name and address.  If a brownie, cake or cookie mix was used, you must attach the ingredient panel from the box (including any added ingredients like eggs, oil, nuts, etc.). 

            Boy, that really makes you want to whip up a chocolate cake to raise money for the local church bake sale, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe after you’ve updated your personal liability policy, gotten the minister to sign an insurance waiver, and submitted your medical records for the last five years - but only for “trace back purposes”, of course.

            No one should underestimate the seriousness of food allergies or the spreading of dangerous bacteria or disease.  I do not have any food allergies, but have seen the serious conditions they cause.  And in tracing a dangerous outbreak of any kind of poisoning, there is no such thing as having too much information.

            But this is nuts.  Oh, sorry – I probably can’t say nuts without listing them on the warning label that obviously should accompany any newspaper column.  With no malice intended towards anyone who is just trying to create and maintain the public health, I say with all due respect:  This is crazy.

            If you are really worried about allergies and the spreading of dangerous bacteria, you probably shouldn’t buy that apple pie from the local band parents association.  You also should probably not buy that hot dog at the ballpark or the ice cream from the small stand down the street. In fact if you made vendors list the ingredients of a hot dog on a label attached to the bun, it’s likely no one would eat them at all.

            I admit to ignorance when it comes to problems associated with bake sales.  Perhaps I missed the news coverage of the deadly string of poisonings associated with the miniscule amounts of baked goods sold in small towns like Foxboro.  In fact, in my own personal experience most of those goods end up being bought by the families of those who baked them in the first place.

            I’m sure the Foxboro BOH took the bake sale action with the best of intentions and after careful consideration.  But if there is a label on my next sausage at Gillette Stadium, they’re getting a nasty letter from me.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and has been known to cause irritation.   He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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