New Woodstock The annual Wild Game Dinner at the Open Door Baptist Church in New Woodstock started off this past Saturday, Feb. 9, the way it has for the past 27 years: more than 200 people showed up bearing numerous homemade dishes made from wild game and the ladies of the church baked some 50 pies for dessert. The difference this year — about 15 minutes into the event an official from the Madison County Department of Health showed up and said serving such homemade dishes without a permit violated the county health code, and all the food had to be taken out of the building and put back in everyone’s vehicles in order to avoid prosecution for a public health hazard.
The food was removed and the seminar on waterfowl and turkey hunting tips, as well as the discussions on Christ, still were held, but “it certainly affected the atmosphere of the evening [and] kind of took the wind out of everyone’s sails,” said David DeLeon, Open Door pastor.
According to Geoffrey Snyder, director of environmental health for Madison County, his department’s action in New Woodstock was not unusual, especially at an event where wild game was to be served, and they have many times either informed groups of possible violations or made events get rid of homemade items where permits were not issued and health codes were not followed.
“It’s really the issue of the wild game,” Snyder said. “How do we know where this food came from? Technically this type of event needed a permit from the health department.”
According to state health regulations in Title 10, Part 14-1.20, “food service operations where a distinct group mutually provides, prepares, serves and consumes food such as a ‘covered-dish supper’ is limited to a congregation, club or fraternal organization.” As Snyder informed the church in an email on Friday, Feb. 8, the day before the event, because the event was open to the public and not limited to a specific group, such as the church congregation, “The presence or service of food secured from an unapproved source and/or prepared in a place that is not properly permitted is deemed an imminent health hazard against the public interest.”