Another Reason to Hate Bureaucracy

I saw this story when it was tweeted by Rick Bayless earlier today.  It’s extremely sad and illustrates just how silly some government policies are.

Here is the link to the article posted on “The Stew”, a blog through the Chicago Tribune that’s all about Chicago’s food scene.  The blog was written by Monica Eng.  While there are a lot of unanswered questions, one thing remains clear – thousands of dollars worth of food was destroyed by health inspectors with bleach.

“In a sad struggle that unfolded in a West Town kitchen Thursday night, Department of Health inspectors seized, slashed open and poured bleach over thousands of dollars of local peaches, pears, raspberry and plum purees owned by pastry chef Flora Lazar. She’d purchased the fruit from Green City Market farmers last summer and had planned to use it to make local fruit gelees for her business, Flora Confections.”

To make things worse, there was nothing wrong with the food at all – there was a mixup with some paperwork.

“Inspectors cited no health problems with any of the food. They even encouraged Lazar’s son to eat the confiscated granola bars from Sunday Dinner Club. They only said the food was prepared by chefs who didn’t have the proper business licenses to prepare and sell it. But apparently in Chicago, you also need a license to give fruit to your child.”

The business-owner did what they had to do.  She was honest and did the right thing, but in the end, she was hurt by it.

“The destruction of organic artisanal granola bars and local fruit from Klug Farm and Hillside Orchards is heartbreaking to any local food advocate. But for Flora Lazar, this setback the week before Valentine’s Day is devastating.

‘This puts me out of business for six months,” a despondent Lazar said. “I have done everything by the rules. Instead of making the food at home, which I could easily do, I sought out and rented space in a licensed kitchen. When [the city] finally said we could apply for a separate license, I did that. I paid my $600 and invited the inspectors here today.'”

Now, there are a lot of issues here.  There’s the issue of government bureaucracy showing it’s absolutely ridiculous side.  (This is not news.)  And, there’s the issue of small businesses – that are just trying to stay afloat in our crappy economy – getting ripped apart by losing money and supplies and government policies.  Don’t get me wrong – these issues are huge and definitely need to be addressed.

However, the issue that I really drives me absolutely crazy is the wasting of perfectly good, healthy food.  Food is expensive.  Food – especially good food – is hard to come by.  And, some people don’t have anything.  The health inspectors went too far – I know there must have been other options.  (I don’t know the policies – but c’mon!  Really?  Bleach?)  Food pantries, taking it home for personal use, etc.  There had to be a better solution.  I feel terrible for the small business owner – especially because she did the right thing.  She did what she was supposed to do.  I hope this doesn’t seriously hurt her business.

I commend Ms. Eng for bringing this to our attention and I hope something changes because of the exposure in the article.  I’ll be sure to look for a follow up article in the future.

Shame on you, Chicago!


2 Responses

  1. All I can say is Wow… I feel horrible for the business owner

  2. I read about this in the Trib the other morning and was just shaking my head the whole time. Feel bad for the small biz owner that is barely making it by as it is…now to have this happen.
    adventures in tri-ing

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