Amateur caterers on social media, you better think twice before you buy or sell

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With the holidays approaching, some may be looking for the hook up on some of their favorite meals or looking to make a few extra dollars. And they’re probably turning to social media for help.

But before you dish out your hard earned money or think about selling your food online, local experts are warning buyers and the sellers before making your transaction.

It’s a true story that’s trending online.

A California woman faces jail time for selling her homemade food on Facebook.

It’s a misdemeanor for operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit. And it’s also a crime in North Carolina.

“Catering at home through Facebook and other social media sites has become increasingly popular and they are not legal,” said Angela Manning, who’s a food and lodging programming specialist with the Pitt County Health Department. It’s here job is to make sure food is prepared, cooked, and stored safely at restaurants and any other place that serves food to the public. “Nobody intends to make anybody sick.”

But with social media, the concerns over health risks associated with food made by amateur cooks, in non-regulated kitchens, is now a huge issue.

“We get a lot of people turned into a lot of our permanent facilities when they see something on social media or they go to an event where it’s been catered by a cater that doesn’t have a permit they will turn you in,” explained Manning. “[It’s] because they’ve got a huge investment. They’re under regulation.”

And if you get caught selling food without the proper permits?

“What we do is we try to contact that individual,” said Manning. “We do give them written warning legally that what they are doing is without a permit and they need to stop and if it doesn’t then it could result in legal action.”

And that can lead to fines and a citation.

“Our main focus is not necessarily trying to issue any type of monetary citation,” said Manning. “It’s literally just for you to cease your operation because what you’re doing is illegal. It’s against the law and it could potentially make people sick.”

Federal statistics show that roughly 3,000 Americans each year die from food-borne illnesses. So that’s why it’s so important to make sure you know who and where you’re buying from and [that] food is being prepared in a safe environment.

For instance, if you simply want to sell what is considered “low risk packaged foods” like cupcakes, you do need a business license but not a health department permit.

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